Most enterprises looking to tackle the challenge of modernization initially want to upgrade everything. But that isn’t always appropriate or feasible. At some point, you’re going to have to draw a line in the sand.
It’s an important decision. Defining the scope of your legacy system upgrade is one of the most crucial steps in the entire process, Cast Software’s Thomas Hjelm says. The problem is many people assume the process is relatively simple and straightforward, so they don’t worry about scope definition. Naturally, this lack of clarity can lead to severe problems further down the line.
Whatever you do, don’t go into your update efforts without a clear plan. Here’s a plan on how you can get your modernization efforts off to the best start possible by clearly defining the scope of the upgrade work.
Start by Defining Your Legacy Upgrades System
The first step is to define exactly what constitutes your legacy system. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t.
Praxent managing partner Kevin Hurwitz compares legacy systems to the human body in their complexity. That’s because they are typically the result of hundreds of applications and features that have been created and introduced over the years by dozens of different employees. Not appreciating the size of your legacy system is one of the biggest mistakes that executives make, Hurwitz says.
With that in mind, you should be prepared for your modernization to be much larger than you initially imagined. Legacy systems can certainly be complicated, consultant Manish Mehndiratta says.
“In some cases, upgrades of each application will envelop the data and processing of their earlier versions, which eliminates the legacy challenge. In other cases, whole apps will be discarded in favor of more efficient and cost-effective options.” – Manish Mehndiratta
Look At Your Entire Technology Stack
When it comes to actually defining your legacy system, Mehndiratta recommends looking at your entire technology stack and separating each application into the following three buckets:
- Emerging. These are your most up-to-date apps and are often completely new. When they aren’t, then the foundational platforms have also been upgraded. These don’t require modernization.
- Under evaluation. These are apps that are still in use and still work relatively well. However, they may have features such as old code that will mean they will need to be looked at in the future if not right away.
- Declining. These are your most outdated applications and the ones you need to focus on. They are no longer supported or won’t be very soon.
Break Your Legacy System Down Into Individual Parts
The team at RTS Labs recommends breaking everything down into its individual parts. Start by separating applications from your company’s overarching infrastructure. Then, work out the networking, structure and storage needs of each application. You should also consider which applications are suitable for the cloud and in what way.
Taking your legacy infrastructure as a whole can be intimidating, but taking it application-by-application is much more manageable and can help to inform what really needs modernizing.
Focus on the Important Things First When It Comes To Legacy Upgrades
Once you have defined exactly what your legacy system consists of, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that it can’t all be done at once. If that’s the case, then it’s essential to focus the scope of your modernization strategy on your most important applications.
Cybersecurity expert Kayne McGladrey recommends identifying the elements of your business that separate you from your competitors. These are the elements that you want to improve on first and the ones that you should spend the most time on.
“If accounting, cybersecurity, legal affairs, or marketing is not core to your organizational identity, then plan to migrate away from your legacy systems and processes in those areas,” McGladrey tells CIO.com. “Organizations can then focus their limited time and resources on improving what they do well, and what customers value most about those organizations.” – Kayne McGladrey
It doesn’t just have to be the applications that are linked to your USP. Any application that improves the customer experience should be considered a must for modernization, PwC’s Leon Cooper and Milan Vyas write. That’s one of the main reasons behind your modernization process, after all: to deliver more value to the customer.
Remember, you don’t need to do everything at once. If you focus on mission-critical applications first, you can move on to less important applications at a later date. With this in mind, Mark Rhyman, co-CEO and chief business development officer at Big Bang ERP, advises businesses to differentiate their “nice-to-haves versus must-haves.”
Must-haves need to be included in your legacy upgrades. Nice-to-haves don’t.