Most organizations have a core set of applications that have been running the backbone of their operations for years. These applications may have been developed as far back as 25 years ago, or some even five years ago. Senior management until now were of this opinion - ‘if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it’. Most digital transformation initiatives were focused on the peripheral, or on immediate areas of business priority or return on investment made. Replacing legacy application always was a lower priority.
A number of factors are forcing the accelerating of the trend of 'application modernization' or 'legacy migration' – a key one being the availability of enterprise low code application platforms that reduce the effort to build new applications by orders of 5x to 10x compared to conventional development methods.
Legacy applications, when not replaced affect the business in the following ways:
· Limitations in functionality as processes change
· Old and clunky user interfaces that is very inefficient and user unfriendly
· Costly to maintain due to lack of expertise/ complexity of the underlying code base
· Infrastructure to run legacy applications are also expensive
· Unable to take advantage of the cloud, especially in work from home situations
· Business and customer responsiveness affected leading to customers leaving
· Risk that one day, the application may just give way and fail
IT leaders were reluctant to make the leap because modernization was expensive and risky because of reasons like this:
· The underlying code is very complex
· The business logic used is not known
· Documentation not available
· Even if one modernized, it could become legacy almost immediately
· Available approaches to legacy migration were ‘tweaks or band-aids’ and rarely satisfied
The argument to maintain status quo was therefore powerful, and hence old applications continue far beyond their use by date.
Enterprise low code application platforms are changing all that. With the order of magnitude reduction in effort to build new enterprise class applications, the equation changes. Costs come down, risks are reduced and improvements in technology and interfaces prove to be a compelling driver for replacement.
The drastic reduction in effort of low code platforms now allows a superior approach for legacy migration – Iterative prototyping. With rapid iterative prototyping one can extract out, the business knowledge and functionality of the legacy application. Semi working prototypes can be quickly modelled and generated for validation by users. Deeper knowledge embedded in legacy application can be extracted and included in the new application through multiple rounds of prototyping that keep improving with each session of interaction. Such interactive sessions with users who know the application draws out the complex logic, processes, and best practices. The application can then be depicted in the form of ‘meta’ information like processes, screens, rules, notifications, and reports. Good low code platforms allow modelling of this ‘meta’ which can then be converted into semi working prototypes or actual applications. Once the base of the core legacy application is covered, one can take the leap to improve the application for the future need. One can then design for the best of both worlds – the best practices and logic of the legacy application, as well as leverage the power of user interfaces, the cloud, mobile devices, and such technology expected in contemporary applications.
An important warning here about the choice of low code platforms. One should differentiate clearly between ‘small footprint’ and ‘large footprint' low code platforms. Most of the flashy low code platforms available today may do small applications well without writing code but will have limitations when it comes to larger applications. One would not like to get stuck halfway through the project because of the limitations of low code platforms.
One should look for ‘enterprise low code application platforms’. These are known for its ability to accelerate the development of even complicated applications without limitations. It can automatically build value chains, model complex rules, expose or integrate to third party applications and allows high quality UI to be custom layered over the standard UI which comes with the platform. Good enterprise class low code applications platforms are rare and hence expensive.
Our endeavour at Stragiliti (www.Stragiliti.net) is to make such enterprise low code application platforms affordable for small and medium businesses as well as for unique spaces within larger organizations. Roughly 50% of the applications rapidly delivered on the Stragiliti platform depicted in the link below are modernization of legacy applications, using the iterative prototyping approach mentioned above.
The next decade will see the rapid popularization of low code development in larger companies as well as in small and medium businesses. So, take a deeper look at your application portfolio. You can confidently think of replacing applications that you considered ‘too difficult or expensive to replace’ – especially if that change is critical to your business.
And ask for a free consulting session on how to move forward if you have a legacy application you want to migrate immediately