From Legacy Applications to Evergreen IT: Ensuring a Smooth Transition

By Andrew Carr, Managing Director, Camwood.

  • 10 months ago Posted in

For decades, legacy applications have served as the cornerstone of businesses, driving numerous essential operations and processes. However, their popularity is waning as organisations become more aware of the dangers associated with maintaining outdated software and hardware. The rewards of sticking with legacy systems are also diminishing, leaving change-resistant businesses at risk of missing out on crucial digital acceleration opportunities.


Modernising enterprise applications has emerged as a critical challenge, demanding a thoughtful and strategic approach. Boards and CEOs already feel the weight of this responsibility, as businesses face mounting pressure to adapt and transform, or else get left behind. In fact, 85% of IT leaders within US government agencies now believe that neglecting to address the legacy technology challenge will threaten their agency’s future. 


It’s easy to see why. In today’s competitive landscape, organisations are grappling with urgent questions concerning their business performance. Queries like “Why does our order processing lag behind competitors?” and “Why is valuable company data failing to deliver crucial insights?” have become pressing concerns. And with over two-thirds of global businesses still using mainframe and legacy applications for core operations, the blame inevitably falls on old technology.

Complex global challenges call for evergreen solutions. Businesses must now transition from legacy systems to more modern, sustainable applications, overcoming the key issues tied to outdated technology: cost, agility, and security.


The cost factor

While many organisations keep legacy systems to avoid replacement costs, long-term maintenance can also become expensive. Legacy systems don’t receive updates from their developers, so they require ongoing IT maintenance, eventually outweighing any cost benefits of sticking with the status quo.

Moreover, legacy apps lack modern programming tools, preventing businesses from harnessing the financial advantages found in today’s faster and more productive coding environment. For example, a Google whitepaper suggests that medium to large technical organisations can save $4.3M to $8.6M annually through DevOps. Outdated technology hampers these benefits, as DevOps relies on continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD), incompatible with legacy applications. 

Aside from the costs, transitioning from legacy systems facilitates data sharing between applications and departments, resulting in a valuable 360-degree view of the organisation.


Building agility

Business agility is closely tied to the cost of support and development. A key challenge with legacy systems is their limited integration with new applications. This disjointedness results in data accumulating in stagnant silos, stifling innovation efforts.

Agility also empowers businesses to seize all opportunities that present themselves. Relying heavily on legacy apps makes it difficult to access scalable cloud infrastructure and embrace the hybrid working practices that are now embedded into the new normal of work.

But the main issue lies in the inability to establish an integrated business architecture, where diverse applications seamlessly interoperate across functions like sales, marketing, supply chain, manufacturing, finance, and HR. Legacy silos prevent businesses from gaining the real-time data insights that modern applications offer, hampering their competitive edge.

Security and compliance

Legacy applications can introduce security weaknesses due to dependencies on outdated hardware, database structures, operating systems, or other legacy software. And without technical support or updates from developers, these legacy systems become highly vulnerable to costly and destructive cyberattacks and data breaches. In fact, the average cost of a data breach, according to the latest IBM report, is now approximately $4.35 million per breach.

In terms of compliance, the EU’s GDPR imposes fines of up to 4% of global turnover for breaches. Migrating from legacy apps might seem daunting, but it’s a much more attractive option than potentially paying millions in fines for non-compliance.

Mitigating risks for successful upgrades

When contemplating a migration from legacy systems, four key elements must be considered: proper planning, prioritising business outcomes, minimising downtime and disruption, and change management.

Proper planning involves understanding the interdependencies of applications within an estate, specifically the target application. It’s essential to know who uses it, what function it performs, and any undocumented dependencies that may have become embedded. 


Next, it’s key to prioritise business outcomes. This means aligning migration efforts with desired goals to maximise business value and impact. Defining key objectives, such as improving efficiency and agility, is important, along with considering areas that can be replaced or require adjustments. User experience must also be part of the outcome discussion, with priority placed on applications that directly impact satisfaction and engagement.


Thirdly, a thorough risk analysis is vital for minimising disruptions during the migration process. Companies prefer a business-as-usual approach to change rather than a big bang.


Lastly, successful migration requires effective change management, including gaining buy-in from stakeholders and providing key data and navigation points. These steps significantly increase the likelihood of delivering the promised project value.


Navigating the path to evergreen IT

Although migrating from legacy applications is a complex decision with inherent risks, businesses’ performance is strongly tied to the applications they use. Therefore, the costs of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of taking action. To minimise risks, it’s essential to partner with experienced professionals who can assist throughout the process.  

The benefits of transitioning to evergreen IT and embracing technical acceleration can be transformative for businesses. These range from lower costs to robust security, and improved user experiences for both employees and customers. While the decision to move away from legacy applications may be complex, the actual migration process can be much smoother with the right approach and support. 

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