SERVICES | LEGACY MODERNIZATION
Backend bogging you down? Modernize your software.
When legacy software slows business down, you dream of replacing it. But building from scratch may be too risky. For mission-critical systems, a step-by-step software redesign is no compromise — it’s the best strategy. We can help.
Get a modernization mindset
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Your legacy software handles the heavy lifting for your business. Likely built over a period of 10 to 25 years, it’s just not logical to think you can rebuild it in 6 to 24 months. Let’s see why choosing application modernization services may be the smarter move.
Reduce the Risk
Legacy modernization means breaking one overwhelming project into a series of smaller, more doable projects. While 90% of large software projects are challenged or cancelled, just 24% of small projects end up that way. Modernizing step-by-step reduces the risk of a major budget or schedule overrun.
Prioritize the Effort
Application modernization puts you in control. When you focus on the features that matter most, you’ll deliver powerful new value fast to those who need it most. Build momentum and get kudos quickly — without making the entire company wait until the entire platform is rebuilt.
Manage the Change
Step-by-step software redesign empowers your employees. A roll-forward, roll-back strategy helps you manage the pace of change, smooth out spikes in the learning curve, and protect productivity. Modernization gives your employees ample time to learn and level-up as the platform improves.
Realize the Value
Modernization is an agile process that reduces up-front investment and speeds you to returns in a fraction of the time. With step-by-step software redesign, you also avoid a big write-off by depreciating your software capital investment over time.
What are the 8 Fatal Strategy Mistakes of Legacy Software Modernization Projects?
What are the 8 Fatal Strategy Mistakes of Legacy Software Modernization Projects?
8 Fatal Strategy Mistakes of Legacy Software Modernization Projects, and How to Make Yours Succeed
Does it feel like legacy technology has a stranglehold on your business? It’s time to look into your legacy system modernization plans and strategies, and review the mistakes that tank your efforts, before you invest in a solution that does the opposite of solving your problems.
1. Investing in the wrong task: Software Migration vs. Modernization
Before getting into the technicalities of legacy system modernization strategies, it’s important to define what you’re asking for. While these definitions may vary slightly depending on who you ask, this is how our teams at Praxent use the lingo, and this usage tends to be pretty consistent among industry experts.
Legacy Software Modernization: A retooling plan for the front end of a legacy software that provides improvements or enhancements of the current capabilities of the system. The “back end” of the system, or where the data is stored, doesn’t need a complete re-architecture (though it may be redesigned or upgraded within its current structure).
Legacy Software Migration: the process of moving or reconfiguring data repositories, architecture, and other existing back end systems from one platform to another. In migration, the user functionality and “front end” of the system does not change or changes minimally, and changes are only made in the way that the system works and/or data is stored in the background.
The key distinction here is that migration only needs to occur as part of a legacy software modernization strategy if relocating the system is absolutely necessary to achieve the modernized functionality.
Think you need to migrate your legacy software? Stop and read this first.
Software migrations can, frankly, be a nightmare. Pardon the grim analogy, but if you ever needed major surgery for say, a leg injury, chances are you would search out the least invasive, quickest-healing procedure so that you could get back on your feet and get on with your life as soon as possible. You wouldn’t choose to perform an unnecessary amputation and seek out a prosthetics engineer to build you a new leg, and then expect it to work better than the original.
Given that the complexity and intricacy of most enterprise systems are comparable to the inner workings of a human body, that same common sense approach of minimal invasiveness should be applied to any legacy modernization approach. Nonetheless, stakeholders often tend to choose the software equivalent of amputation and prosthesis rather than working with the good parts of the existing software to make the whole thing better and the transition smoother. In other words, employing a legacy system modernization strategy.
The overly-complicated and often catastrophic software migration process is usually the result of three common yet devastating myths:
Myth #1: Your current business model should not constrain your software migration plan.
Myth #2: You can build and launch an entire new version of enterprise software in one fell swoop and expect a smooth and swift transition.
Myth #3: A small team of higher-level stakeholders and developers can successfully create and implement this migrated software without the involvement of your larger stakeholder group, such as general users of the software.
In many scenarios, the software migration process is much higher risk and higher involvement than simply modernizing the look and feel of the system while reorganizing some of the functionality. In other words, you don’t always need a new leg – you just need to see a physical therapist.
2. Underestimating your current business software
Underestimating the incomprehensible amount of information that your current system is built upon is the fundamental mistake that often sets off a cascade of other mistakes, ultimately killing your entire software modernization strategy.
Be prepared for the project to be larger and more complex than you first anticipate. Make sure you assign experts to the project who have intimate knowledge of the legacy system, and keep your stakeholders engaged by delivering iterative business value as much as you can.
3. Losing sight of long-term gain because of short-term pain
There’s no getting around it – legacy software modernizations and migrations are big processes, and achieving success is a journey, not a destination. Attempting “big bang” deployment, i.e. expecting to move from your current software to an entirely new system in one fell swoop on a dedicated “go live” date, is unrealistic and dangerous. It all goes back to that grave underestimation of what it took to get your current system functioning as it does today.
There are almost always tasks that can’t be automated and blockers that couldn’t have been anticipated in the first phase of the project. Additional manual effort is usually needed to keep your business moving through the initial stages of the project. Be prepared for this difficulty of the first phase, and realize that it may make you or your stakeholders feel like it’s not worth it.
Keeping all invested parties engaged and excited is crucial. While painful at first, a well-executed software modernization strategy provides invaluable long-term benefits, including the ability to scale and identify new revenue opportunities. When things get hard, remind yourself and your team that the legacy software is costing you money every time you have to scale operations. A modernized software system will allow you to stop focusing on maintaining your infrastructure, and start focusing on business strategy and new growth.
4. False constraints and/or an unnecessarily rigid scope
The right project constraints and guidelines can set you up for success, but there are some misguided ones that often emerge from the myths mentioned earlier. These constraints can actually inhibit the best solutions to your current software problems.
Placing constraints on your development team against things like rework, looking to the existing system for guidance, or access to the project before completion, can be very counterproductive to your overall goals. These limits can stifle innovation and prevent problems from being caught early on. They can also prevent the ability to put to work the plethora of valuable information that was collected over the years of using your legacy system. Accessing and properly applying that information can prevent a repeat of the same mistakes that made you want to modernize your software in the first place.
Moreover, by approaching a legacy modernization project with too static a mindset, you will lose the ability to be prepared for often-inevitable additional labor costs needed to keep your project on track in a positive direction. While sticking to an overarching budget should be of the utmost priority to you as well as your software development firm, an inability to move investment around to shifting priorities will cripple both your current and future systems. Set yourself up for maximum project ROI by preparing for change now, so that your software can get off the ground later.
5. Building the software first and attempting to move your data afterwards
Even if you’ve chosen a legacy modernization approach rather than a full data migration, you will still have to orchestrate some data transfers. Attempting to migrate all the business data from your legacy system into a new one only after it has been built is the equivalent of trying to build a ship in a bottle by constructing the ship outside of the bottle and then trying to squeeze it through the impossibly small opening. Your existing business information is structured in a very particular way within your current database.
If you try dumping all of that information into a new system that structures data in a different way, you’ll end up with a huge data conversion mess that could potentially lead to a failure to launch your new software, a total destruction of your budget, and could even force you to revert back to your old system.
Instead of scrambling to reactively fix flawed data, take a close look at the data relationships and information hierarchies that hold together your legacy system, keeping in mind that companies using legacy software are often living with workarounds. Sometimes, the necessary software modernization strategy will require your company to redefine the data relationships and information hierarchies of your legacy system. This move will drastically change the resulting user experience, reporting requirements, and back-end system integrations, so don’t save it for the end of your project. Discover and address structural problems and brush up on software migration best practices before you begin designing your new system.
6. “Trimming the fat” from your project by removing existing functionality
Enterprise software is typically so loaded with features and functions that it’s highly unlikely any one individual stakeholder is even aware of every single capability that exists in your system, let alone utilizes all of it. While one particular feature may be completely irrelevant to one department or subgroup of your stakeholders, it may unknowingly be crucial to another group.
Given the complexity and variety of features within your enterprise software, it can be highly detrimental to exclude any functionality in the modernized version. Some features may seem outdated or insignificant, but their absence in your new system could potentially derail the flow of your entire business process.
It’s very common for several of these features to be recognized only after a new system is implemented, leaving businesses stuck with a fancy new piece of software that no one wants to use because it doesn’t do everything their legacy system can.
7. Failing to create an inventory of existing system requirements and routine workarounds
Actively creating an inventory of all existing capabilities and usages in your current software may sound cumbersome, but it’s a lifesaver. Consider the fact that many functions of your current system are “behind the scenes” triggers. These triggers are likely significant, if not crucial, to your business practices; yet, without a list, these and many others will likely be forgotten as your team works on plans for the migration or modernization of the system.
As mentioned earlier, excluding any existing functionality from the updated software, whether intentional or accidental, could be a deal-breaker for your stakeholders. We’ve seen it time and again: user response in these situations is to label the new system as unreliable and cling to the old and familiar, knowing it has everything they need.
Legacy systems also often contain hidden user workarounds that become tribal knowledge. These workarounds become so routine, they can be completely missed when gathering requirements for the new system. When they are identified later on in design or development, you’ll have to allot additional time and budget to work them into the new system.
8. Failing to choose a Catastrophe-Resistant Strategy for Software Modernization
This list of pitfalls and roadblocks may feel entirely overwhelming. How in the world do ANY legacy modernization projects go successfully?
With the right development process, not only is it possible to resolve all of the issues with your current system, to implement the new features you’ve been wanting, and to make the system run the way you always wished it had, but you can reach those goals much more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of a new custom build. Too many firms choose the wrong development approach, leading to chaos down the road.
Successful legacy system modernization projects leverage the Agile approach to updating your current software piece by piece, early and often. This is a method that has enormous advantages over a complete rewrite:
- You get early exposure to the solutions that have already been developed
- Catch problems early on and resolve them as they come up in the development process.
- Have usable chunks of your project implemented within weeks — not months or years.
In a world of custom enterprise software development where there are few silver bullets, this method truly stands out in its ability to bring software success to your stakeholders. If your IT person tells you that starting from scratch with a new system is the only way, that a Waterfall development process is the best choice, or that a full legacy migration strategy is an absolute must, it may be wise to do some investigating of that claim and get an outside team of developers to assess the situation.
Ready to talk modernization?
Modernizing mission-critical applications can unlock new growth for your business. Choose an app modernization partner that can turn yesterday’s software into today’s competitive advantage. Praxent is a software development company with a wealth of experience in legacy modernization services — and we’re here to help you succeed.Schedule a call
So what can you say to stakeholders who can’t stand your legacy software for one more minute?
Tell them that from-scratch development is too risky for massive, critical systems. A clear-eyed assessment will help you avoid large project pitfalls.
Your teams may be frustrated by a backend that’s out of step with today’s business requirements. But your old software has functionality your team doesn’t know about, and data your stakeholders have long forgotten. Requirements will slip through the cracks.
Meanwhile, requirements keep evolving. Even as the new system is being built, features may be added to the old one. This can create a death spiral where the new system can’t catch up to the ever-expanding scope of the old — and the budget soars out of control. Requirements gaps can keep a big project from ever launching at all.
Data migration gotchas
Many software development companies are only too glad to estimate a from-scratch platform build. Building from scratch lets developers create clean, streamlined code. But the old, patchwork system may hold hidden data your business depends on.
Moving data to its new home can reveal big problems: the new software doesn’t house it all correctly. Issues with the database schema upon which a new interface was built means workflows break, frustrations mount, and delays become inevitable.
Whether your existing business software is well-designed or not, the fact remains that current employees know how to use it. Introducing a built-from scratch system over the course of a weekend plays havoc with your employees.
Even if the software is perfect — which it never is — basic tasks that used to take seconds now take minutes and even hours. Even with extensive training, asking employees to change core tools and processes too quickly is a recipe for service gaps. When your teams are stressed and frustrated, your customers will feel it.
The new system everyone’s dreaming of will take a long time to develop. Any miss in the definition, communication, or implementation of system requirements will delay launch of the entire platform. And no system is perfect right away. Failure to deliver on time can cost a company millions — and a CTO their job.
An agile approach allows prioritization, iteration, and continuous improvement that builds trust with users as well as with executive decision-makers. It may be counter-intuitive, but legacy modernization reduces risk, creates less work stoppage, and allows you to deliver more value in the same timeframe.
To change your software, change your mind
Instead of trying to replace your legacy software, think step-by-step modernization. Let’s break your wish list into a prioritized set of agile projects and build each part right. We can help you avoid costly missteps and gain real value, faster.Schedule a call
“The level of sheer intellect shown in their way of thinking about problems added tremendous value and saved us time. Praxent thought through all issues ahead of time before letting us run into them.”
LYNDA ATTAWAY, FORMER SVP, OPERATIONS & IT, NRG
“Stakeholders anticipate the visual appeal of the new designs to be above and beyond the current product. Praxent has maintained a concise, clear communication style throughout the engagement. Their expertise allows them to provide useful insight, and their detail-orientation stands out.”
CAROL ALTMAN, SVP STRATEGY, BENEFIT HARBOR
Praxent trained us well and gave us all of the skills we need to be successful. The internal UX team is now skilled enough to improve CX on their own. Since working with Praxent, mores users can access the self-service, and call rates have decreased, signifying an improved UX. Praxent’s team was friendly and easy to work with. They’re highly recommended.
KEN IVIE, SENIOR IT MANAGER, TEXAS MUTUAL INSURANCE
The body of work they produced under our circumstances was no joke; they did a fantastic job. Although we had so many stakeholders with varying cultures and priorities, Praxent’s team was helpful in mediating between our partners.
BEN GAMMON, VP OF PRODUCT, BUNGALO
Praxent gives us weekly updates, so we always know where we are. They’ve always hit their dates and goals. I couldn’t have asked for better communication, and the project is exactly what we were expecting it to be. They’ve blown us away with the design, and truly listened to what we and our customers said. It’s a great product that they’re rolling out. It’s going to be a huge game-changer for our company.
CAROL LANGE, VOICE OF CUSTOMER, SIGNATURE HOMES
Make an intelligent investment
Modernizing your service business’ legacy software means investing in user-centric thinking as a competitive differentiator. We shape our clients’ investments with a rational view of returns, a holistic view of processes, and a deep understanding of what your customers, partners, and teams truly value. Successful engagements include:
Direct access to an empowered project champion and any of your development resources
Tailored engagements across our Design and Development services
Investments of $100K to $1M, including strategy, design and development
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At Praxent, we know your industry, we speak your language, and we take up your cause to build business software that truly serves your business.
We’ve been doing this awhile.
And our clients trust us to keep delivering for them.
300 software transformations delivered since we started in 2000
Fast-moving team of 70+ designers and engineers
4.8 (out of 5 star) client satisfaction rating
Whatever you need, we’ll build it with and for you.
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The Praxent approach to legacy modernization services empowers your company while reducing risk all along the way.
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Page written by Tim Hamilton, CEO and Founder of Praxent.