The key challenges of legacy system assessment

August 30, 2023
The key challenges of legacy system assessment

Over the years of experience in legacy system modernization, TYMIQ has gained multiple success stories of optimizing business processes through software reengineering. Among them are projects that both covered the whole legacy system modernization lifecycle and only specific parts of it. 

While different sources are flooded with the information about why companies should modernize their systems on time and what benefits it brings to them, I would like to focus in this article on the very first stage of the modernization lifecycle–legacy system assessment.  

What is a legacy system? 

By a legacy system, we mean a software solution based on decades-old, obsolete technologies that a company has to use to support their vital business processes, perform essential functions, and maintain daily operations. Typically, such solutions are no longer supported and hold the company back from business progress and scalability. 

Legacy systems pose compliance, security, and integration problems that also prevent companies from equal participation in the market competition. This fact makes them recognize the need for reengineering the existing systems and take the first step on the way to their modernization. 

The first stage of modernization lifecycle: assessment

The first stage in the modernization of any legacy system (Figure 1) is its total review and assessment. The assessment process typically involves examining and evaluating the existing components of the system, establishing its strengths and weaknesses. 

Source: The report “Legacy System Modernization, Addressing Challenges on the Path to Success” by ACT-IAC. 

Clear understanding of the current state of the system, its constraints and dependencies allows building a defensible modernization roadmap that will fully comply with the company’s priorities and budget profile. This stage usually helps companies define the future project scope and complexity.

To collect an adequate amount of data for an effective optimization analysis, the assessment topics should include security, functional and technical state-of-health, strategic alignment, and financial impact. It’s also crucial to assess the company’s opportunity and readiness to carry out modernization initiatives at that particular period of time. 

The importance of a detailed modernization roadmap consists in its comprehensive manner of presenting the required technical and management steps. Lined up in the right order, these steps form a clear picture of the determined modernization strategy. Furthermore, the roadmap comprises realistic time and cost estimates based on the conducted assessment.

Top 5 challenges of assessing a legacy software

1️. Understanding the existing codebase and architecture

When the developers and architects who originally designed the system are no longer available, it may be difficult to understand the reasoning behind certain design decisions and functions. This complicates the process of distinguishing between the mission-related and redundant parts of the system. 

2. Outdated technologies and third-party libraries

The challenge of outdated technologies in software reengineering encompasses the use of obsolete programming languages, frameworks, and tools, along with dependencies on deprecated third-party libraries. It’s an indispensable attribute of any legacy system, which causes incompatibility with other solutions and harder migration to the modern platforms. The outdated components are vulnerable to cyber threats due to the lack of updates and security measures for protection.

3. Lack of application knowledge within the organization

Typically, legacy systems are associated with poor documentation. Over the years, it can simply disappear or get obsolete. The users interact with the system to perform their routine operations, without investigating other available functions or considering the necessity to upgrade the ones they use.  Moreover, there’s no practice to transfer advanced knowledge about the system among the colleagues or new users.

4. Business logic embedded in the code

Changes that a company may need to introduce to its enterprise management system can disrupt some business-critical processes. This happens when the business logic is deeply embedded in the code. Going back to the very first point, the parts of the system that are closely tied to the company’s missions may be hard to distinguish without the guidance of a system expert.

5. Identifying and mitigating risks

Modernizing a legacy system implies new digital capabilities and significant increase in its agility. This means that the business must be aware of the potential risks associated with outdated IT infrastructure and get prepared for large-scale changes accordingly. 

As part of the assessment process, a company should verify that the current infrastructure is adequate to support the target architecture or make sure it will have the necessary resources to scale it to the required extent. Overestimating the company’s maturity in these aspects may lead to non-objective evaluation, causing further challenges in IT staff upskilling and the entire execution of the modernization initiative.

Legacy system assessment and modernization with TYMIQ

The legacy system assessment process may seem complicated and resource-consuming, but it’s worth undertaking for successful implementation of a modernization initiative. All the challenges I’ve mentioned above form an additional barrier on the way to reaching the goal. They make it difficult to identify areas for improvement and make decisions about how to migrate the system, resulting in delays and unexpected issues during the modernization.

TYMIQ has already helped more than 50 companies reengineer their legacy systems to meet the latest requirements (including national legislation) and achieve more flexibility. Among those projects are high load enterprise systems that handle large volumes of server requests and backend computations, providing fault-tolerance. 

As a legacy system modernization company, we offer a highly experienced management and engineering team to help you accurately assess and effectively modernize your outdated solution, avoiding disruption of the ongoing operations.

Learn how we approach legacy system modernization

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