what is legacy modernisation

Coming of age: what is legacy modernisation?

When legacy systems reach their point of maturity, growth is only possible through legacy modernisation.
Find out how to keep up with the challenges of digital transformation.

Before you accuse us of ageism, a legacy system may be old, relatively old, or even relatively new. While age may play a role, it is not the prime defining factor. So what is it?

What is a legacy system?

A legacy system is any system, method, technology, or application program that, while still in use, is becoming unstable, obsolete, or outdated.

When does a system become “legacy”? Well, that depends, but as a good rule of thumb, a legacy system can still serves the purpose it was built for, but does not allow room for change or growth. In other words, it won’t keep up with the evolving needs of your business.


legacy system vs modern system

Source: iTech


Take the example of Delta Airlines. In 2016, they experienced a 12-hour outage that resulted in the cancellation of over two thousand flights and 5 to 10 million dollars in lost revenue. This happened after an internal power outage caused the main system to go down and the legacy backup systems failed to reboot.

While in most businesses a legacy system failure will hopefully not lead to millions in revenue losses, it will certainly add up to a hefty technical debt, and loss of trust and customer loyalty. But legacy systems are not only slowing your business down: they also pose serious security threats. And that’s why legacy modernisation is so important.

What is legacy modernisation?

Legacy modernisation refers to the processes of updating and optimizing business systems, transforming, or converting a legacy system into a modern infrastructure. The goal is to reduce IT costs, gain operational efficiencies, improve agility, and address technology constraints.

Legacy modernisation is, however, a spectrum. One option for legacy modernisation is to refactor existing code using tools to migrate data, and to run the same system on more modern infrastructure. Another option is to re-architect the system, replacing the legacy system with one based on newer technology platforms or tools, like cloud native development tools.

What are the benefits of legacy modernisation?

Maintaining legacy systems can cost any organization up to a 15% budget increase every year for maintenance. Legacy modernization has several benefits for different areas of the company:

  1. More security: IT threats keep evolving, and cybersecurity needs to follow suit. Legacy infrastructures are more exposed to risks because they lack of security updates, patches, and upgrades. As a result of technological evolution, previously secure legacy systems often become a real danger to the company.
  2. Reduced IT costs: maintenance and upkeep of legacy systems require more effort – and thus, have a higher cost – than more modern ones. It is more difficult and time-consuming for developers to create, update and monitor age-old infrastructures than recent ones.
  3. Increased IT agility: modernized systems react faster to fluctuations, integrate better with other systems, making it easier for your teams to leverage data across the organization, adapt to business conditions, or adopt innovative processes and technologies.
  4. Fail-proof compliance: as regulations, audits, and controls become more strict, legacy systems go from being a nuisance to a priority. Due to lack of updates and upgrades, business become unable to ensure compliance. Legacy modernisation eliminates this problem, as new systems are designed to comply with present regulations – as well as adapt to the uncertainty of the future.
  5. Enhanced operational efficiency: legacy modernisation boosts the performance of your business by allowing your organization to better serve your customers, by producing more automated products and services, promoting faster time-to-market, and improving communication and collaboration between teams.

How can companies do legacy modernisation the right way?

To proceed with legacy modernisation in your company, be sure to keep in mind the following:

Offer training and support to your teams, to ensure the transition is seamless

It is difficult to let go of something we like and are used to. A Spiceworks report revealed that as of 2019, one third of businesses still ran on Windows XP. Yes, Windows XP, the operative system released in 2001, and whose support ended in 2014. To avoid resistance to the new systems, offer your team proper training during the adoption phase, and make sure there is proper support past this period.

Determine the right legacy modernisation strategy

Based on how complex your legacy system is, or how modern you want your systems to be, you will need to choose the ‘R’ that fits your business’ needs best:

  • Completely decommission and replace existing legacy components.
  • Restructure, optimize, and rebuild legacy elements in a cloud native environment.
  • Move runtimes to a modern platform with minimal code changes.
  • Move legacy elements to a new environment (such as a cloud infrastructure) without altering code or changing functionality.
  • Refactor and Rearchitect. Implement more recent technologies into parts of the legacy system to take advantage of cloud-based or other systems, with some code changes.
  • Maintain the current environment with no changes or updates.
  • Retire the legacy system altogether.

Prioritise and segregate

Savvy businesses implement legacy modernisation one step at a time, simply because it is not doable to tackle the entire system all at once. It is essential to prioritize. This will make the modernization process easier and more structured.

Embed security at each stage of the legacy modernisation process

A major concern with legacy systems is the low level of security that can lead to organization-wide threats. Therefore, it is a requirement to ensure that the process of legacy modernisation does not increase the vulnerabilities of your legacy system, but also identifies and fixes them.

Choose your legacy modernisation partner carefully

Legacy modernisation, especially of complex systems, can be tricky. Often, the in-house IT department does not have the resources to oversee the entire process on their own, from decision to deployment, since building new environments or modernising applications is not their core focus. Instead, it is essential that companies find a trusted partner to assist with the legacy modernisation process. At Near Partner, we specialise in digital transformation and agile methodologies that allow us to be your extended team.

Do not let legacy systems keep your business in the past

Legacy systems paved the way for your current standards. As your legacy systems get increasingly closer to obsoletion, so does your business get increasingly more vulnerable to threats. It is time to take that step and start the legacy modernisation process.

However, knowing what, when and how to do it is not always straightforward, and involves quite a bit of planning, strategizing, and IT expertise.

At Near Partner we speak digital transformation, innovation, and Agile development. Our fantastic team is versed in a variety of programming languages and has solid experience in business environments. Let’s brainstorm together.

Get in touch with Near Partner, and let’s get your business prepared to face and overcome the next digital challenges. Take a look at our Project Cost Simulator, or write to us directly with your questions and we’ll get back to you asap.

Sérgio Cunha

I have been a developer for longer than I can remember (well... maybe not). Does that sum up everything about me? I love tech, but I’m also a husband and a father, I love to learn new stuff and experiment with life."Hack hard and prosper!" has been my latest motto. Take good care of yourself and the rest will follow…