The true expenses of maintaining a legacy system
The problem with legacy systems isn’t a fairy tale from a faraway land; it’s a reality for more than half of all enterprises. Old technologies, unsupported infrastructure, monolithic design, and out-of-date framework versions are all things that may happen to anyone, right? Perhaps this is why, despite the absence of support since 2014, 50% of organizations still use at least one instance of Windows XP. Why is this the case? In this essay, we’ll go over three typical misunderstandings that prevent businesses from investing in adequate legacy system maintenance and modernisation. We’ll show you why those fallacies are harmful to your business and how you might benefit by allocating some funding to the legacy.
Amazon introduces cloud-based services in 2006, and Microsoft releases Windows Vista. For innumerable systems created on top of Flash technology, it used to be a golden age. You undoubtedly grinned when you heard the word Flash, but back then, firms like Disney and Xerox utilized it extensively. Apple stopped installing Flash on its Macs four years later, resulting in the end of official support for the final Flash survivors in 2020. That’s how Flash, along with a lengthy list of solutions that relied on it, became an unmaintainable legacy that would never be fixed. What about businesses that have integrated them into their systems?
What exactly is a legacy system, and why should you be concerned about it?
A legacy application is an information system that is vital to day-to-day operations but may be built on old technologies.
Aside from technology that is no longer supported, there is another group that fits under the term “legacy.” These are systems built on well-supported but still-evolving technology. Systems that are not maintained and upgraded pose a danger because freshly created libraries or extensions are incompatible with earlier versions of the language.
“Why should I care?” you might wonder after hearing all those stories. The solution is straightforward. You can’t be sure that the software you create now won’t become obsolete in the future. Whether you choose a licensed or open-source framework, you must carefully pick your tools and invest in keeping the program updated, maintained, and refactored in today’s fast-changing software world. Check out what happened to AngularJS, which was once the darling of banking apps and is now nearing the end of its support term, which will end in April 2021.
I’m sure you don’t want to be alive when your painstakingly built piece of software meets the same fate as all those outdated apps. What options do you have?
Invest in solutions having a high likelihood of being sustained, such as well-supported frameworks with a long history and large, involved communities. Make an effort to maintain and restructure your code. Make regular inspections and keep your knowledge of the development of the libraries and integrations you’re using up to date.
To stay up with evolving business objectives, modernize the application by adding new functions or redesigning entire sections.
Why don’t businesses invest in system maintenance and modernization?
You could believe that it’s all about the cash. After all, someone has already paid for the system and is, in a sense, reserving the right to do so again. That isn’t a good enough justification, as obvious as it may seem. As well as some of the others we’ve highlighted.
Why bother if everything works?
Do you remember how it felt when you finally managed to line up and join a long and functional Christmas light chain? Nobody cares how you accomplished it or whether the power wire is practically touching the water in the tree. What important is that after you’re done, the space will be filled with a lovely glow. Until the cable really plunks in the water, that is.
The same may be said for legacy systems. They’re believed to be as delicate as a Christmas light string. “If you don’t want to break, don’t touch!” Meanwhile, when the dust settles on your smudged lines of code, your rivals utilize a more secure database, more appropriate backend tech, or AI algorithms hidden behind the hood.
It’s a long and difficult trip ahead of you.
Assume you were only scratching the surface by updating library versions. It’s better than nothing, but it may not be sufficient. Especially if your plan is undergoing more significant adjustments. The majority of legacy code updates affect not just the system’s core but also the business operations. You must prepare for a lengthy and difficult trip that will necessitate the renovation of some system components as well as the communication of the change throughout your firm (and then to the external users if you have them and running smooth and painless onboarding).
While remodeling is more akin to “done and forgotten” than “done and forgotten,” software modernization is a different story: the greater the previous carelessness, the more difficult the undertaking.
People dislike changes, but users despise them.
Oh, I see. Those users who keep their Twitter accounts fresh and ready to tell the world how much they despise the software modification you made. Let’s try looking at it from a little different angle. People prefer what they are used to. It gives them a sense of safety and security. I’m at home. The phenomena is known as the Baby Duck Syndrome, and when applied to design, it demonstrates how quickly we become acclimated to specific interface components after seeing them for the first time in an app prototype.
Changes in the interface design cause the fluffiness to be disrupted, forcing users to relearn what they previously know by heart. However, this does not rule out the possibility of UI modifications as part of the modernization process. If you don’t want to be locked in the past for the rest of your life, you’ll have to revamp your website at some time. Just don’t give it to them as a surprise. First, plan, prepare, and test.
Why is system maintenance important?
When you release a system, you give it a fresh lease of life. Literally. You must now (again) contribute all of your abilities in order to prepare the system for the future. What you learn today (or as a parent) may be obsolete tomorrow, but it should not prevent you from learning more.
When it comes to keeping your legacy systems up and running quickly and securely, the light at the end of the tunnel should be competitive advantage. And you can’t maintain it unless you stay one step ahead of the competition by adjusting your software to changing market conditions, technological capabilities, and consumer wants.
When it comes to data, there’s another factor to consider: the legal ramifications of circumventing data protection rules. Due to a clickjacking hacking assault in 2018, British Airways exposed personal data from around 400 thousand clients. For two months, the firm was unable to discover it! Inadequate security procedures covering login, credit card, and booking data resulted in a 20 million GBP penalties.
Time and money
There’s no getting around the fact that reviewing, rewriting, reforming, and renovating take time and money. You’ll have to pay out of pocket for vascular surgery because you never exercised. It’s similar to preparing a healthy diet when it comes to keeping your app healthy once it’s published on the market. Everyone should do it, but many people wait until something hurts before doing so.
Returning to the topic of money, you should consider refactoring as insurance. A few hours a month, or a few minutes with each new feature, can keep your software healthy, maintainable, and ready for new integrations and technologies that can help your company compete.
…as well as in terms of hiring.
When it comes to prices, there’s one additional consideration to make. People. The older your stack is, the fewer employees you can hire. Not to add that software engineers as a profession master a new technology every few months, according to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020. In such a circumstance, the chances of assembling a competent in-house team of legacy engineers who are well-versed in a stack from 2010 are slim to none (or at least very expensive).
Not to add that tinkering with ancient systems necessitates far more skill and risk management than any other part of app development.
You’ll get a reward for avoiding software maintenance (“let’s not upgrade as long as it works OK”). Software, like the languages and frameworks we use to create it, is a living creature. In comparison to a minor version update, a gap of multiple framework versions will be significantly more difficult to close. While re-versioning with each new release may be excessive, maintaining the application’s core features in good condition is critical for its efficiency.
Poor user experience
Limitations of technology
The capacity to test new ideas is inextricably linked to the ability to innovate. Companies that obtain a competitive edge frequently experiment by introducing new 3rd party integrations, connecting to APIs, or just bringing in new digital solutions. Businesses have lately adopted solutions based on big data, machine learning, or artificial intelligence. Connecting to new technology is often hard for elderly systems. One of the causes is that certain new libraries are not well supported. Another is the monolithic design, which comes at a high cost when it comes to interfacing with an external service.
Now, the aforementioned service doesn’t have to be something groundbreaking; a quick and widely adopted solution, such as a chatbot, will suffice. Many firms nowadays can’t fathom operating without it. It’s likely that your older system won’t be able to use it. The question is how far behind the competition your company will fall.
Costs of legacy systems – major takeaways
When we think of legacy, we think of a prosperous and affluent nation. It’s everything except that in software. Unless we want the program to rust in a matter of months, it need continual attention, care, and upgrades. According to Applied Computer and Informatics, industries that need to innovate (such as banking, insurance, or healthcare) spend up to 75% of their IT spending on maintaining old systems.
We can no longer pretend that legacy is just the realm of large firms and businesses. When a system’s backlog gets empty, it becomes a legacy system. As the system’s technical debt grows, it exposes it to security concerns, poor performance, and a bad user experience. Until it fully numbs it… unless you don’t allow it.