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Legacy software modernisation: your route to success

Being a digital or technology leader in the current climate can feel like trying to work miracles. Purse strings are quickly being tightened, yet you’re still being asked to enable all the exciting new products and services your business needs if it’s to meet its ESG, growth, and other targets.

As if financial constraints weren’t enough of a headache, legacy technology is holding many organisations back. Research published last month by Virgin Media O2 Business found that nearly three-quarters of organisations say their legacy tech is hampering their ability to operate efficiently.

How do you navigate your way through all of this, while keeping everyone happy?

A closer look at what’s going on

The boom in tech spending that resulted from the pandemic was wild – the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2020 found the uptick was as much as $15bn per week during the first three months of the Covid-19 crisis. It’s fair to say things are now balancing out a bit. And while IT budgets are set to increase by around 2.2% in 2023, according to Gartner, inflationary pressures mean leaders are effectively having to play with a reduced hand.

What’s more, almost two-thirds of respondents in the Virgin Media O2 Business survey said they’re expected to demonstrate return on investment faster than they were just six months ago.

The impact of legacy technology stretches beyond inefficiency

Legacy systems do more than just hinder your efficiency. They can directly impact user experience, leading to brand and reputational damage. They hamper your ability to respond nimbly when a new threat or opportunity arises. And by being more labour-intensive to run and maintain, they direct your teams’ precious time away from tasks that could be helping you deliver on all those stakeholders’ asks.

But can you afford to replace your legacy systems?

Depending on the nature of your legacy technology, the temptation to retire and replace it is likely being offset by technical and commercial pressures. And let’s be realistic: is your board likely to sign off the large capital investments this would require?

But what options does this then leave you with?

Do you hunker down, and try to firefight your way through the current situation as best you can?

Or do you see if there are lower-cost, tactical improvements you could make to those legacy applications that would tackle the problems they’re causing and get you more value from them?

The Virgin Media O2 Business survey results suggest there’s a strong move in the market towards the latter approach. When respondents were asked what the most important operational priority was for their organisations, the number-one answer was to increase value efficiency of existing investments.

Does incremental legacy modernisation work?

But can this approach work in practice? Will it enable you to quickly deliver value to demanding stakeholders, within a budget substantially lower than what you’d need for a full legacy replacement?

Below, we’ve outlined two examples from client projects, to illustrate the sorts of things we’re talking about. The TL;DR is that in both cases, the client was able to enjoy low-cost, incremental improvements that paid back almost immediately, meaning the tech teams kept both their business and financial stakeholders happy.

In one case, we came in to modernise our client’s customer-facing membership app and website, both of which consisted of large, monolithic codebases. Section by section, we rebuilt both app and website to enhance customer experience (CX) and boost performance at busy times. We started with the highest-value pages, and gradually picked off additional areas as budget allowed. We created an API gateway to direct traffic to either the old monolith or the new services, which ensured the transition period was invisible to customers – aside from the emergence of new features and enhanced CX, of course. In addition, we rewrote a few key pieces of functionality to slash the time to deploy code and make content changes, cutting it from hours to a few minutes.

Another project involved modernising the platforms, infrastructure and development practices underpinning a high street bank’s mobile app. During our time working alongside the bank’s internal teams, and mentoring them in modern ways of building digital services, we delivered enhanced security, refreshed user experiences, and laid the groundwork for the use of artificial intelligence and increased customer service automation. The app subsequently won awards, while the delivery approach we helped instil was praised by analysts as providing a significant benefit to the bank.

How to get started with legacy software modernisation

So yes, this approach of incrementally improving legacy technology can deliver real value to an organisation and its customers, when you go about it smartly.

Excited about getting started? If you’ve got an application that’s holding your organisation back, we’d love to have a chat about opportunities to modernise the key parts.

Head over to our software modernisation page to explore the your first steps – which typically take just 1-2 weeks – and to get in touch if you’d like to have a no-obligation chat about your requirements.

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