As the year unfolds, technology is changing at a pace we have never seen before. From the year 1943 when the first electric programmable computer was invented, until, in the 1970s, the term “legacy” was first used to describe computer systems and finally to today where it is clear that Software is Feeding the World. Before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s take a few minutes to go back in time and explore what a legacy system is and how it affects businesses daily around the world.
What is a legacy system?
In general, a legacy system is an outdated computer system, application program or software that is still in use today. It is a part of a software program or system that has become obsolete due to the most recently developed software trends, and because of this, the old system has become less functional and in extreme cases impossible to use.
Some of the legacy systems are so old that they need to be replaced, as newer systems cannot interact with the old systems. However, many major governmental organizations operate with legacy systems for essential business operations, such as high-volume data processing and simply making day-to-day operations run in your organisation.
As technology accelerates, everyone is required to modernize otherwise they can be exposed to downtime when you least expect it. However, the old system might not be easy to change, so here are the 10 reasons why your organisation might want to start moving away from your legacy system as soon as possible:
1. Expensive maintenance
Nowadays, there are many companies that are experiencing problems using their legacy system. However, each of them has one dominant goal and that is to maintain profitability and cost reduction. Many companies choose to stay within their legacy systems to avoid additional expenses, but this method can cost them even more money.
Let’s take Common Business-Oriented Language Programmers (COBOL) as an example, this language was first designed in 1959, and is still widely used by systems that process more than 70% of the business transactions in the world today. The financial industry spends 80% of their IT budget on legacy maintenance and can spend up to $300m a year on existing software for the updates to meet the necessary requirements and standards.
Things add up in the long run, and overtime cost millions of dollars in maintaining a legacy system. It is not easy to change a large system, but there is still a solution to overcome this and get rid of technical debt. The cost and complexity over time usually looks like the curve below:
2. Poor security
Many legacy systems are no longer supported by their manufacturers. Therefore, a single unpatched weakness can allow attackers to obtain all databases and applications. Likewise, because of the lack of modern backup solutions and services, organizations often cannot prevent losses of their data.
In the case of an attack, some of the vulnerabilities may not be easy to fix due to their large and inflexible nature. Even if it is possible, the patch is very limited since it is difficult for developers to generate a legacy fix. For instance, Microsoft announced in 2016 that it would no longer support Windows XP. Consequently, after a period of safety, legacy systems suddenly enter a stage where they are a danger to the company.
3. Lack of documentation
Legacy systems are usually built up of a large codebase with many complex functionalities. According to legacy system’s solid nature, simply changing or replacing a module is difficult. A small update can create various conflicts throughout a legacy system. Therefore, any required change to the system needs effort and time.
Furthermore, legacy systems generate issues related to their recovery and redundancy. Even if they are not complex, they suffer from a lack of documentation. Therefore developers’ knowledge concerning the overall software architecture.
Because of that, it is difficult for new employees to take over future operations. When no guidance is available, keeping a legacy system running is a big challenge. The lack of documentation predicts another obstacle for future changes and increases the risk of potential damage.
4. Lack of developers that are experienced with the legacy system and it’s programming language
Let’s take COBOL programming as an example, from the data shown below we can see that COBOL programmers are on their way to retirement, meanwhile the young developers show no interest in this language. Is this really a problem? Definitely, because few people only know how the whole program works and how to fix it. What about asking a software development company to help fix things? This is a way to go, however, an agency can often only help to modernize the system. This is circumvented simply by building a connection between the legacy system and the new system that the agency builds, using what is called an application program interface (API). With the help of modernization and partnership with an agency, your company can resolve the problem with the shortage of developers who do not have enough knowledge with legacy systems.
5. Lack of mobile and web compatibility
Today, there are over 5 billion mobile users globally, which is expected to continue to grow. This is an important factor that businesses should consider. But how does this relate to a legacy system? It has a significant impact on the old system because most legacy systems have no mobile capabilities and are heavily desktop-dependent. That means the software is only compatible with certain desktops or desktop-size screens on the web. As software changes, some of the legacy systems are too old to upgrade to modern web and mobile applications. But how can they upgrade then? As a rule of thumb, anything is possible with a strong mobility strategy. Through this method, the legacy software you are using can be complemented by different features. That will for sure benefit you in the future of both web and mobile dominance!
Furthermore, web browsers are continuously evolving, therefore some legacy systems may not be compatible with them. This is due to the fact that their code is no longer supported. Let’s take the Internet Explorer and Chrome browser as an example. Before, Internet Explorer was the web’s dominant browser until Google’s Chrome started to eat up market share. If you are using both web browsers together, you will notice that some websites are not compatible with Internet Explorer and the design will look odd. This is due to the latest software update that has been used, which is originally made based on the compatibility for Chrome browsers.
6. Non-compatible with other enterprise programs
In order to run efficient business processes, the software powering these processes has to integrate completely with other required tools and applications to ensure that everything is running smoothly. A good example can be having your systems integrate well with your preferred CRM system or live chat add-on on a website.
In case of failure when implementing a virtual customer support system such as live chat, email support or chatbot because of the old system, the interaction with the customer becomes difficult. Accordingly, it may pose a huge problem for organizations as the clients may find another provider. This is because these systems cannot prevail over the latest features that customers nowadays are accustomed to.
Consequently, if your organization is tied to obsolete systems and tools, your competitors may surpass you by taking advantage of the benefits of using non-legacy systems. This is why we suggest you move away from legacy systems, to keep your customers and revenue and avoid a future business risk for the company.
7. A gap between legacy systems and current trends
Nowadays people are more likely to follow trends than ever before, so they can never fall behind. We all know the type of person that always buys the brand newly released phone, just because they follow the latest trends. In the business world, things are a little bit more complicated. Following technological trends can be something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, updating systems may require money, time and effort, however, on the other hand, it can help you increase your profit and strengthen your position in the market.
Let’s take the example of a banking system. It can be seen in the picture below, that the banking model of the past, based on a legacy system, is mainly focused on the bank branch. Therefore its features such as mail and call center are absolutely depending on it.
However, since we live in a world where mobile phones are becoming increasingly important in our lives, it is crucial to follow this trend. Consequently, the future banking model is transforming into being focused mainly on mobile. In this way, the banking operations leave behind the legacy branch systems and shifts toward mobile users, which are able to provide accessibility, comfort, and durability to its customers.
8. Non-understandable and outdated outlook
Nowadays, when technology is evolving at a remarkable pace, convenience, comfort, and accessibility are features that customers are accustomed to and expect from every business they interact with. Therefore, it is crucial for companies to follow the latest trends and stick to them in order to maintain their position on the market.
This is driven in large part because of Web Development Trends. When purchasing, reading the latest news or sending money, for instance, customers seek clarity and intelligibility on a web page. The reason behind this is that these features create a better customer experience.
Due to the age of the legacy systems, however, their outlook is non-understandable and outdated. Imagine a situation, where you enter a website and the design is obsolete, the sections are messy, and it is hard to find the needed information. Probably, you will immediately leave it, right?
Therefore, it is a good idea for businesses to undertake a modernization of the legacy systems, if they want to avoid undesirable situations and keep their customers.
9. The legacy system does not meet the current requirements and standards
As technology evolves through the years, the compliance for requirements and standards for it is also changing. Some companies that use the legacy system do not meet the standards implemented by government regulations. But what exactly does this mean? Let’s have a real scenario from the US between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act (FFMIA). This is about achieving full compliance by DOT according to FFFMIA law.
During this time DOT legacy accounting system was developed in the early 1980s by Federal Aviation Data (FAA) to track its financial transactions. Since the system was really old it causes several problems in providing them financial statements. Their system was incapable of providing accounting costs promptly as the system was very slow which caused them not to meet the deadlines. Therefore DOT decided to revise and update its existing legacy system to meet the requirements of FFMIA. This method is very costly to the company but also an effective way to meet the requirements and standards.
10. Slow and low performance
Performance for an old legacy system that has been running for dozens of is indeed associated with slower and lower performance over the years. This causes the system to consume more resources with more frequent failures, which leads to inefficiency and unproductivity. Throughout the years, the invention of new software and upgrades has been accelerating, and that affects a legacy system deeply.
According to Bain & Company “…External departments don’t understand which team to use, and when, and why some parts of IT don’t respond as quickly as others—and employees left behind on the slow track may grow downright resentful.” This is proof of how legacy systems affect the workplace, which can cause the service towards the consumers to be delayed as well. Indeed, the problem with slow performance in old legacy systems is a reality, and the companies experiencing it need to find a way to fix it. It will take time as the process is very complex and complicated but still possible.
Now that you are enlightened on the different downfalls of the legacy system, take some time to think about how it will affect your organisation in the future. It might not be an easy journey and you need to consider each part of your system before planning to move away from a legacy system. But if you need help to get ready to enter the digital age, don’t hesitate to reach us and we can talk about how to solve the problems you face with your legacy system.