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Innovation strategies for legacy app modernisation

Legacy apps are one of the major obstacles for any enterprise looking to get ahead in the digital era.

In an industry and age where new technologies and trends often come and go, it is a common phenomenon that enterprises find themselves stuck with legacy applications that are difficult to upgrade or change. Often, they no longer even have support from the app vendor.

This can have a negative effect on an organisation’s digital strategy.

The task of modernising legacy applications is not one part easy, two parts hard. It is an involved process with many steps that need careful consideration before they are taken up.

What is legacy app modernisation?

A legacy application refers to programs and apps that were not designed for mobile phone platforms. As they were written with desktop or even a mainframe in mind, they will generally not work on the latest browsers or platforms. They use outdated languages and operating systems.

When software and hardware changes, it becomes difficult for these apps to keep up with the demands of new technology. This process of updating legacy apps is called legacy app modernisation, or re-platforming, and rarely work with a web browser in a coherent way or offer full functionality.

When evaluating whether it is worth modernising legacy apps, there are several questions you should ask:

  • Is the app still actively used?
  • What do users think of it?
  • Can the app be integrated with existing systems, or does it need to be replaced?
  • What new features would I like my system to have?
  • Have any processes been built specifically around how the app does or does not work?


Five R’s of legacy app modernisation

A generally agreed-upon “five R’s” exist when it comes to legacy app modernisation strategies. Each requires an in-depth knowledge of the app and its code, software, and platform; some require knowledge of your customer base and how your end-users access the app.

Deciding which way to go about modernising your legacy app will take consideration of the app itself, and what tools and knowledge you will need to bring it into the modern age.

1. Replace

Replacing a legacy app requires extensive research into the software requirements, and the requirements for hardware upgrades; testing the new system in a test environment before installing it to production environment; training employees to use the new system.

This can be done via Software as a Service (SaaS) which saves on needing the hardware and platform maintenance, and skills and staff to create a new, bespoke app.

2. Rebuild

Rebuilding a legacy app requires analysing the flow of the app and the data it handles. If your company has an existing customer base, finding out what they like and do not like about the original app is a good starting point.

A successful rebuild entails some considerations, including determining the type of data the app collects, how each function operates, if you have the appropriate resources and people to make this happen, and whether or not any bugs or errors need correcting.

3. Rehost

Three different ways exist to rehost a legacy app: one, use a hosted service like Microsoft Azure; two, migrate the app to another server; or three, create a wrapper that uses your legacy code with the new technology stack.

Each has its own benefits and disadvantages. If you move your legacy app to Azure, there is no need for IT resources onsite at your office. However, if you are migrating to another server, there is likely less downtime during the migration process as it is being done on premises. Wrapper creation means there is less risk for downtime as code will be running.

However, rehosting the app will not solve how it is presented. If the app did not work in a browser or mobile device before, rehosting will not solve that issue.

4. Rearchitect

Rearchitecting the app refers to rewriting it completely so that it better suits your desired platform. This may involve rewriting the app from scratch, or changing it from an object-oriented programming language to a functional language.

However, not all aspects of software architecture need to be changed. The goal when rearchitecting is to improve specific aspects while retaining others.

5. Refactor

This is the process of updating the app’s code to make it compatible with newer versions of programming languages or operating systems, without modifying the external behaviour. Refactoring is used to improve software quality, reduce complexity, and increase understanding of software systems.

Get an expert opinion

Modernising legacy apps is a complex process that requires the right team with the right know-how. For businesses of any size, it can be difficult to organise an in-house team to devote their time and efforts to this daunting task. Having the right knowledge is crucial.

The IT tech wizards at Linktech Australia have all the experience and knowledge needed to advise on your legacy app modernisation strategy – or they can take the project off your hands completely. Contact them today and get started.