Legacy modernization: The key to your digital future

No word strikes more fear into the hearts of technology executives than modernization. In spite of our best intentions, today’s technology purchases invariably become tomorrow’s legacy burden. Eventually, mounting technical debt ends up threatening modern strategic initiatives like digital transformation.

Legacy modernization has been the CIO’s ball and chain for decades, largely because the options for resolving the challenge of legacy software were scant and expensive. But not dealing with the problem meant risking the possibility that legacy assets will impede future digital initiatives, and no company can afford such roadblocks.

When it comes down to it, digital transformation depends upon modern technology, which in turn depends upon successful modernization.

Better approaches to modernization

Legacy modernization has traditionally been a black and white affair: either rip out all the old technology and start fresh, or make do with it, layering new technology onto the old, to extend its useful lifetime. Afraid of the risks of the first option, most IT executives opted for the second, for better or worse.

Today, modernization is no longer a two-sided dilemma. There are now many options to add to the mix.

In some cases, it’s possible to modernize software in place—for example, on mainframes, as modern mainframe technologies enable organizations to continue to leverage the venerable hardware platform as they modernize its software.

In other situations, it’s possible to lift and shift—moving software from less flexible platforms onto the cloud, where in some cases, it can take advantage of the architectural benefits of scalability, elasticity, and on-demand availability.

Now, with the rise of microservices, comes a third, relatively new, trend—modernizing elements of complex, distributed applications while leaving other components alone, or updating different parts of such applications at different times, depending upon the needs of the business.

It’s also important to remember that today’s software doesn’t live in a vacuum. There are a plethora of APIs, plugins, and other third-party components both within and external to each organization that today’s applications increasingly depend on for modern functionality.

And with this increased variety of modernization options, the IT organization and its role within the enterprise has also transformed. IT is no longer simply a cost center in the enterprise. Today, software has become strategically important, as companies reinvent themselves as technology-driven organizations, thus raising the bar on modernization even further.

At the center of this strategic importance? Bespoke software. True, much of today’s legacy consists of off-the-shelf applications, burdened further by years of customizations. But it’s the custom software that’s unique to each organization that gives it competitive differentiation in today’s increasingly digital marketplace.

The shortcomings of traditional application development

Traditional application development centered on hand-coding software simply cannot keep up with the dual priorities of modernization and differentiated value. The result is a company-killing combination of an ever-increasing development backlog and mounting technical debt.

Something has to give—and it has. This immense market pressure to speed up application development has given rise to the low-code movement.

Put a low-code development platform like Zoho Creator into the hands of developers and they immediately become many times more productive, accelerating application delivery while simultaneously improving quality and lowering costs.

The benefits that low-code brings to bespoke development initiatives are many. And that’s without even going into how low-code lowers the risks inherent in legacy modernization, as developers apply low-code techniques to resolving issues of legacy debt.

Much of this debt reduction takes place behind the scenes, as developers resolve issues surrounding back-office software, including systems of record.

But low-code brings an even more important benefit to this story: because the application development team is using the same low-code platform to resolve back-office legacy issues—as well as to build new functionality for customers and employees—low-code becomes instrumental in aligning customer demands with the entire software stack.

Preparing for the digital future

Such alignment is absolutely essential for achieving the benefits of digital transformation, as customer demands and preferences increasingly drive enterprise technology decisions across the board.

Without the alignment that low-code brings, both to legacy modernization and front-end, customer-facing development, any enterprise’s legacy debt burden threatens to stop its digital transformation efforts dead in their tracks.

In contrast, organizations that are able to leverage low-code position themselves for digital transformation success. Lines of business are better able to collaborate with newly invigorated application development teams—not only to reduce application backlogs, but also to drive new capabilities that focus on customer (and employee) needs.

There is more to digital transformation than low-code alone, of course. But there’s no mistaking the fact that low-code is an essential enabler of application modernization, as organizations can no longer afford to live with the technical debt of their legacy ball and chain.

The Intellyx take

Enterprise low-code platforms that enable organizations to tackle complex, enterprise apps within the context of the modern enterprise IT landscape are no longer simply a wishlist item. In fact, enterprises all over the world are achieving success with these platforms today.

This story repeats itself across multiple verticals, from banking and insurance to manufacturing to retail and ecommerce. An increasingly wide swath of the enterprise legacy application landscape is now a target for low-code initiatives, in addition to the bespoke user interface-focused digital efforts that have long been the sweet spot of such platforms.

Perhaps most importantly, low-code is helping enterprises lower their legacy technical debt, which in practical terms means that customers are able to get the benefits of enterprise systems how and where they want those benefits.

And the end result? A compelling customer experience that helps organizations differentiate themselves from the competition and drive growth.

With low-code, no longer do legacy limitations constrain the customer experience. To succeed with digital transformation, the customer must be in the driver’s seat. Low-code is providing the keys.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Zoho is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx has final editorial control of this article.

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  • Jason Bloomberg

    Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, author, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Thinkers360’s Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Cloud Computing for 2020, among the top nine low-code analysts on the Influencer50 Low-Code50 Study for 2019, #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018, and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017.


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