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6 factors to determine the right candidates for legacy modernization

6 factors to determine the right candidates for legacy modernization

If you’re still in the beginning stages of your legacy modernization journey, you’re not alone. An IBM study found that of the 380 CIOs and CTOs surveyed, 24% said that their company is either just starting its modernization journey or hasn’t begun.

IT leaders realize the benefits that can be had at the end of the journey, but the beginning can seem daunting if you’re not sure how to modernize. Or, for that matter, what to modernize.

“Legacy systems,” some may say. “It’s right in the name!” 

While that’s true, a more focused approach is needed for a successful modernization strategy.

Before getting into how to determine which specific legacy systems (or their components) to modernize, let’s look at one of the more widely used, albeit broad, definitions of a legacy system: any outdated hardware, software, or even process. 

This definition may very well cover half or more of your technology, but not every legacy system needs to be updated — at least not right away.

The focus needs to be on the legacy systems that are holding your business back the most and to prioritize accordingly. To do this, you need to figure out just how legacy your legacy systems really are. (Hint: it has nothing to do with age.)

Without further ado, here are the six factors to determine the right candidates for legacy modernization:

1. Strategic alignment

This is the most important factor when evaluating your current legacy systems. After all, the primary reason for modernizing is to modernize your business to keep up in today’s competitive climate. Therefore, you need systems that can support your business goals. 

You may find that a legacy system does indeed support your business goals — it just doesn’t do so efficiently because of a couple of components, for example. Modernizing just those components would be a practical, cost-effective option.

On the other hand, you may encounter a system that doesn’t align with your new business goals at all, from a business or technology perspective. In that case, retirement of the system would be on the table.

2. Business value

It’s also important to measure the business value generated from your current legacy systems. That includes all revenue, as well as some of the more intangible benefits that lead to a business’s positive outlook.

Then, compare the value the system is producing to what it could be generating. Look into upgrading those systems that would produce the biggest gains in business value.

3. Total cost of ownership

In the long run, legacy systems cost more than their modern counterparts. To determine if the costs of your legacy systems are too high to sustain, find the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the systems in question. Factor in costs of licensing, costs incurred through delays and disruptions, and maintenance costs, to name a few. 

You may find that the TCO of a particular system is low, meaning you can put that one on the back burner. 

Or you may find that you’re spending more on maintaining a legacy system than actually innovating. That system would be a prime candidate for modernizing.

4. Expertise and training

Outdated languages, databases, and architectures put an enterprise in an uncertain position, as a great number of workers with those skill sets are reaching retirement age. And the skills needed to work on those outdated technologies will only become harder to find. So, sooner or later, these systems will need to be modernized. The only question is how much technical debt will have accrued by then.

Similarly, if employees appear to struggle with using a piece of software, this can hinder productivity and increase training costs. In this case, modernizing only the UI of the application could be an option if the backend is capable of supporting your business needs.

5. Security and compliance

Often what happens with a legacy system is that the vendor that created it no longer supports it. This can spell trouble for a business that still has it up and running. Because it means no more updates or security patches, opening up the business to security breaches and non-compliance penalties.

Legacy systems with these vulnerabilities — legacy software in the truest sense — need to be upgraded to move away from the risks they impose. And modernized systems can do that with their ability to stay current with the latest compliance standards and security patches.

6. Business agility

To keep up with today’s fast-changing digital demands, businesses need agility. Unfortunately, most legacy systems don’t enable that agility. The ability to rapidly develop and release products is key to this agility. That’s why it’s important to identify those systems and put plans in place to upgrade them. 

Modern systems, with their innate flexibility and easy maintenance, can future-proof your business through the ability to support your business growth and by enabling you to react quickly to changing market demands.

Putting it all together

Now that you’ve found all the issues with your legacy systems in relation to the six factors, it’s time to determine just how legacy each really is.

There’s no clear-cut method for doing this, as it really depends on your business’s goals and what it values; however, legacy systems that would benefit from both a business and an IT standpoint are excellent modernization candidates.

Now, divide them up into three categories:

  • Modern systems
  • Legacy systems that can remain as is
  • Legacy systems in need of immediate modernization

But don’t stop there. It’s important to review your technology estate and evaluate and modernize, on a continuous basis. 

Because business priorities change and technologies change — and change stays the same.

What Relevantz Can Do for You


Relevantz can be the partner you need to help you along your application modernization and digital transformation journeys. With our business-first, outside-in modernization approach, we can help you rehost, replatform, refactor, rearchitect, rebuild, and replace your current enterprise systems, separate the applications from legacy infrastructure, modularize intermingled business processes, liberate data from legacy systems, and innovate new digital systems.

And because our approach is iterative, your enterprise will be able to enjoy all the benefits of new information technologies, such as having the agility to adapt quickly to the demands of the marketplace, while keeping your legacy systems humming behind the scenes.