Probably you already know some legacy systems – outdated software still in use – and you are happy it is not your daily work tool. But how to cope with the legacy system in the fast changing IT world?

Reasons for keeping legacy systems in charge

First of all — the systems are assets. In the past, a company spent a lot of money for an internal IT system. And even though the maintenance is expensive today, investment in change could cost more; not only in terms of money but also specific skills that would be necessary. And the lack of those is a problem, too.

Very often a change in the IT area is related to employees’ mindset. If somebody worked on the old system for years, it would be tough to change the habit, mostly when we talk about the so-called boomer generation.

Documentation may also post the challenge. If the company has everything completed and in order, upgrading the system would be much more comfortable. However, if it’s not the case, or if the authors are not available, implementing the change may be risky.

Threats related to the legacy systems

The first risk is related to the lack of updating options or the impossibility of integrating it with a newer system. That may cause not only slowing down the work but also getting stuck in the blind spot. The business should expand, and if the legacy system stores essential data, it shouldn’t be an obstacle for the next step ahead.

The security of legacy systems may also be a weakness. Today, advanced coding solutions prevent data from unauthorized access. However, they are often not available for older systems developed before the intensive Internet usage age.

Also, the legacy systems can’t embrace international regulations like the GDPR. That’s because nobody has predicted this way of data maintenance. For instance, if there is an outdated CRM bank, the owners may face a problem.

Legacy system modernization

If you decide to change the system, you should first extract the data from the old one and select the files. The current ones should go for further processing, while the ones that are out of use should be archived. Then, the to-be-processed files may get a new format — open for a future update matching the current standards. It’s also an excellent time to check if new software works with the converted data. Then you can also design a user-friendly front-end dedicated to forecasted operations.

The legacy systems are critical, and nobody should ignore them. But, considering the risks, the only way to use them today is to adapt them to the current needs.

Author: Kamil Grzybek, Head Of Software Engineering, Software Architect, Team Leader at ITSG Global