5 Reasons to Modernize Your Legacy Apps for the 21st Century

Enterprise Resource Planning / Financial
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Your disparate applications are preventing users and developers from working to their full potential and your company from succeeding.


The use of computers and software exploded at the end of the 20th Century, and today many businesses find themselves using multiple ERP, inventory, and financial systems in a mixed-presentation environment. In situations such as these, users are increasingly forced to modify existing work habits to accommodate the software, which is diametrically opposed to the core fundamentals of software.


Software is meant to aid and expedite user productivity. When the users must change their work methodology and a business must reorganize itself to align with IT needs, there is a fundamental breakdown of both parties' mandates. Businesses should be able to concentrate on working as efficiently and productively as possible, and software should increase this efficiency and productivity. A modernization project can provide IBM i companies with the tools they need to realign with core software mandates. At the same time, such a project provides IT with the ability to respond to business changes more rapidly while allowing the business to function normally. This article will provide you with five reasons your business should modernize; for even more reasons, see "Revolutionizing System i Application Modernization," a free white paper available at the MC White Paper Center. 


Enterprise systems are designed to satisfy an organization's current line-of-business requirements and are built using the current technology and development trends. Over time, the applications become outdated and rigid and need continual modification to meet ever-changing business processes and advancements in technology.


It's inevitable that every enterprise system will ultimately reach the end of its productive life. Outdated systems stop companies from streamlining and improving their business processes because legacy applications tend to execute in silos. With many organizations using multiple systems for ERP, inventory, and financials in mixed-presentation environments, users are increasingly forced to modify existing work habits to accommodate the software. Disparate systems limit integration with other applications and new technology, which means business opportunities and company performance diminish and user training costs increase. Legacy systems are harder for IT departments to support and maintain, and they make recruiting application developers increasingly difficult.


Eventually, there comes a point when maintenance efforts no longer keep up with changes in business and technology. At that time, companies must make a critical decision about what to do with their legacy system. Until now, IBM i companies facing modernization requirements have been forced to either throw everything away and start all over again or continue to build upon and be limited by their legacy 5250 programs. System replacements are costly and inherently contain a high level of risk. Refacing and code conversion tools use existing applications as the foundation, which is what you're trying to move away from. What these companies want is a non-intrusive, easy-to-deploy modernization approach that takes into account their real-world requirements without disrupting their business. But how does this happen? First, these companies should review their immediate and strategic modernization requirements and plan an approach that will let them consolidate applications into a graphic application framework and eventually replace their legacy programs.

Top 5 Reasons to Modernize

There must be a strong ROI to justify modernizing an entire legacy system. The following list summarizes the benefits of embarking on a modernization project.


1. Reduce Annual Maintenance Fees: Many companies feel that their package's annual maintenance fees are way out of line with the support they receive from the vendor. Some companies have heavily modified the source code of the application to the extent that they have trouble retrofitting their changes into each new release, while others feel that their package is so outdated and inefficient that the maintenance cost is not warranted. A fully modernized system contains no ties to legacy source code. You finally have the opportunity to cancel maintenance.


2. Provide enhanced end-user experience and productivity: A modernization project allows the architect to provide the business with a two-pronged approach: 1) to repurpose existing applications to align more closely with business objectives and 2) to provide an intuitive interface to increase end-user adaptation and efficiency so users can quickly get to the destinations they need the most. Architects may also easily provide integration with desktop applications, such as Microsoft Excel or Crystal Reports, without coding.


3. Application and Server Consolidation: Many companies have multiple ERP, inventory, financial, and other software packages. By consolidating functions from multiple applications into a single business object, architects increase user productivity multiple times. A modernized approach will let you mix and match existing 5250 screens and batch jobs with new components that can execute against IBM i, Windows, UNIX, or Linux servers in a Web browser or as Windows rich-client applications--all managed in the same application framework.


4. Build Application Portals: You can build application portals that give a consistent user interface to multiple applications and deploy this interface via Windows or Web. You can Web-enable parts of your application to provide a self-service portal, consume and publish Web services, or deliver new functionality to meet business requirements, all within the same application framework that serves as a platform for full modernization.


5. Platform Independence: A completely modernized system will have eliminated RPG/COBOL/CL/DDS dependencies within your application, which gives the applications platform mobility. Solutions may be deployed against IBM i, Windows, UNIX, or Linux servers.

What Are You Waiting For?

This may be the best time for your company to begin a modernization project. The results will align your IT department with your organization's business objectives, leading to increased user productivity, improved and more efficient workflow, and a better bottom line. A well-designed modernization project can provide your business with the tools necessary to make these goals a reality and carry you forward in the 21st Century.