UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

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Businesses that use “legacy” systems and applications face unique challenges, including loss of competitiveness, inefficiency due to manual processes, and an aging development workforce. Developers and technical leaders on these systems are in a key position to influence how to overcome these challenges, but often find it difficult to communicate solutions to management.

Editor's note: This article introduces the updated white paper Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond, which is free to download from the MC White Paper Center.

With the right solutions, it’s possible to extend existing IT investments, transform out-of-date applications and processes, and remain highly competitive, without the consequences of a rip-and-replace. Carefully craft these solutions into a compelling business case, and they can become a reality for your company.

This guide will help you craft a business case for enterprise system modernization that retains the parts of your business that work, while transforming and modernizing the parts that don’t.

Top Legacy System Challenges

Each year, we survey the IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) market to assess the state of their technology and business applications. We’ve found that three major concerns remain consistent year-to-year across businesses on the platform.

Outdated User Interfaces

Outdated user interfaces continue to plague IBM i shops. Aside from the green screen’s obvious technical drawbacks, they’re the only part of the applications business users see. Since all of today’s top tech companies like Google and Apple prioritize cutting-edge UI design, it’s easy to conclude an entire application is sub-par based on its appearance.

Outdated Application Source Code

Our survey showed that even though most IBM i shops develop new applications in RPG IV, they still maintain many existing programs in RPG III. Business applications running on outdated RPG III limit their functionality and threaten to rack up technical debt for the company. Additionally, the business-minded upper managers would often rather stay away from RPG entirely because of its “legacy” associations.

Diminishing Developer Pool

RPG also gets a bad rap because of the dwindling number of RPG developers available in today’s workforce. The core group of programmers that supported IBM i shops for decades is retiring without much “fresh blood” taking their place. RPG is rarely taught in schools anymore and younger developers don’t have many compelling reasons to learn an uncommon language.

Rip-And-Replace vs. Continuous Modernization

The combined challenges of outdated UIs, outdated source code, and the diminishing developer pool often push decision-makers towards a rip-and-replace solution. They eliminate or significantly reduce investment in their current systems, allowing their existing issues and technical debt to compound while focusing their best resources on a “fresh start”.

In some cases, a rip-and-replace program might be the most efficient approach forward. But as with many IBM i shops, whose long-standing business applications are integral to key business functions, it is too disruptive of an approach.

Continuous application modernization is a gradual approach that focuses on delivering digital business support in a timely manner, while minimizing disruptions to the business.

Want to learn more? Download the free updated white paper Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond, which is free to download from the MC White Paper Center.