Legacy Systems Modernisation

“A legacy system is outdated computing software and/or hardware that is still in use.”

One Size Fits All?

Different problems require different approaches. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to modernising legacy systems. No guarantee that a strategy tailored to one set of issues will work on a default basis. An outdated system is not just defined by its age, but also the quality of the architecture, functionality and technology in place. Crucially, these issues are often perceived and handled across an enterprise in very different ways.

Know what drives you

The sources of disruption are key to understanding what drives the need for modernisation. According to Gartner, there are 6 major drivers that compel enterprises to overhaul their legacy systems.

The two major categories here are business, representing the demand side, and IT, representing the supply side. Naturally, each group will prioritise different drivers based on what they consider their most pressing problems. The more of these 6 drivers there are, the more compelling the case for legacy systems modernisation.

Demand (Business)


Digital business support
Changing requirements
Higher pace of change

Supply (IT)


Technical debt
Ageing technology
Time, cost & risk of change
Unsupported platforms
Skills shortage


Firstly, business needs a system that’s not only fit-for-purpose but also capable of fulfilling its day-to-day requirements, such as:

  • increasing data availability
  • serving more clients &
  • supporting new business models

Secondly, the system has to deliver appropriate value to meet the costs of maintenance and the demands of digital business support. If this relationship is cost-heavy, being brave enough to adopt an informed modernisation strategy can help even out the risk-to-reward balance.

Lastly, the system needs to be agile enough to keep up to speed with changing requirements. In other words, if an obsolete or non-integrated application is holding back critical operations, it’s time for business to modernise.


Although IT departments look at things a bit differently, they do share with business the common goal of wanting an effective system. Inevitably one of the major concerns is costs, falling into the following categories:

  • total cost of ownership
  • maintenance costs &
  • operational costs

Expenses have to be proportionate to the value the system brings. Various problems arise as a system becomes more complex. And the ripple effects are just as numerous. To take just two examples: maintenance associated with technical debt or the incompatibility of legacy applications with more sophisticated components in the system.

And then there’s the ever-present reality of risk. Risk associated with inaction, not to mention its time-consuming and costly effects. But also technical risk. No IT team wants to have the constant headache of dealing with compromises to security, compliance and scalability.

When you add other impediments such as unsupported platforms, ageing technologies and an ever-growing skills shortage into the mix, it’s no surprise modernisation becomes an unavoidable necessity for IT.

Choosing the right approach when analysing legacy systems

Issues with faltering technologies are the bane of IT departments. But when these problems are avoidable, teams have to consider whether the costs and time spent dealing with reduced functionality are really worth the effort. And if the architecture, the beating heart of every software system, shows signs of failure, this imposes a massive burden on IT as well as business.

Choosing the proper strategy for modernisation

Demand (Business) Fit Cost Agility Risk Value Complexity Supply (IT) Functionality Architecture Technology

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