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The key initiatives to future proof your legacy applications

Global enterprise application software spending is set to increasing to more than $201 billion in 2019, according to the recent forecast from Gartner. 

Analysts predict that growth will be primarily driven by modernisation, functional expansion and digital transformation projects.Interestingly, it seems that a significant proportion of that investment will be dedicated to legacy systems. 45 per cent of Gartner’s survey respondents indicated that one of their top five IT project priorities is "application modernisation of installed on-premises core enterprise applications" and a further 41 per cent stating that "extending capabilities of core enterprise applications" is another priority.

So, how can CIOs ensure that their investment is future proofed and why is it important that they do so?

Ditch the applets, plug-ins and device specific software 

With Oracle announcing plans to deprecate the Java browser plugin in JDK 9 (estimated release March 2017) the case has never been stronger for ensuring that legacy applications are not reliant upon applets of plug-ins. Creating a pure HTML version of your applications is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to future proof your core applications.

Web based terminal emulators allow organisations to offer their employees application access on any device, anywhere, using any browser. Removing the need for client side, device specific, software protects the organisation from new browser versions, new device types and access requests from external stakeholders. The first web based terminal emulator, developed in the 90s, was iPad compatible before tablets even existed.

Prepare for the cloud 

Cloud access is not just a box ticking exercise when it comes to legacy applications. New IT initiatives are making app usage patterns more sporadic, creating previously unheard of peaks in demand. Think about how often banks’ customers now check their balances on their phones during their commute. Organisations need to have a flexible infrastructure to future proof their applications; allowing them to provide on demand customer access without excess capacity.

Taking advantage of the cloud can offer organisations additional safeguards against future changes in the IT landscape or working practices. Automatic software updates help to reduce the maintenance burden and improve security. 

Hosting applications in the cloud can also help organisations take advantage of flexible working and increase business agility. Legacy systems have traditionally formed a barrier to cloud integration, but with the right development toolset organisations can easily and quickly reap the benefits of a cloud infrastructure.

Integrate, take advantage of SoA and IoT 

The future of all applications is continued integration, both with other applications and with the physical world. Whether it’s integration between your web traffic and sales management applications, or between your energy provider’s application and your kettle; the world is becoming increasingly integrated.

Creating bespoke integrations is time consuming, costly and can lead to application instability. Protect your organisation against this by choosing an application development toolset that enables you to build standards based web services quickly and efficiently. Some toolsets even have graphical web service builders, which can drastically reduce the time taken to integrate your host applications.

Protect against the skills shortage 

One of the most common motivators for legacy migration is the shortage of developers with the relevant skills. Decision makers can minimise the impact this has on their organisations by choosing solutions that allow them to utilise common skillsets.

There are .NET toolsets available that enable developers to easily modernise their legacy application UIs, condense multiple screens into one web page and develop web services that integrate with a variety of other business applications; all without altering the underlying code. Reducing the need for bespoke code development has the additional benefit of protecting the organisation from problems caused by staff turnover. Consider the development of web services. Hand written web services are not only time consuming and costly, they can also be fragile and completely dependent on the original developer to decipher, change and maintain.

Using a web service generator ensures they all conform to the same standards and are built in the same way. They can then be changed as the organisation requires, by whichever internal or external consultant they can best utilise with the commodity skillset.

Harness the citizen developer 

Another way you can protect your organisation from any potential skill shortages is to harness the citizen developer. A citizen developer is an application super user who is not a traditional member of the IT development team.

Such users are uniquely poised to react to changes in demand, such as new workflows or new requirements. They understand how the application needs to perform at a granular level and are best placed to improve their own user experience. Choosing an application development solution that includes a studio, or wizard based environment is an excellent way to ensure agility and future proof legacy applications.

Utilising the citizen developer acts as the ultimate DevOps strategy and gives the organisation increased development agility. Take a new customer onboarding for a client facing application as an example. Perhaps a portion of the application, or workflow is irrelevant for that new customer. With the right toolset the citizen developer can create a custom application experience for the customer and onboard them in the shortest possible time, driving value for the organisation.

Traditionally this would have involved a project specification with and collaborative project with the development team, who may not have the same in depth knowledge of the application’s workflow idiosyncrasies.

Be intuitive

Intuitive applications have greater longevity and can be implemented in a wider variety of scenarios. Using graphical navigation rather than relying on keyboard shortcuts, automating common tasks and condensing multiple screens onto one web page all help to reduce both the training and documentation required. This has the dual benefit of opening the applications to a wider audience of potential stakeholders; increasing the potential ROI of legacy applications.

It had been notoriously difficult to develop intuitive applications when dealing with legacy ‘green screen’ back ends. Thankfully this has now been made much more straightforward with applications being modernised by citizen developers in a matter of days.

Christian Rule, Director of Business Transformation at Flynet (opens in new tab)

Image Credit: Pixel Fantasy / Flickr