How to Escape the Pitfalls of Legacy Modernisation Projects
Blog //12-11-2018

How to Escape the Pitfalls of Legacy Modernisation Projects

by Rob Anderson, Vice President of Marketing and Product for Application Modernization

Whether you’re planning to stay on the mainframe, or migrate off to a distributed platform – legacy modernisation is all about managing risk. We’ve outlined the top four reasons for project failure, and offer some advice for ensuring success.

Projects teams often have technology tunnel vision, and fail to connect the dots to the business needs.

There’s far more to legacy modernisation than modern languages, databases, development environments, and platforms. Large organisations often have millions of lines of legacy code written in older languages such as COBOL, PL/I, Natural, Assembler (among others), encapsulating decades of business processes, lessons and protocols.

There are definitely productivity improvements in going from monolithic applications leveraging structured languages to modern object-oriented languages, tools, components or frameworks, but that perspective is all about value for IT – not business-centric modernisation, which is about aligning the business with IT.

It’s always a good idea to catalogue your business logic and technical use cases up-front, as it can be extremely costly and frustrating to address this challenge in the post-migration phase.

Advanced’s approach guarantees a 100% business logic and functionality match between the legacy and target environment, giving organisations the best of both worlds.

In the end, IT should get their new environment while the business retains critical processes collected over the years.

Project teams often have unrealistic expectations for legacy modernisation projects

Setting a clear path for success starts a long time before contracts are signed. Advanced understands that there is no magic bullet for moving along a modernisation path, and that every customer situation is unique.

Transparency is critical for success. A good partner / provider will involve delivery staff in every sales cycle. At Advanced we include our delivery leadership team in the process, and they provide steps to the customer so they understand what is necessary to make the project work., and what the expected outcomes should be.

Progress stalls in favour of Internal politics and stakeholder’s competing interests

For a legacy modernisation project to be a success, the customer has to want it to work. This sounds obvious, but at large organisations, politics often overshadow day-to-day progress.

If a project is sponsored by one group but opposed by others who need to be engaged for the project, it will be doomed to failure.  If certain stakeholders refuse to engage in whatever is needed to make the project succeed, then the project is likely to run into problems.

You are looking to solve the problem with old methods

Traditional modernisation projects have been specialised migration tools, while customers tended to place their focus on testing, operations and business subject matter expertise.

However, newer modernisation approaches, such as an incremental shift to cloud-native microservices, require increased customer involvement. Breaking down monolithic workloads into microservices is a complex task requiring a deep level of analysis, planning, and hands-on domain expertise.

We’ve seen a trend in which our customer subject matter experts are willing to get involved, providing hands-on effort alongside their vendor partners. Increased collaboration is vital given the complexity of these projects, opening up a path to get the best from each organisation along the journey.

In taking that feedback from our customers, we recently introduced a new solution, Modernisation Platform as a Service (ModPaaS™) to assess a customer’s environment in a uniquely collaborative way.

ModPaaS is a cloud-based platform that enables customers and partners to analyse and modernise their legacy application systems in a collaborative manner. Customers can analyse mainframe legacy code, understand interrelationships, complexity, dependencies and mine business rules–all essential activities for complex modernisation projects.

The needs of the end user get diminished

Most legacy systems are highly transactional and automated, but still elevate exceptions to humans. Managing exceptions can be critical to the daily operations of the business. If the modernisation effort is solely focused on the operational or system areas without looking at the enablement of the participants who handle exceptions, the result is partial and incomplete modernisation.

Because employees are trained on familiar systems, it’s important to properly prepare them for the specifics of the new system. If they don’t see it as making their lives easier, then it will be hard to gain support, and challenges will inevitably occur.

Be sure to make a concerted effort to involve and educate end users. Your modernised systems are only as good as the people using them.

We hope these tips help you along your legacy modernisation journey.

Rob Anderson

Rob Anderson


Vice President of Marketing and Product for Application Modernization

Rob Anderson is Vice President of Marketing and Product for Application Modernization. He has spent the better part of the past decade developing, marketing, and selling mainframe modernization solutions, and has had a front-row seat in the transformation of the industry and its surrounding ecosystem.

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