What is a Legacy Application?
As Gartner puts it, legacy application is “an information system that may be based on outdated technologies, but is critical to day-to-day operations.”
With respect to organizational applications, “legacy” refers to products, applications, and software that run on little or no support. As contradictory as that statement sounds, legacy applications are archaic in nature and remain in-use because of the hurdles in adopting and implementing new technologies. Legacy apps need not necessarily be old, but, they are generally cumbersome, hard to adapt and non-modular in nature.
One might think that legacy systems refer to systems that have been put in place many years ago that the duration of time in itself leads to redundancy. However, the age of a legacy system has little to do with its inefficiency. Any system that lacks the ability to meet the needs of a business or organization is considered to be legacy. Such software is usually difficult or exhausting to maneuver in the face of the changing needs of the business and poses challenges in integration with other new systems due to its architecture, underlying technology, or design.
Characteristics of Legacy Applications
Guaranteed User Base
Most legacy applications are implemented at an organizational level. Enterprise app interface is built for teams to carry out a multitude of functions across different layers of the organization. Since they are in general not built keeping a specific customer in mind, they don’t necessarily match the usage patterns of individual employees and their functions leading to obvious bottlenecks. Orchestrating this need matching is an obstacle in enterprise apps.
Legacy apps are ‘product-centric’ and not ‘user-centric’. These apps have been designed for attaining a task and mostly requires special training to use it proficiently and regular support from the developers. The success of any consumer app depends to a large extent on the responsiveness of its user interface. Software producers track user experience obsessively in the process of designing an app. This consideration is lacking in the case of legacy apps, giving rise to arcane interfaces designed to defeat end users.
Lack of Productive Choices
When corporate management is deciding on software, they have two choices - they can either pick something off the shelf or custom build an app according to their needs. Picking something off the shelf leads to a solution that may not be exactly suitable to the team's needs while building a custom solution is usually time-consuming with a lot of iterations & rework & is expensive.
Gaps in Information
In the case of corporations, a handful of people are in charge of deciding the apps for use on behalf of large user teams. This leads to a gap in expectation in terms of what the management team thinks the employees need versus what they actually need.
Why Should We Redesign Legacy Enterprise Apps?
Legacy-modernization lies at the heart of any organization aiming to increase operational efficiencies and overall business performance. There is a negative opportunity cost associated with retaining legacy applications, which is generated due to lagging response time to real-time market challenges.
The most successful companies are those with lean go-to-market timelines, which translate into customer satisfaction and repeat business. The most successful modern day businesses are those which can respond fastest to the evolving market needs and adopt new technologies and solutions as they become available in the marketplace.
Here are the Primary Reasons to Redesign Enterprise Applications:
When migrating from a legacy solution, an organization can choose one of two paths, i.e building an entirely new enterprise application system from scratch or revamping the existing framework piece-by-piece. If we go forward with redesigning the existing system, the benefits are the following:
Reduced Maintenance and Support Cost
Maintaining a legacy application involves a lot of moving parts. Their functionality involves a large volume of code, altering which may hamper supporting systems and give rise to conflicts.
Hence a lot of time and planning goes into updating a legacy software, most of which have a wide variety of documented and undocumented features which gives rise to systemic risk at the time of upgradation. More often than not, the underlying infrastructure of the legacy system is archaic and is scattered across multiple databases and storage centers. Not to mention, categorizing these systems and rebooting them to the newer cloud-based solutions is a mammoth task that requires incremental hours of staff training for understanding and operating the same. This is another added expense to the enterprise.
Increased Compatibility and Scalability
Modern-day enterprise apps are built for cross-platform integration and scalability. This can be credited to the fact that most API vendors offer support for most programming languages and frameworks. This is the primary functionality that is lacking in legacy applications, hence integration requires significant customization of code, which might not work seamlessly after all. Hence updating legacy software piece by piece is a tedious task with a higher risk of failure across the organization.
Organization Agility and Efficiency
Modern-day organizations face stiff competition from other established players and startups alike. Hence the responsiveness to a new opportunity or gap in the market can give rise to unprecedented opportunities and previously untapped revenue streams. Timing in the new business landscape is everything. Businesses dependent on legacy systems are lacking in agility and adaptability to respond to new and unforeseen business challenges. Legacy systems hamper innovation and lead to stunted growth of respective organizations due to reduced efficiencies.
Staying Ahead of the Competition
Legacy systems that are less adaptable to current changes in the market landscape leave wide gaps in the product offered and the inherent need of the market. This gap can easily be exploited by a competitor who can swoop in and provide what is required. Prolonged maintenance of legacy systems can lead to lost opportunities and market disruption where competitors and upstart can convert your customer base and enlarge their market share.
Improved Customer Experience
User experience design has enhanced app performance drastically in the last few years. Modern, intuitive UI coupled with sleek features can improve the operational efficiency of the enterprise applications which is bound to aid employee productivity. This is the biggest beneficiary of improved enterprise application performance since it directly correlates to higher revenue.
Challenges of Redesigning a Legacy Enterprise App
Legacy software upgradation poses two primary obstacles, ie, limitations of time and money.
Any enterprise solution that has been implemented in a multi-layer level of the organization will require systematic replacement instead of knee-jerk overhaul. This gradual process will hence cost more money than previously intended and the entire replacement might entail more than a handful of iterations. Here are some of the challenges in the replacement process of legacy systems that account for functional and operational enhancement of software:
When building systems to replace legacy software, the phasing out process must be done methodologically in such a manner that it does not disrupt any existing functions. All current and potential issues with legacy software must be identified and dealt with thoughtfully. When redesigning software, we at Lollypop study all aspects of existing users and technology, while accounting for future needs with respect to upcoming business plans for product growth.
When we re-design a legacy application, one of the first steps we undertake is researching the end-user. By evaluating how the end user is interacting with the existing product, we draw parallels to learn what is lacking and what we can actively improve upon. We create personas, analyze the user journeys and conduct contextual and competitive research to derive a clear understanding of what the ideal user interaction should be and how we can achieve that.
While wire-framing a new enterprise apps, many blueprints are generated which form the underlying workflow for development. However, phased launches enable ongoing beta-testing for enterprise apps that can give rise to much-needed pivots that will make the enterprise app more productive in the future. The development team can pick the changes they wish to keep and the ones they wish to improve.
Through research we understand how users are and how they operate. We utilise these crucial insights while redesigning in order to make the adoption process seamless. Our aim is to reduce the end user’s workload, ie, we try to minimise the process of relearning everything from the scratch but help them become more independent. Many usability testing undergoes this phase.
Establishing User Connect
The eventual success of the enterprise app relies on one simple metric, ie, adoption. Development teams need to be cognizant of the challenges faced by end users and the connect they establish with the new systems. At the end of the day, if these technology changes do not add value to the employees’ lives, they cannot be considered true upgrades.
At Lollypop, goal alignment is considered a very important step of the redesigning process. We actively work to get every key stakeholder aligned with the process of redevelopment and how that will affect their processes and workflows. We maintain a clear product strategy while maintaining sufficient flexibility to incorporate constructive feedback. The technical design decisions impact the functioning of the business and all stakeholders must be aligned to the collective benefits of this exercise in order to make it a success.
Transforming legacy systems into business-ready enterprise applications can have a real impact on the bottom line of your business. User experience and technology are indispensable in driving success to your app. Today’s users are in need of an easy-to-use and intuitive experience and are demanding more. Enhancing overall user experience is a must for the success of your app and thus, of your company as well.
As we move away from Legacy apps, let's have a look at Enterprise apps. A well-designed enterprise app solves the real problems of real users with the help of user research. Read about Enterprise apps here.