Every day I help customers deal with their legacy applications – software that provides vital business functionality, but in so many cases, has been developed up to 20+ years ago. And whilst this can be challenging at times, it’s run-of-the-mill for us in the Legacy Modernisation team at Fujitsu.
Much of our work involves migration; moving applications from an outdated platform, such as mainframe COBOL, onto a modern environment such as .Net. We deal with many a straightforward migration project – updating the back-end software and providing a like-for-like solution that doesn’t change how the user interacts with the system but delivers the same functionality at much lower cost.
However, when we put a new UI (User Interface) on the front of legacy applications, we can achieve a very different outcome. Using the latest toolset* and software engineering approach, we can radically improve the functionality – providing the real business agility our customers demand.
I’ve been doing this job for over 7 years and in the last 6 months I’ve seen a quantum shift in the main drivers for dealing with legacy applications. Whilst still seeking cost savings, CIOs are increasingly driven to implement “agile” solutions for their business.
So, what’s caused this shift?
Well, in my view it is mobile technology that’s made the big difference. There’s a real expectation from users that they have access to whatever systems they want, whenever they want it, wherever they are. They’re looking for the ultimate in agility.
In reality, of course, giving this access is easier said than done– especially when you consider that most enterprise environments are comprised of, as I’ve mentioned above, applications that have evolved over many years – long before anyone even thought that going mobile would be a possibility.
When we talk of delivering real agility, it’s not just about transforming legacy systems (although that tends to be the more challenging piece of the exercise) – real agility needs to take the whole enterprise system into consideration.
But is it really possible to make any technology, on any platform, available to anyone anywhere – in a well secured data environment?
The simple answer is YES.
If you want it tomorrow, well, that’s still a bit difficult, but we are now closer than ever before in getting there – in weeks rather than months.
Using modern toolsets, it is possible to turn almost any legacy application, or series of applications, into web services that can be accessed via any device or platform. New functionality can then be added very easily and quickly which provides a fast, agile and future-proof environment.
Rather than developing every new application from scratch, we can now take advantage of the existing portfolio to extend access with effectively integrated business functionality. And with mobile applications providing flexible access to this functionality, we can deliver a real advantage in an ever competitive world.
To conclude – if your business is facing legacy applications challenges, I would make the following recommendations:
1. Where possible, capitalise on the benefits of your enterprise systems
2. Utilise the latest technology to get you there sooner
3. Engage with a partner who has the successful track record your company can count on
Geoff Peters is Head of Legacy Modernisation at Fujitsu UK & Ireland.
*Amongst other tools, our team use Rocket Legasuite for fast, effective and flexible legacy application modernisation.