What is legacy software? The term stands for all sorts of outdated operating systems, databases and business applications that are based on outdated methods, standards and technology. Legacy is virtually inescapable, and often the result of technological choices from the past and from software platforms inherited through acquisitions.
These applications should last for decades, but in practice, they are modern for about three years and then fall under the term legacy, sometimes for the next 27 years. That is a problem, because this software is used frequently for the most critical core applications within an organization. That is why modernizing it is postponed for as long as possible, because in the short term, it is often cheaper to overcome the limitations with custom links and peripheral applications. In practice, up to 500 peripheral applications are sometimes built around a product like SAP. In the long term, legacy slows down an organization in areas like innovation and digital transformation. Ultimately, it is much more costly to maintain legacy, especially when compared to the benefits modern technology offers.
For every organization that uses legacy software, there comes a breaking point. New technology can’t be applied anymore, the maintenance gets more and more expensive, no developers are available anymore, and sometimes, the underlying hardware just isn’t there anymore. That is a major business risk, especially if it puts the competitive position at risk. So, these are important moments of choice for an organization, because it suddenly has to find a modern alternative to legacy solutions. It requires vision and courage to choose the right software, which the organization can rely on for decades to come. Do you choose an old and trusted software package? A brand-new technology? Or are you going to develop it yourself? What few people realize is that with your technology choice of today, you immediately create the legacy of the future. After all, software is aging more and more rapidly, so it lasts shorter and shorter.
In 2018, Gartner introduced a new trend that addresses this legacy problem: ContinuousNext. This stands for the attitude businesses should adopt to be better prepared for continuous technological change and innovation. With that, Gartner seems to acknowledge that there will always be legacy, and that as an organization, you simply have to accept that you will always need to periodically replace your business software with something new. I personally think it is good that Gartner is making companies aware of the legacy issues. But we could take it one step further. I think this problem can be solved if we stop creating new legacy, namely by using low-code software.
The principle behind low-code platforms is that it enables companies to record the functionality and operation of their software in models. This separates the functionality from the underlying technology, which is then always updated to the latest technological developments. This means that as a user, you can continuously modify and expand the functionality and design of low-code software, without having to worry about technological ageing. Sounds a lot more modern already, doesn’t it?
Admittedly, the use of low-code for business-critical applications is still relatively new. Low-code is currently mostly used to develop simple apps and other small-scale, specific applications. However, low-code has undergone a major development in recent years. There are now also low-code platforms available that can be used to develop large core applications that can compete with traditional software packages or customized software. In fact: a number of software vendors are already building their own software package with these platforms. Low-code is a true relief when you compare it to a complex package implementation or developing customized software.
But what do you do with your existing legacy software? Low-code software also offers organizations a way to modernize their legacy applications. The result is a modern, future-proof software solution. By modernizing or ‘upcycling’, a model is derived from the legacy software, which can be used to quickly start up a modernization project. The end-result is that you never create new legacy with low code. As an organization, you no longer have to get rid of software implementations periodically and replace them with something new. By transferring the functionality of your legacy to models in a low-code platform, as an organization, you can actually say goodbye to your legacy and innovate further into the future without worry.