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"The legacy problem will be even bigger in fifteen years"

Says Victor Klaren, Chief Visionary Officer and Co-Founder at Thinkwise.

"When discussing legacy software, we often think of software that is 20 years old. However, what we fail to realize is that legacy continues to accumulate every year. So, if you believe that legacy is already a significant issue, think again." Victor Klaren emphasizes the growing challenge of legacy software.

There are no figures known about legacy. "More programming is being done each year, which means the problem will be much larger in fifteen years. I sometimes compare it to CO2 emissions. We are currently trying to slow down the increase in emissions, but in the case of legacy, we are not even slowing down. It requires a mindset shift."

However, it is difficult to measure exactly how large the problem is. Klaren emphasizes that the issue doesn't always lie with the applications themselves. "IBM ensures the continuity of programming language RPG, but maintaining applications on mainframes becomes increasingly difficult as the skilled personnel for maintenance are no longer available. Sometimes, individuals are forced into training programs or systems are migrated to the cloud."

The new legacy accelerator

"Actually, SAP R/3 is also a kind of legacy. SAP S/4HANA is not compatible and customization cannot be transferred So, you are inevitably tied to a new implementation. If you have customizations you will often have even more legacy. However, the rise of low-code development appears to be another catalyst for accumulating legacy. Although low-code platforms offer visually appealing user interfaces, they often hide layers of maintenance complexities underneath. Robotic process automation also adds another layer, indicating the inability to modify the core system—it's like a temporary fix or patch. These additional layers, designed to enhance the user experience or facilitate data input, are frequently observed in legacy systems."

There are various risks for companies with legacy, according to Klaren. “Keeping legacy running generally involves high maintenance costs. You often see that less than 20 percent of the budget is spent on value creation. Consequently, as a company, you become vulnerable to disruptors in your market. Security can also become a major issue, because the required updates cannot be implemented. Many choose to overlook these issues until a crisis occurs, such as when a competitor adopts a different approach or when key individuals with knowledge of the old systems depart. Suddenly, there is a firm deadline for system replacement," he explains.

Power of change

The pace of change is accelerating. “It is difficult to predict the future. You can conduct a process analysis, but you also need a certain power of change. It varies by industry, especially since the pandemic. However, you don't know what architecture will be needed in five or ten years. We don't know either. But if you cast this architecture in concrete now, you can be sure that you'll miss out on the power of change. Additionally, labour market scarcity poses a risk. The current generation has never experienced a market without labour shortages. They have the luxury to choose whether they work on Mondays or Wednesdays. Hyperautomation is often employed to address this labor market shortage. That's the next step."

According to Klaren, legacy is an accepted problem. "Let's not dwell on it. It's fine for the IT industry because every ten years, you can rebuild everything. It's wonderful for the industry as a whole. However, it's no longer necessary. For a company, it has a significant impact. When you let go of legacy, you gain time and freedom in return. Legacy hampers the ability to adapt to change. You can't be the disruptor when the market shifts. It's always better to stay ahead. These are often the customers who turn to Thinkwise. Their systems are often unique, deeply intertwined with the company's DNA, and they want to preserve that while developing a new and up-to-date system. Our customers are often the visionaries who want to make a difference."