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Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a Legacy

Plan a road map for application modernization

As a business develops, it integrates accumulated experiences and strategies into its existing legacy applications. To simply abandon these applications is to lose a significant competitive advantage. The sheer importance of legacy applications to the success of your business requires that any modernization effort follow a well-thought-out plan. By planning your road map, you can greatly increase the likelihood of a successful project.

The process consists of four distinct steps - application assessment, business and technical understanding, target definition, and recommendations - leading to a decision point. With the information collected with the road map process you can more accurately determine how to best modernize your applications.

1. Application Assessment. The inherent complexity of most legacy applications combined with the frequent lack of accurate documentation means that many businesses are not fully aware of their applications' structure. With an accurate and detailed assessment of your applications, your development group can more quickly understand where to direct resources and focus efforts.

This analysis should include information that is of interest to developers and management such as metrics on the complexity of programs, how often each program is modified, detailed documentation and more. Armed with this information, you can identify on which applications your modernization efforts should be focused - and also reduce the time needed to resolve future application issues.

Some organizations have opted to undertake large, manual projects to analyze their portfolio and produce a "snapshot" of their systems. This time-consuming method ignores an important reality about applications: they are frequently updated and improved. Each time a change to an application is made, its snapshot is no longer accurate. What is required instead is the ability to refresh the analysis automatically as needed. An automated solution should be able to provide the following:

  • Source code parsing and compilation to determine the viability of the code in a modern architecture.
  • A determination of an application's stability in order to evaluate its suitability for modernization.
  • Identification of code redundancy so that code that is unused or unreferenced can be removed and will no longer drain resources.
  • An analysis of the user interface to determine its complexity and usefulness in the modernized application.
  • An investigation of the complexity, size and design of the applications' databases or data stores.
  • A determination of the external interfaces of the system in order to understand data flows, and see if there are intersystem processing capabilities.
  • Detailed documentation of the logic flows within the existing system to ensure that the modernized application retains the processes of the original system. (See the diagram above for a flow chart of these processes.)

Further, the assessment should identify and isolate the business rules spread throughout your applications, allowing you to better manage these critical processes. Every company has thousands or even hundreds of thousands of business rules that are executed on a daily basis within their application portfolio. These rules guide interest rate calculations, order new raw materials and notify supervisors about customer issues. Often these rules have been developed over the course of many years through ongoing interaction between business users and IT staff. Based on identified business requirements, these rules are programmed into mainframe systems and other applications.

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