Transforming Your Business: How To Modernize Legacy Applications

Legacy applications and systems have served many companies well. However, the time will come when they no longer serve one’s business needs, making modernization and digital transformation necessary.

Technology has greatly evolved over the past decade. Old software, technologies, and methods are rapidly changing and making way for new ones. Many companies know this, as experts believe spending on digital transformation will reach $3.4 trillion by 2026.

Adapting to new technologies is often essential for advancing one’s business and keeping up with a changing world. However, updating one’s current practices and corresponding tools poses significant challenges to companies.

Read below to learn about modernizing legacy applications and how your business can benefit from it.

Key Takeaways

  • Legacy applications are outdated software, technologies, or methods that some organizations continue to use despite having other options.
  • Modernizing legacy systems offers several benefits, such as improved productivity and access to new features and functions.
  • Companies must evaluate their legacy systems and identify problems before deciding what new technologies to adopt.


What are legacy applications?

Legacy applications and systems are outdated frameworks, technologies, software, or methods organizations continue to use despite having other modern options. 

These applications often started as modern technologies that soon became old and obsolete once new ones became available. Using older software and methods may still be helpful for a particular time. However, existing applications become legacy systems once they cause problems or hinder a company’s progress.

Common challenges presented by legacy software systems include the following:

  • Difficulties in obtaining updates or maintaining the system
  • Lack of support for third-party elements
  • Inability to interact or integrate with other systems
  • Time-consuming and high maintenance costs
  • Requiring IT professionals with expertise in highly niche or outdated systems or languages
  • Being out of the market
  • Depending on obsolete technology to maintain business operations
  • Having outdated security systems that expose the company to modern risks and threats

Legacy systems often fall into one of four categories, which are:

  • End of life (EOL). EOL legacy systems no longer receive updates or support from their vendor or developer.
  • Heavily patched software. Outdated software often gets patched to make it more compatible with newer technologies. However, incomplete or excessive patching can expose the application to security vulnerabilities.
  • Inability to scale. A legacy system may no longer be capable of supporting a growing company’s security, storage, or performance needs.
  • Lack of maintenance experts. Many legacy systems require outdated knowledge for support and maintenance. So it can be difficult or expensive to find someone to perform software checks.

Technologies for Application Modernization

Some companies may find that their legacy systems still work. However, modernization remains necessary to keep up with available technologies and protect against threats.

Companies and IT departments could explore the following technologies to modernize legacy applications.

Cloud services

The term “cloud services” covers a wide range of services companies and customers can use online. These services include different infrastructures, software, or platforms cloud computing providers offer.

Cloud services allow the transfer of user data between front-end devices (e.g., desktop and laptop computers, tablets, or smartphones) and the provider’s systems. Through these services, companies can develop their cloud-based applications easily accessible with a computer and an internet connection.

Cloud rehosting or re-platforming of legacy applications offers several advantages, like agility and scalability.


A microservices-based architecture is often seen as an antithesis of a monolithic software architecture. Legacy systems often fall under a monolithic architecture as a single-tier, self-contained application.

While monolithic applications have their benefits, they often lack the agility and flexibility required for modern software needs. A microservices-based approach allows companies to pick and choose applications and link them through application programming interfaces (APIs).


A container is a packaging method for one or multiple applications with all the components required to run in any setting. Containers allow you to package numerous applications and deploy them anywhere.

These software bundles make moving applications across different environments easier, essential in app modernization.

Automation and orchestration

Automation technologies allow you to set up certain functions to run independently. Orchestration involves automating multiple tasks and integrating them into a specific workflow or process.

Both processes are essential in transforming legacy applications into more efficient systems.


An application programming interface (API) helps different applications communicate. In this context, the application refers to any software that performs a particular function, while the interface is a service agreement between two applications.

APIs are essential in application modernization, especially when one uses a microservices approach. These interfaces help these different applications or services integrate and interact well.


DevOps involves collaboration between development and operations teams. When trying to implement a modernization initiative, DevOps offers significant advantages such as the following:

  • Delivering updates and features faster
  • Reducing errors
  • Reliable code testing and error detection

In some processes, these two departments get isolated. While this practice may still be effective, having both departments working together can help speed up development and innovation. 

Steps To Modernizing Legacy Applications

Legacy system modernization approaches can look different for various companies. As you discuss and plan with your development and operations teams, you may establish a unique plan that addresses your business needs.

The steps below can serve as a baseline that your team can tweak to your liking.

Image by Desola Lanre-Ologun on Unsplash

1. Evaluate your legacy systems

The first step to your modernization initiative is thoroughly assessing your legacy system. This step helps you determine whether your current software infrastructure requires an overhaul.

Modernization becomes necessary if your legacy apps no longer serve your goals or have become obstacles to your growth. To perform your evaluation, you can use Gartner’s six drivers

From a business perspective, there are three drivers: business value, business fit, and agility. These drivers help you assess whether your current applications still fit your needs, provide value, and can scale alongside your growth.

The other three drivers come from an IT perspective. These drivers include cost, complexity, and risk. It may be time to modernize if ownership costs too much, maintenance is too complex, or the system presents security, compliance, and scalability risks.

2. Identify the problems

During your evaluation, define particular issues in your legacy systems causing problems. Be as specific and concrete as possible. Identify problems your employees or customers may face when using your legacy systems.

Aside from identifying problems, it’s essential to understand what aspects of your legacy system currently work. Knowing these strengths and weaknesses will help you refine your modernization strategy.

3. Evaluate application modernization

After deciding on modernization and identifying specific problems, you can explore modernization options. Modernizing your legacy systems doesn’t always involve a complete overhaul. 

Different options can have varying degrees of ease and possible effects on your organization. The modernization options you can explore include the following:

  • Encapsulate. This option involves encasing or encapsulating your legacy system as a service through an API. Over time, you have the chance to expand the app through microservices. This approach is relatively low-risk.
  • Rehost. This approach entails redeploying application components to other physical, virtual, or cloud infrastructures without code, function, or feature modifications. 
  • Replatform. Replatforming involves moving to a new platform. The code will have minimal changes, but not its structure, functions, and features.
  • Refactor. Refactoring optimizes the application’s existing code to remove technical debt and enhance other attributes. However, this process does not change the code’s external behaviour.
  • Rearchitect. This approach requires significant alterations to the code to shift it to a new architecture with better performance capabilities.
  • Rebuild. This option requires your team to rebuild and rewrite the application from scratch while keeping its specifications and scope.
  • Replace. Replacement entails scrapping the legacy application altogether and finding another solution that addresses new needs and requirements.

4. Choose an application modernization approach

Choose an approach with the highest value and positive impact on your firm. You can evaluate your options according to their functionality, cost, and risk. Consider your company’s current needs and resources, and select the option that offers the greatest value for your business. 

5. Observe and adjust

After implementing any redesign or modernization plan, observe its effects. Test whether your new application meets your requirements. Check for possible bugs, smooth out any kinks, and optimize when necessary. 

Benefits of Legacy Application Modernization

Rapid technological innovations and changing market conditions make digital transformation and modernization necessary for many businesses. 

Aside from keeping up with changing conditions, legacy application modernization offers significant benefits to the firms implementing them.

Boosts productivity

Legacy systems often need to be updated, making it difficult to train new and existing employees to use them. They may also lack automation and other valuable features, negatively impacting the company’s efficiency.

Modernizing your legacy systems can help solve this problem. Most modern applications and systems have better automation options and features to aid productivity. They can also be more user-friendly, making training and maintenance much easier.

Offers better maintenance and support

No matter how carefully you use your software, it will require maintenance and support at some point. When this time comes, companies using legacy systems may experience a disadvantage.

Legacy systems often run on rare or obsolete technology, making accessing tech maintenance and support difficult. The developer may no longer offer updates, or hiring an expert to perform maintenance tasks may be expensive.

On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to maintain and access support for modern applications. These newer software solutions often have a robust company and community of experts that can offer necessary assistance. 

Improves security

Cybersecurity is a significant concern for most of the population, not just businesses. Around 15 million data records worldwide were exposed to data breaches during the third quarter of 2022. The information in these breaches could leave people vulnerable to various threats, such as identity theft.

For this reason, robust security is essential in business and organizational software. As legacy systems become increasingly outdated, modernization is the best option. Through modern applications, you can access better security systems that protect sensitive information and avoid liabilities.

Improves business agility

Legacy systems often use a monolithic architecture, which can be less flexible and agile when exploring different features and ensuring scalability. Developers must make significant code changes and updates to meet evolving needs and business processes.

New applications and modern systems avoid this problem. Businesses can easily adjust their applications to serve their software requirements through microservices.

Enhances user experience

Modern applications and development processes can access various features and techniques to increase efficiency and ease of use. 

While some people may still be used to the features in legacy applications, modern ones could be a preferable option. Modernization prioritizes valuable and user-friendly applications and features, improving the user experience of both employees and customers.

Pro Tip

Many firms need more resources to implement legacy application modernization immediately. Working with a software development partner can make your modernization process go more smoothly. 


Begin Your Digital Transformation Today

Updating and modernizing legacy systems and applications may sometimes prove complex and resource-intensive. However, this practice is necessary for businesses and organizations to keep up with new technologies and changing needs.

Partnering with software experts like the ones at Brain Box Labs can help you implement modernization solutions tailored to your unique needs. We can help you increase your firm’s efficiency, improve software functionality, and execute a well-planned digital transformation process.

Modernize your legacy systems with a trusted partner. Contact Brain Box Labs today.

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Frequently Asked Question

Modernizing your legacy applications can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Some of its main challenges include the following:

  • Resistance from employees or company stakeholders
  • High initial costs
  • High skill requirements
  • Incompatibility with current tools/technologies

Despite their disadvantages, some groups still use legacy systems for several reasons, such as:

  • Project or contractual requirements
  • Lack of time or resources to implement modernization
  • Difficulty in transferring existing data to a new system
Yes. Depending on the scale of your project, it can cost your firm tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Consider your current resources and the benefits you may reap from the modernization process.