Legacy Modernization – The Agile Approach

Legacy Modernization - The Agile Approach

What is Legacy Modernization?

Legacy Modernization is more than a project about modernization. It is a program involving all facets of the business. This involves building a new engine that will provide the business services necessary to run a business. The goal is to not change the way the business works, but change the technology used. It’s just like driving to work. You can drive a truck or a sports car. Both will take you to the same destination, but the technology used is very different.

Many companies have applications that were developed decades ago. Some back in the 1970’s. It is the conversion of aging applications to a more modern architecture.

Why Modernization?

The main reason to carry out this modernization centers around the huge cost savings (it’s cheaper), as well as having a more flexible infrastructure. The old systems are very expensive in terms of both hardware infrastructure as well as costly software license fees. There is an urgency today to scale back to a more cost effective platform.

To compete in today’s business market, businesses need to use new technology to allow the business to be competitive, grow and develop new products. If you look around, you will see that technology change is happening at a fast pace and the challenge is to assess new technologies and implement these technologies where they benefit an organization. Most organizations have an ongoing challenge of balancing investments in the existing systems with investments in future technology. A Legacy Modernization project is an investment in new technology to meet this challenge.

The Strategy

The question that needs to be answered is “How can you modernize these applications?” The answer is to become more agile. The first step is laying out the groundwork and carrying out an assessment of all the applications and determining the best approach. This assessment process involved creating a portfolio of business services that must be prioritized. Using this list of services, need to organize the work effort into predetermined intervals, in agile terms called “Sprints”. Another part of this assessment is the decision to transition to a new architecture. An example would an Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and doing this with an agile approach.

One of the biggest efforts, when transitioning to this SOA platform, is not the technology issues, but rather organizational ones. So, I found when evolving from a 3270 Mainframe Architecture to a more agile Service Oriented Architecture it was best handled through iterations. These iterations help to address numerous facets such as organization change, system change, process change and more.

The next step is to develop a modernization road map. This roadmap should be broken down into phases that contained iterations. The goal of the first release should be to deploy a business services onto a new production platform. By doing so, you greatly reduce the risks associated with our new architecture, validate the extraction of business rules, and verify the process cycle followed will successfully move business services off the mainframe.

The second iteration (release) would add more business services to this SOA platform. Every release (iteration) will add more and more functionality and provide visibility to what works and what does not. As each increment is completed, you will reduce the functionality that remains on the Mainframe. Eventually, the system will be completely modernized.


A Legacy Modernization project must start out by constructing something very simple (1st Sprint), and every day move closer to the goal which is to successfully build something that many people may have considered impossible.

This first milestone, even if it appears to be small, requires a great deal of work. But, by accomplishing this feat you will have proven that the process works. That provides the stakeholders and management with visible evidence that this can be done and dramatically reduces the risk to this endeavor.

To carry out a Legacy Modernization project requires an enormous amount of planning and huge amount of collaboration between the various groups involved. The one piece that is most important is the process. Practice yourself in little things, iterations, and then proceed to greater.