The “Legacy” of Legacy Applications and the Road Ahead

Tips & Tricks
Jun 20, 2016
7 Min Read
The “Legacy” of Legacy Applications and the Road Ahead

The “Legacy” of Legacy Applications and the Road Ahead

As any professional knows, the dream of using modern and mobile applications all day, every day is measured against the realities of time, money and resources. Every organization has line of business applications that run the day-to-day operations that no one likes to use. But why can’t IT modernize those applications fast enough? What alternatives are out there?

Old-School Business Application Development

In the mid-90s, clients used Lotus Ami Pro, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, and Lotus Notes. Lotus Notes, now IBM Notes, spread like wildfire within an organization. Why? Because anyone who could write a macro in a spreadsheet could build an application in Notes. This enabled those without formal programming education or experience to build fairly powerful applications.

These applications were usually workflow-based form routing—Processes like New Product Development, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and anything that required collaboration. And for the most part, the IT department did not need to be involved. IT was focused on the large financial (ERP) systems and other business critical tasks. But that lead to the problem of a stagnant catalog of applications.

As technology gave us better hardware, mobile devices, and a platform for universal development delivery in the web browser, IT began to crack down on the rapid application development that Notes had become. Other tools took its place – Lotus Quickplace/Quickr, Microsoft SharePoint, and more—but these platforms were still controlled by the IT department. As the IT budgets crunched and their focus spread across infrastructure and applications – most organizations developed a backlog. The users had to find a solution.

The Road to Application Modernization

One of the first project management tools that came to fruition was Basecamp. 100% on the web, this shadow IT solution gave customers the basic tools they needed to manage projects and could tailor it on an individual project basis. But of course, like many Shadow IT initiatives, there was no backup, no legal retention, and all of the other things that IT thinks about when they implement a system. Thus, began the struggle between the business and IT. Other products, such as Salesforce and QuickBase, also got their start focusing on being alternatives to the solutions IT offered users inside the firewall.

The idea of Application Modernization is not new, even if the name has only been embraced by the analyst community in the past few years. The need to upgrade business critical applications has always been present, the problem is finding the time for IT to work on them.

There are five Application Disruptors that can cause users to look outside the provided applications and platforms inside their company:

  1. User Experience
  2. Cloud
  3. Social
  4. Mobile
  5. Modern Workflow

For a user, they are looking for a solution to solve a single problem. In turn, IT organizations are looking for tools that allow them to respond to business requests faster—but they also want platforms that can empower their users to build their own solutions—providing functionality and retaining control. Single Sign-on, backups, and legal retention give the IT team peace of mind. And the platforms are stepping up.

As platforms such as QuickBase straddle the Shadow IT and Citizen Development spaces, they can provide corporate IT with a company-wide application platform for rapid application development and peace of mind—catering to both the user and IT departments.

Responding Faster to Business Needs

2016 seems to be the year where organizations of all size are ready to focus on their legacy application portfolios. Why? There are many factors converging all at once:

  1. The focus on mobile
  2. The move to the cloud
  3. The impact of millennials and their habits
  4. The drive to get away from large scale platforms that cannot be easily upgraded—both Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint are the top two targets in this space.

No matter if you are a business user looking for a better way to get your daily work done, or an IT organization looking to respond to the needs of the business faster, there are a lot of opportunities for modernization of legacy systems today. The only other option is to do nothing and if you do nothing, someone else will.

If you’d like to learn more about modernizing your applications and moving away from legacy systems, an upcoming webinar—"Early Stage Digital Transformation: Leaving Your Legacy Systems Behind"— could offer some additional insight. 

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