Legacy Modernization: What, Why And How

Legacy Modernization: What, Why And How

In 2017, the International Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States suffered some major setbacks while processing electronically-filed tax returns. Although they did not disclose exactly what went wrong, they have attributed the issue to their Individual Master File, which is a massive application that is over a half a century old and written with an antiquated programming language.

The IRS is just one example of a federal agency that has long suffered the consequences of their own legacy systems. Simply put, a legacy system is an information system that is necessary to an organization but is comprised of outdated technology. Legacy modernization is the process of correcting this issue.

Why Legacy Modernization Is Important

In today’s ever-evolving digital world, the rationale behind legacy modernization is virtually limitless in just about any context. The most common reasons to modernize legacy systems include (but are not limited to) acquisitions, mergers and even regulatory compliance. Advantages typically include more streamlined maintenance, enhanced mobile capabilities and cost-effectiveness.

Failure to update legacy systems can and often do lead to a broad range of setbacks, many of which can be catastrophic to operations. Security breaches, customer service failures and financial meltdowns can all result from outdated technology. Legacy upgrade failure can also be detrimental to business culture, as it has a tendency to cultivate bad business practices among personnel.

Legacy Upgrade Methodology

Methods of legacy modernization vary, fitting under any of several banners, including the following:

  • Rebuild: To completely discard and re-architect an existing application. Advantages include total customizability, but disadvantages can include lock-in, wherein an organization is forced to rely on a singular, centralized and/or proprietary system.
  • Rehost: To re-deploy an application on different hardware infrastructure. This can be streamlined via cloud migration.
  • Revise: To change and/or extend existing code, which can then be rehosted. Although this option is relatively time-consuming, it can also be streamlined through cloud deployment.

Challenges of Legacy Modernization

As can be expected, legacy modernization presents a whole set of challenges. It requires a fair deal of planning, and when done improperly, unnecessary costs can accrue. Some downtime will likely occur as a side effect of a legacy upgrade but can be minimized depending on which methodology is used. New communication channels should be opened when others are closed to ensure that the organization remains interfunctional.

One of the most important challenges to overcome in the process of legacy modernization is to ensure that the upgrade is future proof. Technology evolves at an accelerating pace. Legacy upgrades are necessary but often quite expensive, so every instance of them should be informed by the rate of this acceleration. The new technology should be scalable and resilient in order to ensure long-term return on investment.

Legacy modernization is rarely simple, but in order to make the process go as smoothly as possible, it’s important to explore all available options. Pros and cons must be weighed in advance, and the methodology used should be specific to the organization’s specific needs, potential and limitations. It’s imperative to plan ahead, and to be ambitious but also realistic.


Companies like Aloha Technology are there to help plan and streamline the process of legacy modernization. Modern businesses are often defined by their software, and keeping up with the pace of digital technology is essential to maintaining relevance and profitability. Auditing the organization’s infrastructure and projecting its path forward is essential to choosing the methodology to use in the upgrade process. When needs are properly assessed, and the scope of challenges and limitations are anticipated accordingly, then the legacy system can upgrade to something that is scalable and future-proof.