Is it ‘Migration’, ‘Modernization’ or ‘Transformation’ when it comes to addressing Legacy Systems?

November 17, 2015

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Spending time discussing solutions for Legacy Systems often involves using a lingo where certain words may not mean the same thing to different people. One example is that the words, “migration”, “modernization” and “transformation” are sometimes used interchangeably. Therefore it might be helpful to share one view of the distinction between the meanings of these words.

Migration of Legacy Systems is often considered to be a solution involving moving the systems from one platform or environment to another. The most obvious reason for a Migration Solution is that the target (Go-To) platform or environment is superior in some way to the current (As-Is) one. The target environment may be preferable due to better costs, performance, security, resilience or supportability etc… The main point, however, is that in the case of Migrations, the intent is only to replicate the current system as faithfully as possible on the new target without any intentional changes to the functionality. The only Modernization derived from a Migration would be beneficial byproducts of the new environment and not from explicit changes to the system’s design.

Modernization can then be defined as a solution involving the intentional improvement or enhancement of the current capabilities of the Legacy System. In this case the Legacy System does not need to be moved but may be redesigned or upgraded in its current environment. Therefore a Migration would only need to take place as part of a Modernization if relocating the system was necessary to achieve the desired functionality.

Transformation may then be seen as the combination of both Migration and Modernization. In this case the core of the original Legacy System is preserved but it is both moved to a preferable platform and is (simultaneously or sequentially) also improved by design to increase the functionality and capability.

So the question for most decision makers investigating solutions to their organization’s Legacy Systems to ask themselves would be:

“Do I just leave it alone?”

“Do I keep it largely the same but move it somewhere else?”

“Do I make it better but leave it basically where it is?”

“Do I both move it and improve it (at the same time, or one after the other)?”

“Do I just rebuild or replace it altogether?”

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