Mitigating Risk During Software Modernization: Strategies for a Smooth Transition
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Mitigating Risk During Software Modernization: Strategies for a Smooth Transition

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As a Solution Architect with 10 years in the software development area, I truly believe that software development is all about modernization. Suppose you want to maintain a competitive edge and achieve your business goals. In this case, you need to stay updated on the technological level as outdated software products have never been a winning ticket in the modern, ever-changing world. 

Based on MobiDev’s expertise and my personal experience in modernization projects, in this article, I’ll talk about the main reasons for software modernization, and what strategies and scenarios can be used to get better outcomes. I’ll also share a success story from our practice to show the effects of software modernization. 

The Key Reasons to Consider Software Modernization

“If it is not broken, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t work 100% of the time regarding software development. Outdated software products can be a significant problem for companies, and we are not talking about business with decades-old products. Business requirements can evolve, best practices can change, and scale issues can appear quickly, especially for fast-growing organizations.

Here are some of the problems you can face while working with old software that can negatively affect your business: 

  • Product maintenance challenges. Technologies that were brand-new several years ago can become outdated over time, leading to challenges in servicing and maintaining the product. You need to update the product in a timely fashion and replace unsupported tools with new ones, which can be time and labor-consuming. Additionally, outdated code may contain bugs and utilize various coding approaches, turning it into a convoluted puzzle.
  • Scalability constraints and bottlenecks. Outdated apps are usually unable to scale to meet evolving business needs and demands. As a result, the product can’t manage increased usage or workloads without affecting performance or functionality, impacting business outcomes. 
  • Security issues. With old software products, risks can emerge from unpatched security flaws. This happens because of outdated technologies and a lack of security updates as more and more cyber threats appear every day. 
  • Incompatibility. Some old apps can be incompatible with new technologies and software. This means major problems for a business when there is a need to integrate the app with other systems or add new features. 
  • Adding new features. As your business changes and grows, you might need to modify your product. However, old software projects can be difficult to adjust to new business requirements because of their complex structure and dependencies.
  • High service costs. Old products can be difficult and expensive to support; you need to find technical specialists who can work with outdated technologies and their services can be costly. 

From the business and technical point of view, this kind of software requires modernization due to several reasons: 

  1. Changing business needs. When starting to work on a new product, you don’t always know what functionality and features you need to develop. However major improvements may be required once you release it, get customer reviews, and adjust to the market demands. Your product should be flexible and this isn’t always possible when you use outdated technologies. 
  2. Technology advancements. Programming languages, libraries, and platforms change considerably every few years. So you always need to move to the newest versions and use relevant tools. 

A useful analogy for outdated software systems is to compare it to home maintenance. In the beginning, everything is brand new, and all the processes inside the house are smooth and efficient. However, the system has become outdated: a leaky roof, blocked drains, and drafty windows, and the amount of problems is growing without regular updates and upgrades. What started as an efficient backbone can turn into an inefficient liability. A major breakdown could severely disrupt the flow of your business interactions, and software modernization can prevent this. 

Two Software Modernization Strategies

Software modernization projects can vary in size and scope, however, let’s start with some fundamentals. Generally, there are two main software modernization strategies that are different at their core.

  • Evolutionary strategy: slowly and gradually changing and improving the product architecture and code quality.
  • Revolutionary strategy — entirely rewriting the code or allocating time for preliminary refactoring.

The choice of strategy depends on the project requirements, and the business needs the product is going to meet. It is also important to consider the resources and time that can be allocated to the modernization process.

Software Modernization Approaches and Techniques

When starting a software modernization journey, your priority should be to develop a comprehensive modernization strategy. This involves creating a transparent plan and roadmap for the modernization project. Key to this process, is answering two critical questions: why and what you need to modernize (approaches) and how you will execute the modernization (techniques)?

Let’s take a brief look at some modernization approaches to outdated software systems and their benefits, and then talk in detail about specific techniques:

1. Software Product Replatforming 

Replatforming can help to deal with scalability limitations, elevate the level of security, and improve the system compatibility with new technologies. At the same time, migration to a new platform can be challenging and expensive.

2. Software Product Reengineering 

Another approach is reengineering. It is a review of processes and systems to enhance the system’s efficiency and performance. This approach can be utilized to improve the functionality of the product and boost its scalability.

3. Software Refactoring 

Refactoring means modifying the structure of the system to improve its readability and simplify maintenance. This approach can be utilized for enhancing compatibility and adding new features to the product.

4. Rearchitecting  

Rearchitecting is an approach that requires significant design changes for the software. It is utilized for complex, business-critical software products where simply refactoring or rehosting are unable to meet evolving requirements. It involves creating a new software architecture that enables improved performance and new capabilities.

5. Wrapping a software product into a new technology

Another approach to modernizing outdated software is to wrap it into a new technology, for example, with Docker containers. It is money-saving and will allow the launching of the product on a new platform and integration with modern API

Each old product should be comprehensively analyzed to understand which tools should be utilized for modernization. It’s necessary to answer  the following questions: 

  • What is the code quality of the existing product? Does the code require improvements or will it be rewritten from scratch?
  • How much time do you have? How much are you ready to spend on the software modernization process?
  • What is the condition of the libraries and frameworks used in the project?

Now, let’s explore how the app can be modernized. In this section, we will examine the most popular software modernization techniques in detail and identify the business challenges they can address.

1. SOFTWARE PRODUCT MIGRATION TO THE CLOUD

Migration to the cloud involves moving a software product migration from an on-premises server to a remote cloud provider’s environment, enhancing the application’s availability and scalability. In the cloud, you can store and process data, run applications, and perform various tasks without the need to buy and maintain your own infrastructure.

Advantages of software product migration to the cloud include:

  1. Enhanced availability. The cloud allows applications to run on remote servers with high availability, lowering downtime.
  2. Better scalability. The cloud environment enables easy scaling to maintain high performance and efficiency.
  3. Optimized service costs. By using remote servers, the cloud minimizes infrastructure maintenance costs without the need to purchase equipment.
  4. Streamlined updating. Applications can be updated centrally without the need to install updates on each server.
  5. Increased security. Cloud infrastructure offers higher security levels than local servers and simplifies access control for applications and data.

However, cloud migration is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all outdated software projects. Each old software product requires a unique approach, and the choice of the solution is usually based on a wide range of factors.

2. SOFTWARE MIGRATION FROM MONOLITH TO MICROSERVICES

Using microservices for legacy software modernization involves dividing software into small logic-separated services, which work in one ecosystem. Migrating to microservices is beneficial when a monolithic application becomes too large and complex, making maintenance and development increasingly challenging. When requirements for the product frequently change and new features need to be added quickly, shifting to microservices can speed up the development process and simplify integrating new features.

Moving to microservices offers several benefits:

  1. Increased performance. Microservices enable scaling of specific system components as needed without the necessity to scale the entire system.
  2. Improved fault tolerance. If one service faces an error, the other services can continue to function, ensuring the overall system stays functional and operational.
  3. Faster development. Dividing the application into separate services allows the development team to develop and test each service independently. As a result, the development process becomes more efficient and streamlined. 
  4. More convenient changes implementation. Each service can be updated independently, resulting in quick delivery of changes without the need to re-release the entire system.

Overall, transitioning from a monolithic architecture to microservices can significantly level up software flexibility and scalability, allowing businesses to grow more confidently and meet customer needs more effectively. 

3. SOFTWARE TECH STACK MODERNIZATION

Rebuilding an application with a modern tech stack can reduce costs,  improve quality and customer service, and speed up delivery. The primary goal of modernizing the tech stack is to boost the product’s performance and efficiency.

At MobiDev, we migrate outdated systems to a reliable tech stack, considering the unique characteristics of each project. Our tech consulting team thoroughly reviews each project to find suitable technologies and to ensure that modernization will be executed in an optimized way. Below you can find the most common scenarios for software tech stack modernization. 

With these recommendations in mind, we recommend starting with a software audit to find the most effective strategy for software modernization in your case. 

4. MIGRATING DESKTOP SOFTWARE TO WEB

Migrating a desktop app to the web involves moving applications from local computers to web servers. This will allow users to access them via a browser. This approach is a good option for organizations where employees work from various locations and need access to software, regardless of their location.

Benefits of migrating desktop applications to the web include:

  1. Lowered service costs. Moving applications to the web server reduced the costs associated with maintaining individual working machines.
  2. Enchanted mobility. Employees can work remotely and access applications from anywhere all over the globe in situations where this is necessary. 
  3. Simplified updates. Applications can be updated centrally without the need to install updates on each computer.
  4. Better security. Web applications allow better control over access and offer protection against hacker attacks and viruses.
  5. Improved flexibility.  Web-based applications can be used on any device with a browser, making it easier to adjust them for mobile devices. This means a broader range of platforms upon which the product is available.

Migrating desktop applications to the web is an essential step in business growth, as it improves employee performance and increases business mobility.

5. WRAPPING AN OLD SOFTWARE PRODUCT INTO MODERN TECHNOLOGY

Another approach is wrapping old software with modern technology, for example, Docker or REST. Encapsulation is a technique for reutilizing old software components. Encapsulation uses wrapping technology to provide a new interface for an old component, making it easily accessible to other software components. While leaving the code in its current environment, encapsulation links it to the new presentation and accesses layers via an API. This technique helps to leverage the application and enrich its features and value. 

At MobiDev, we use this technique to provide fast and low-risk software modernization when it works the best for your business needs. Minimal changes to the code reduce risk, making encapsulation one of the quickest and most convenient solutions. It is an excellent option when an old software system has high business value and good-quality code. However, encapsulation does not address existing problems, such as maintenance and upgrade difficulties, as it concentrates on the interface rather than the content of the system.

Why Software Audit is a Must Before Software Modernization

A software audit is a crucial step in modernization, and it is essential for identifying necessary changes and assessing possible modernization risks. The key principle is quite simple: before solving a problem, we need to understand its roots. A software audit helps identify tech debt in the project’s code and architecture and determine the risks associated with utilizing the product.

Additionally, a software audit clarifies which parts of the product can be transferred to a new platform and which parts require rework. The outcome of a product tech audit includes a list of recommendations for improving the code and architecture, along with a project budget and timeline.

You need a software audit if you are considering: 

  • Adding new features 
  • Making your product compliant with operational industry standards and norms 
  • Enhancing your competitive advantage 
  • Identifying areas of your system that require updating or replacement 
  • Better detection and fixing of errors 
  • Boosting performance 

The process of software audit can be challenging in some cases. For example, if you have outdated documentation, this can lead to bottlenecks. Having relevant documentation helps those working on the project to understand the product much faster than if it’s old and not organized. Also, big monolithic apps are hard to understand, as such products can be convoluted and difficult. To deal with these challenges, I recommend working with experienced software engineers and consultants with extensive expertise in software modernization projects. 

Helping businesses build, scale, and modernize software products since 2009, MobiDev has an established software audit workflow proven by our other clients’ success. If you’re not sure where to start your software product modernization journey, feel free to reach out and discuss your business challenges with my colleagues. 

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Why Should You Modernize Before Innovating?

Let’s imagine you want to level up your software product with Artificial Intelligence (AI) features. As an innovative technology, AI presents a broad range of new opportunities for transformation and business process enhancement. However, integrating AI solutions into old software products comes with its own set of challenges.

Despite the potential benefits of AI adoption, several issues and concerns can emerge when incorporating AI features into existing software products:

  • Compatibility issues

Old software products often rely on outdated technologies and protocols, creating issues while integrating with modern AI solutions. Incorporating AI capabilities into an existing infrastructure may require serious modifications or upgrades to ensure compatibility and interoperability.

  • Data migration challenges

Migrating data from outdated systems to AI-powered platforms can be complicated, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. Old systems may store data in outdated formats or lack standardized data layouts, making the process of extracting, transforming, and loading data into AI applications problematic.

  • Scalability challenges 

Outdated software may lack the scalability and flexibility needed to accommodate increasing data volumes and user demands. AI implementation requires a scalable infrastructure and resources to keep up with increasing workloads and data processing requirements.

  • Security and data privacy risks

As I mentioned, outdated software is more likely to be exposed to security vulnerabilities and cyberattacks due to insufficient security protocols and a lack of regular updates and patches. Some AI applications require access to sensitive data for training and operation, and this might create data privacy and confidentiality concerns. Businesses are required to implement strong data privacy policies and security protocols to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access or mistreatment.

Therefore, AI integration into outdated software products should start with AI consulting and the development of a software product modernization strategy aligned with a comprehensive tech audit of the system. This will help to design a clear roadmap for digital transformation, resulting in cost and time-effective actions for business success. 

Success Story: Modernizing POS software that revolutionized hospitality management

In 2014, MobiDev started to work on a small modernization project related to POS software modernization for our US-based client, SmartTab. The task initially involved a direct transfer of the codebase to a newer platform, but it turned out to be a much more interesting and challenging journey. From its beginnings as an enthusiastic startup, SmartTab has grown into an industry leader, serving over 700 venues and chains. Over the past decade, the SmartTab software has developed into a complex yet user-friendly ecosystem. Today, SmartTab offers a comprehensive POS system, a customer app, and an AI-driven analytics system featuring a demand forecasting model.

Being a part of the nightclub industry since 2010, Daniel Baron experienced a lot of frustrations with POS solutions of that time. These systems were not user-friendly, with cluttered interfaces and excessively long processing times, which were particularly annoying and insufficient in high-volume venues. Daniel aimed to revolutionize the industry with a “POS that doesn’t suck”— a modern solution developed for process optimization, reliable chargeback prevention, and capable of meeting the needs of both independent venues and large venue chains.

With this thought in mind, the MobiDev team started to work from the existing code audit stage, creating detailed project documentation and recommending the most suitable technologies for the SmartTab system, ensuring high scalability and seamless integration with third-party services. 

Watch the video below to learn more about the MobiDev contribution to the SmartTab success. 

If you are interested in learning more about the technical details of this product,

read the full Success Story

Leverage Your Software Product Modernization with MobiDev 

Since 2009, MobiDev has been helping businesses build, scale, and modernize software products to achieve their business goals. With years of experience, we excel at tackling complex software modernization tasks and transforming outdated software into modern, efficient, and user-friendly solutions.

Once you decide to modernize your software product, the process at MobiDev will include the following 3 stages:

1. Introduction stage

  • Signing an NDA
  • An interview to identify what problems need to be fixed from the client’s point of view. This will help us to adjust our focus during the technical audit stage. 

2. Tech consulting stage 

  • Software audit  — during this stage, we check architecture quality; documentation quality; code quality, effectiveness of the tools that are utilized; and security risks.
  • Technical product roadmap creation —  here we formulate the goals of the modernization process, taking into account the specific features and limitations of the product; during this stage, we choose the software modernization approach, prepare a plan with detailed descriptions of the necessary steps, timeline, and resources that are required for modernization, and define risks and ways to lower them.
  • AI/AR consulting  —  if the software modernization goals suggest the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Augmented Reality (AR), we perform independent research to propose optimal solutions for their integration.

3. Implementation stage

  • Modernization — during this stage, we conduct software modernization according to the roadmap created before.
  • Testing and implementation —  we check the correctness and effectiveness of what we have done, implementing the changes to the system and environment if necessary.
  • Maintenance and support —  this stage involves bug fixing, delivering additional services when necessary, and performance monitoring.

If you need software modernization services to help your business grow and thrive, feel free to contact us. We are always ready to assist you in achieving your business goals by providing impeccable engineering & consulting services, tailored to your unique requirements. 

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