What is your biggest peeve at the office? For many people, the answers usually include unreliable managers, bad coffee or jabbering colleagues. However, a poorly functioning IT system is often high on the list too, and this is a bit more complicated to resolve than a slow internet speed. Working with outdated, legacy applications that have been developed layer by layer over the years is a constant source of irritation for many people. IT is, therefore, an important point of attention for many companies. Malfunctioning and outdated applications not only cost a lot of money on maintenance but also reduce the ability of the employees to do their job effectively.
At the same time, modernizing the clumsy & clunky, old but extremely necessary legacy applications is easier said than done. So, is there a way to make this possible in a relatively easy way? Well, one way is by using a low-code platform such as OutSystems. That, in combination with the following 3 tips should help you get a good start on your journey.
1. Start with A balanced approach: Combining frontend and backend development
Building or modernizing an application with OutSystems can be viewed as reverse engineering. Traditionally, you start with a plan, construct the backend, and end with the frontend. This may seem logical from a programmer’s viewpoint, but it can be challenging from a business perspective. After all, you want to quickly understand how certain functionalities look and perform to make necessary adjustments in a timely manner.
However, OutSystems offers the possibility to start with the frontend. This is due to the low-code platform that uses templates and modules. These are ready-to-use and immediately demonstrate how certain functionalities perform in practice. This allows you to lay out the main lines in a fraction of the time, and then spend the rest of the development time refining the details.
Yet, the reality is often more nuanced than a strict separation between frontend and backend development. The backend is, after all, more than just a database. If an existing system is modularly built, it offers possibilities for modular replacement. With a monolithic system, you can choose to maintain the database while you replace the frontend modularly. You can also opt to keep the old database during the replacement period, while all newly built modules are already being written into a new database. This gray area thus offers many possibilities for flexible solutions.
2. Pick the low-hanging fruit first.
To get back to the intro of this article, legacy applications are undoubtedly the least user-friendly, most annoying and most complicated pieces of software you can come across. Sometimes they are so old that you must go back decades in the archives to discover why that one functionality works the way it does. That is, if that archive is still available. Working in four screens at the same time to perform one action is certainly no exception to the issues of these legacy applications.
In short: asking end-users to come up with proposals for improvement is the same as asking a 5-year-old what he would like to receive from Santa. In other words, end-users are often full of ideas for improvement.
Removing the frustrations of slow and cumbersome will improve the workflow of employees a huge amount, and with OutSystems it should take relatively little time to get tangible improvements. It also makes employees feel that they are taken seriously and are seeing real improvements in their work at a rapid pace. By automating certain actions in the background, they are relieved of work and can make better use of their time. An additional advantage is that you can quickly discover possibilities for new functionalities and improvements.
3. Integrate your applications and databases
Whilst modernizing an application, this is also a good opportunity to integrate it with various other applications and databases that work alongside that application. For example, employees often enter repetitive data, such as names and addresses into multiple databases. Why not integrate these databases so your employees do not have to continuously enter data four times in four different systems. These functions are automatically taken over from each other through integration. This is also very useful with databases. Combining data creates new insights into the behavior and needs of your customers, which you can apply in your business decisions.
With OutSystems it is relatively easy to implement integrations, both in the cloud and on-premise. It’s even possible that you keep the database of a legacy application up and running for longer, but already let it work via the new frontend.