Redesigning and modernizing legacy Enterprise Applications is an art in itself !! Naturally, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who worked on this enterprise application, translating them into requirements, and transforming it into a brand new application is a beautiful journey.
Over the past few years, we, at Divami, have worked on redesigning a few legacy enterprise applications and it was quite an experience. However, based on the timelines and business vision, for some enterprise applications’ redesign, we focused only on the user flows. Additionally, we faced limitations from the back-end and could not make changes to the server-side app. while redesigning some of these, we focused only on layouts. Yet, there are some for which we worked on the complete redesign.
Redesigning these applications, made me wonder, how much we as humans have evolved in our expectations from technology! User expectations & behaviors have changed drastically over a period of time. Consequently, this has made these legacy applications boring and tedious to work with. Also, user acceptance of these legacy applications is decreasing day by day and we can attribute this to the following reasons:
- User experience for these applications is not user-centric.
- Information and actions are usually not contextual.
- Personalization was not even considered in most of these applications.
- Cognitive load of these applications is very high.
- User interfaces are not designed to be responsive.
- Visual designs are usually not very appealing and engaging.
- Obsolete technologies limit the usage of emerging frameworks and features.
- Support for older software is increasing the maintenance cost.
- The depleted skillset forces the products to be in maintenance mode.
- These applications can’t be Saas-fied easily.
- Scalability is also a major concern.
Do these legacy applications need a redesign?
Yes, of course, these legacy applications do need a redesign. Probably a better question to ask is,
“Are the requirements still valid in the current context?”
“How do we compete with our SaaS competitors or how do we stand out in the market?”
After interacting with a few CXOs in the industry, I did release that they are definitely falling behind in the race with their Saas competitors. However, they also felt that these legacy applications are adding to the company’s baggage affecting their business growth and ROI.
Additionally, they strongly believed that their increased focus and investments in these applications’ redesign will result in numerous advantages in terms of increase in sales, customer retention, customer engagement, and simple and easy to use product workflows.
Furthermore, they thought keeping the business needs, user goals with good UX at the core of redesigning plans will help them achieve this in less time. Lastly, their primary goal was to help users accomplish their jobs with ease and serve the needs and goals of the business/users in the best possible manner.
There are still many people, businesses, or organizations who, for varying reasons, want to continue with the legacy systems.
Their reasons include
- Why fix something that isn’t broken and working fine?
- Is it necessary to redesign an enterprise application that contains the custom-made functionality?
- What is the risk of losing key data or corrupting data?
- Is it even possible to scope for redesign considering the complexity of the application?
- Can we afford the cost and effort involved in a redesign?
Strategic reasons to redesign legacy enterprise applications
Did you know, according to a study done by Imaginovation, the impact of redesigning these legacy applications is huge.
Here are a few stats:
- 13% reduction in total business maintenance cost
- 14 % increase in annual revenue
- 40% increase in developer productivity
- 44% of CIOs believe legacy applications pose a significant barrier to the company’s growth
By redesigning an enterprise application, the business or organization is going to
- Adapt to Future Business Goals
- Increase productivity
- Improved Compliance
- Enhance Security Compliance
- Improve Business Reputation
1. Adapt to Future Business Goals
One of the major problems legacy enterprise applications face is the lack of ability to integrate with modern applications. For example, one of the key features for every business is to build a community with forums or to integrate with 3rd party invoice management systems.
However, lack of compatibility with the latest technologies limits these applications to desire disruption and innovation in their specific industries. Additionally, most of their new competitors use third-party services and APIs to execute tasks efficiently and quickly provide additional value add features. But, this is a nightmare for these enterprise applications as they require a lot of customization and coding to be compatible with newer services.
Nonetheless, redesigning legacy enterprise applications will give an opportunity for businesses to adapt to the future goals of the organization and user needs innovatively. They can then focus on UX/ UI to provide seamless workflows, personalized content, contextual information, and actions, updated visual appeal considering the current user’s needs, behaviors, and expectations.
2. Increase Productivity
Enterprise applications are highly specialized, solving specific problems of a certain target audience in the industry. Furthermore, these applications are usually the core of the business and are very complex, involving many modules and features.
However, as these applications age, their productivity seems to be decreasing day by day in terms of the team’s productivity, quality of deliverables, and revenue. Here are a few reasons based on my observations:
- High maintenance costs
- Use of obsolete technologies
- Lack of people skilled in these technologies
- Training and support cost
- Poor documentation
Nonetheless, it is extremely important for businesses to focus on team productivity and ways to increase it. Because with outdated technologies, the team spends a lot more time trying to update it to meet the new requirements, while their other competitors take very less time to execute the same feature with the modern-day frameworks. Additionally, the focus on good user experience and seamlessly merging with the other features poses a challenge. Due to this, the financial impact is obviously apparent and substantial. Here are a few ways to increase the team’s productivity:
- Automating repetitive business processes to eliminate human errors
- Using 3rd party services to speed the process
- Eliminating unused and unwanted features
- Integrating AI algorithms as and when required
3. Improved Compliance
Why can’t these legacy applications run forever? What if we move them to a maintenance mode? Also, why can’t we leave them as is, untouched with a consistent performance? Lastly, are they really creating additional baggage for the company?
With time, we as humans, always want better, easier, and faster ways of executing the same task. However, when we accomplish one wish, we add more to our bucket list. Furthermore, when there is demand, there is a business opportunity and that requires better and improved compliance for:
- New business goals
- Better performance
- Decrease in the rate of failure
- Scalability of the application
- Lack of security
- Change in user needs
Not only legacy applications, but all applications need improvement from time to time to accomplish new business goals and customer needs. Additionally, to have the winning edge, it is important to adapt to technologies like Cloud, AI, RPA, and their plug-and-play features like geolocation, user authentication, data sharing, transactions, etc.
4. Enhance Security Compliance
Security is one of the major concerns raised by the stakeholders during initial discussions of redesigning of any application, especially the enterprise applications. Also, enterprise data is highly sensitive and needs to be handled securely. Customers want their data to be secure and free from security hacks that expose or alter their data. Additionally, they are concerned about:
- Unauthorized data disclosure
- Unauthorized data modiﬁcation
- Denial of service
- Lack of accountability.
Due to outdated technologies, legacy applications are usually less immune to cyber attacks, harmful programs, and malware. As software had been around for years, the attackers presumably had enough time to find their vulnerabilities. Also, due to lack of support from the 3rd party vendors, for the versions of software used in these legacy applications, it is always hard to fix the security issues. As new updates are not provided and nobody keeps the application compliant with the newest technology requirements, security is always at high risk.
5. Improve Business Reputation
These legacy applications represent the brand. Also, they represent what the business stands for. Poor compliance, non-adaptability to the latest requirements, and user behavior does bring down the brand value of the business.
Nonetheless, a business is respected as a brand only when it empathizes with its users’ needs. Thus, increase in performance, productivity, turnaround time, simpler flows, better navigation, in other words, better UX/UI does increase the brand value, and thus ROI.
However, we all have our constraints, be it the time, budget, or people. And of course, redesigning our legacy applications should be meaningful, and complete. It is always good to follow a lean approach, divide the redesign, and revamp the application into phases. In order to achieve a viable solution, we can choose to divide our design/revamp phases into
- UI/Visual uplift of the application
- UX/workflows limiting it the revamp only to frontend
- Architectural Modernization
- Deployment Modernization
It will allow businesses to list the possible opportunities to invest in new services, such as moving the data into a data lake and leveraging new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.
Designing these legacy enterprise applications is indeed an art in itself, involving a lot of scientific thinking, and creative ways to improve the user experience in most unforeseen constrained environments. These projects have always brought the best in me, have given me the most satisfaction as a designer !!!
You might also find “How to iterate UX UI Design for Enterprise Applications?” interesting if you are looking for a enterprise application design strategy with limited resources.