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The ISV legacy modernization challenge

The legacy system dilemma, part 1: Owner's perspective
Your major customer again hinted that they'd like to modernize their legacy system. They hopefully look up to you, wishing this time you’d bring them the silver bullet to solve the high upfront costs, uncertainty of the return of investment, guarantee that there will be no disruption to the critical operational services, solve the integration complexities and relieve them from fear of failure.

As a professional software vendor, you well know the risks involved in taking the legacy challenge. The size of such systems (typically built over several decades), the complexity of intertwined business processes and dealing with multiple process owners wishes, the number of integrations, the whole package. The effort and risks involved force you to come up with such a price tag that it will again kill the conversation for couple more years.

Sounds familiar?

Addressing the challenge

Let’s keep eyes on the goal. Your need to bring down the price of modernization to a customer acceptable level. This means you must minimize the effort of building such system.

You’ll face the following challenges: Dealing with unrealistic expectations, technology complexity issues, and achieving maximum reuse to avoid unnecessary work. There are other challenges (like resourcing and such), but these are the main ones causing the astronomical price tag.

Expectation management challenge

In customer's wet dreams, the new system does everything the old system does - preferably in same way they have always done - but it also needs to be better to justify the costs.

You need to address this issue in the very first negotiations. Your answer is the Pareto principle: “We’ll get there, but first we implement the 20% of the features that cover the 80% of the whole system use, to keep the risks down and project in budget and time.” Call it minimum viable product (MVP) if you like. Include a few of the most important improvements from the list that makes the modernized application better to help customer to justify the cost.

"I want it all, and I want it now"

The Queen syndrome. Customer sometimes requires everything to be done at the same time, forgetting that building the core system with all the satellite systems (like customer and partner portals, auxiliary apps, analytics etc.) took them a few decades to build. You won’t be able to conjure up a similar new system from scratch in a year without some serious magic.

This is one of the most important rules in modernization projects; You kindly (but firmly) suggest splitting the project into phases, where you focus and modernize a single subsystem at a time. This also helps customer to feel that they are in control:

  • Customer does not need to invest huge loads of money in a single risky project, but a smaller project which replaces one subsystem, having tangible, working results on each step.
  • If something goes south, customer has the already finished subsystems ready and in production, and the sunken costs for the failed attempt are smaller. Customer can even cancel the rest in the event of total disaster.
  • Every phase you complete - each subsystem you modernize - brings the customer closer to original target: A modernized system.

Architecture, technology and methodology challenge

Technology has become ridiculously complex over the last decade. If a feature took a week to implement in the good old days, adding scrum masters, dailies, retrospectives, planning sessions, DevSecOps and CI/CD pipelines, UX designers, Javascript frameworks, multicloud architectures, microservices, Kubernetes (god forbid), multifactor authentications & identity management solutions, private networks, VPN’s, advanced threat protection, subscriptions, policies and blueprints - and the mandatory AI: One week becomes easily becomes ten with current (and mostly self-inflicted) technology and methodology complications. You can easily spend a year just setting up the tech crap without single business requirement implemented.

This sounds obvious, but to minimize the total effort you need to minimize time spent with these non-functional requirements. Make the architecture as simple as possible. Use battle proven patterns used in thousands of similar applications. This is not the time or place to showcase your technical excellence, include every gadget, framework or ideology popular today (and gone tomorrow) in the architecture.

Reuse challenge

Rewriting the new system from scratch is another guaranteed way to end up in an expensive disaster. You simply don’t have time for total rewrite. To succeed:

  • Reuse structures, patterns and whole subsystems. Make new and old system compatible enough so you can run old and new in parallel. This requires a compatible data model that can be used by both old and new system. This approach also enables phasing the project.
  • Use automation, migration assistants or anything that helps you bring in as much as possible from the old system's business content (domain data model, processes, structure, batch processes, components) to the new system.

Making the impossible possible


As a seasoned professional, you are undoubtedly familiar with the challenges and the standard solutions to improve the odds. Still, you look for ways to make the modernization projects more affordable, faster and less risky to get customer acceptance – and less dreaded.

The best solutions are simple: The high costs are mainly due human labor.
Eliminate the manual work from the equation, and the impossible just became possible.

And just like that - the magic happens.

LeBLANC software factory

Just as industrial production lines revolutionized manufacturing, software production lines are about to revolutionize IT system production. We need to move from the current artisan traditions to automated software factories. We simply can't afford not to.

Our solution, LeBLANC software factory, leverages modernized software product line (SPL) ideology to streamline the process, and model driven development (MDD) to automate most of the application development. By using models to generate the business application, we reduce the likelihood of errors and ensure consistency throughout the system. This approach speeds up development and enhances reliability, making transitions smoother, more predictable and future-proof.

Simply put: We eliminate roughly 80% of the human labor from the equation.

Delivering value

By using our software factory and automation to reduce costs, you can now present a compelling value proposition to your customers. Modernization is no longer just an expense but a strategic investment that enhances customer business operations and competitiveness. With LeBLANC, you can confidently recommend modernization projects that deliver tangible benefits without the astronomical price tag.

Focus on the essentials, automate the rest

Using LeBLANC, you focus on the business content: Who are your users? What goals they have? What are the key use cases we need to focus on? What data the system needs to be able to handle? What are the business processes the system implements? These are things that matter to your customers, and these are the things that bring in the money.

We automate the rest. Things that are needed in every business application. Data stores, identity, authorization, process engines, multilingual user interfaces, API interfaces - everything. We give you battle proven architecture, tested in thousands of similar applications. Security up to government standards. And much more, without you lifting a finger. All this, fully customizable to your needs.

Don't start from scratch!

We’ve heard the legacy call. Kickstart the modernization project with our migration assistants to import the existing system data model (like database schema) into our Designer, bring in the initial data, and start refining the model to fit your needs. First working version of the application is now only a few days away, not months or years. Next: Iterate your design ideas with your already fully working application.

LeBLANC solves the legacy dilemma for you

Modernizing legacy becomes an attractive opportunity for ISV's using LeBLANC software factory. LB makes the process less risky, more affordable, and ultimately - more successful. This allows you to better serve your customers, helping them transition to modern, efficient systems that support their future growth and innovation.

Interested? We show you how.

Janne Hansen
LeBLANC Finland Oy


This is second article in our legacy series, we assume the role of an Independent Software Vendor (ISV), trying to help customers during their modernization journey. The first part looks at legacy modernization from system owner's perspective.

LeBLANC is an expert in legacy modernizations, providing an industrial method and supporting tools for succesfull modernizations.
Contact us: janne.hansen@leblanc.fi.