How To Do IBM i Legacy Application Modernization

Today, we’re seeing an increase in urgency, on the part of CTOs and IT leaders, in pursuing digital transformation initiatives. Yet, when the term IBM i legacy application modernization is raised in companies running these systems, there are often parties whose first thought is ripping off and replacing existing systems. While it may seem like a logical approach to thriving in a modern ecosystem, in reality, it isn’t. 

For starters, what’s your mechanism for reverse engineering all that data and business logic onto a new platform? What we often see with companies who profess early, uncalculated intentions to rip off their IBM i system, is an eventual retraction of the idea. This usually follows the discovery of the real costs of re-platforming. This includes the overwhelming effort required to document decades-old business logic. Simply put, replacing IBM i platforms is a risky and impractical endeavor. No wonder Gartner’s analysts, Thomas Kilnert, and Mike Chuba [1], warn against it. In their words, “considering leaving legacy IBM platforms? Beware, as cost savings may disappoint, while risking quality”.

The good news, however, is that it is possible to adopt new technology, make your existing functionalities accessible to modern solutions, and provide a compelling user experience without resorting to the risky re-architecting. All this is possible with the right legacy application modernization strategy

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s discuss the challenges legacy systems face that make modernization even more crucial. 

What are Legacy Application Modernization Challenges?

Rapidly Changing Conditions

It is no secret that we live in a constantly evolving world. The current pace of innovation is such that new-to-the-world products are constantly entering markets. Thereby shifting market structures, introducing new technologies, and setting new customer expectation levels. Consequently, to remain relevant, you must become more agile and better position yourself to quickly adapt to changes. 

A perfect example of a new-to-the-world innovation that changed its market structure is Uber in the taxi industry. By implementing new applications, particularly on mobile devices, Uber has effectively set new standards in the taxi industry. However, legacy systems mean inefficient workflows. Plus implementing major improvements that can facilitate rapid adaptation to market changes involves tedious and time-consuming processes. 

Low Developer Productivity

In a fast-paced economy, your IT department must function at the highest level if you’re to succeed in any market. This means empowering your developers with the right tools and environment that enable them to focus on building business-critical solutions. 

However, companies running on legacy platforms often struggle with developer productivity. This is because legacy IT spends a bulk of its time on maintenance and making up for technical debt accrued over the years (debugging and refactoring). 

According to a study by Stripe and Harris Poll [2], most respondents say legacy applications are responsible for their reduced productivity. Here’s a deeper dive into how they spend their time, per the study;

  • 9% is spent fixing faulty code
  • 33% making up for technical debt

In essence, legacy developer teams spend over 40% of their time doing everything but innovating and building business solutions. Fortunately, legacy application modernization offers a way out, as we’ll see in the course of this article.

No Easy Way to Innovate

According to a survey by Vanson Bourne [3], on a number of senior IT staff, 90% of respondents say that legacy systems were stifling innovation. We’re in an era where the need to innovate, adapt, and improve business technology grows at an exponential rate. The good news, however, is that there are also opportunities to do so. But when you’re locked in an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” relationship with your legacy systems, those opportunities can seem inaccessible. 

The banking industry provides examples of businesses on legacy systems looking to keep up with more agile competitors by introducing modern technologies. However, they’re finding it difficult to do so. 

According to Chris Saul, Vice President of digital, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, at Hitachi Consulting, “when looking to remain competitive, CIOs must find new ways and techniques to innovate, with the ability to scale. In other words, legacy application modernization.”

Modern Usage Limitations

Legacy systems have a myriad of drawbacks that limit their usage in the new economy: siloed data systems that inhibit integration with modern solutions, the inability to keep up with regulation compliance, and IT security, are but a few.

In most industries today, for example, the food and beverage industry, organizations must abide by strict regulations. These regulations are constantly evolving as governing bodies aim to achieve what’s best for industry consumers. In which case, organizations are under increasing pressure to quickly adapt to meet changing regulations. Again, it boils down to agility; legacy systems are not equipped to provide value at this pace. Take the food and beverage industry. For example, regulation compliance is constantly changing. This could sometimes involve the rapid development of in-house solutions, which can be very difficult or take too long to implement on legacy infrastructure. 

Fortunately, legacy application modernization offers solutions to the challenges mentioned above. However, it is a delicate endeavor that requires strategic planning and implementation for success. Hence, we’ve created this article to guide you through a successful modernization journey. 

In this article, you’ll discover how to modernize your IBM i legacy applications with low code and more.. 

How Can You Define Your Legacy Application Modernization Strategy?

Two steps make up the framework of a successful legacy application modernization strategy. They include;

  1. Identifying potential modernization opportunities.
  2. Choosing the right modernization solutions that’ll ensure you reach your business goals and objectives.

How Can You Identify Modernization Opportunities?

The first step in any modernization strategy is the identification of improvement areas. Which stages in your business processes represent high business value? And what improvement is required to realize its business value potential? A great approach to this step is a thorough assessment of your existing infrastructure by business value and technical risks. The value you attach to an application should depend on its mission-critical nature. 

Bear in mind that your modernization opportunities are specific to your business needs. No two companies have the same business goals. Therefore what works for one might not necessarily work for another. 

How Can You Identify the Right Modernization Solutions?

This is a crucial aspect of legacy application modernization. In fact, the solutions you choose will determine your project’s fate (success or failure). So what are the right modernization solutions? 

The right solutions will align with your business needs and ensure you achieve both short and long-term goals. Your modernization partner must provide solutions that not only solve your business challenges but also leverage your existing skills and resources to do so. When doing your research, look for a vendor with a proven track record of providing tailored strategy and round-the-clock support to similar businesses. 

LANSA has a proven track record of helping enterprises with successful modernization projects for 30+ years. Its professional services and a team of experts are always ready to guide you through every stage of your journey. Whether you’re looking to improve user experience, reduce maintenance or operational costs, or incorporate modern technologies, LANSA offers easy-to-use solutions for every modernization need. You can quickly satisfy immediate business needs and scale as your business timeframe allows. Also, Its single-language system allows you to leverage your existing RPG and COBOL skills in developing new web and mobile applications or modernizing existing IBM i applications.   

Want to Do IBM i Modernization With LANSA?

As technology continuously advances alongside market conditions and customer expectations, IBM i modernization becomes more and more crucial to overall business growth. However, numerous variables are involved, and to successfully ride these variables, you need the right partner (LANSA). You can easily contact us to get started or request a demo on LANSA’s easy-to-use modernization solutions such as aXes, Visual LANSA, and RAMP.

IBM i Modernization Blog Series



  1. https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3905276
  2. https://stripe.com/gb/reports/developer-coefficient-2018
  3. https://www.computerweekly.com/news/4500248467/Legacy-systems-holding-back-90-per-cent-of-businesses


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