Does our organization have applications that have been around for a while, they basically do their job, but people are complaining that they aren’t modern enough? Too slow? Too hard to use? Difficult to change? If so, you aren’t alone. This is a common complaint. And the common solution is most often to look for a replacement. But a wholesale replacement of the applications that support your core business may not be the best thing. Especially if they have been written or modified specifically for you.
The reason they are called Legacy is because they have value.
Sometimes – many times – a much better solution is to modify those applications, just enough to bring them up to date, without changing the core business rules that are embedded in them. It may be a new user interface, or providing a more modern programmatic interface, or even rewriting a key part of it to be more efficient or easier to modify. Modifications like these are often safer and easier, and in the long run much less expensive than a complete replacement, and they can still have a tremendous positive impact on your business and application users.
Three mini case studies.
I’ll describe three examples of real world situations that illustrate this idea.
Case 1 – Financial Institution
The users of this financial institution were complaining that the application was out of date and hard to use. They wanted to replace it with a package, even though they knew there was no good match for their business, and any package would require major modifications, either to the software or to their business processes. Two consultants thought of a better way to handle this, and in just one day wrote a Visual Basic client to access three of their most used transactions. When they showed it to a group of users their response was, “This is great. Let’s buy that application.” They didn’t even realize they were using the same application in the background.
A few years later they had a need to integrate their application with a new telephony system. They used the same middleware technology to do that, and again made very little change to the back end application. The manager said later they had changed two lines of code, for security purposes.
Shortly after this a third party introduced an online mortgage brokerage system that would allow a consumer to “shop” for the best terms for their home mortgage. Again, they were able to use the same middleware to expose a set of transactions as Web Services, and use Microsoft BizTalk to interface with the third party.
In each case they were able to quickly respond to a new business need, improve the end-user experience, and grow their business.
Technologies included Visual Basic and BizTalk from Microsoft, and Enterprise Application Environment (EAE) and Component Enabler from Unisys.
Case 2 – Government Agency
A government agency had two core applications that had very different interfaces. One was a character based terminal interface, and the other a rudimentary graphical user interface. They had been receiving complaints that the applications were hard to use, and required a lot of training for new employees. They introduced a new web browser interface for both application that had a common look and feel. It greatly simplified call center operations, and made the applications easier to learn and easier to use. The effect was an immediate improvement in user acceptance. They were able to train new employees in days, rather than weeks, and they found it much easier to move people from one application to the other during peak times.
Technologies used included Agile Business Suite and AB Suite Client Tools from Unisys.
Case 3 – Insurance Company
An insurance company already had a significant web presence that most of their users were quite happy with, but some users wanted “more”. Some of the agents did not want to be tied down to a computer in their office all of the time. They wanted to be able to use their tablets and smartphones to do their work. The company was able to provide a new mobile front end to the same applications the agents were accustomed to using. The mobile interface is simpler, obviously more mobile, and still preserves the integrity of the core business applications.
Technologies used included Agile Business Suite and ClearPath ePortal from Unisys.
How can we help you?
These are just three of many examples in which a relatively simple, but dramatic change to the user interfaces had a huge impact on the business, and on the user acceptance of the applications. In each case the change to the back end application was minimal.
Every situation is just a bit different, and the technologies or development arrangements that worked for these organizations may not be right for you, but there are plenty of options to choose from. And just because you CAN change an application or make new web or mobile interface for it, that doesn’t mean you SHOULD. For example, there may be security concerns that would make it unwise to expose core business transactions and data, unmodified, to the outside world.
If you have questions, or a situation in which you think your business could benefit from some updates to the user interfaces, I would be more than happy to help. You can send me a short note via my contact page.
I will get back to you as soon as possible. If I am not able to help, I may be able to connect you with someone who can.