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Buy, Build, or Patch?

Deciding the Future of Your Legacy Software

If there’s one constant in technology, it’s the fast pace at which everything changes. Every year, if not every quarter, new functionalities and integrations become market standard, while continually evolving security requirements necessitate constant attention.

When your business has invested major resources into custom software, it can be difficult to watch as that tailored system gradually ages from a state-of-the-art application to what is known as a “legacy” system. Just like a home, legacy systems require improvements and maintenance throughout their lifecycle. If you don’t make the necessary repairs, the structure can become unsafe and not suited for its original purpose.

There is the temptation to wipe the slate clean and switch to a new system entirely. But that is rarely the most cost-effective option, and it may not even be the best choice for your business, either. Here are three things to consider when deciding whether to invest further resources in your legacy system or switch to an entirely new system:

  • What is the actual need? What is your system supposed to be doing that it isn’t doing now? If the software is serving truly unique business needs, it is unlikely that an off-the-shelf solution is going to be your best bet. Consider a rewrite or a patch/upgrade initiative.
  • Was your legacy system well-maintained? What condition is the code base in? If the code was written cleanly and regularly maintained by caring professionals, a budget-friendly patch/upgrade operation is more likely to be successful. On the other hand, if qualified staff has not “looked under the hood” recently, chances are the system may be in shambles and will need significant refactoring and redesign - much more than patches and upgrades.
  • Staff resources and retraining: If you're going to rewrite, will you utilize employees or contractors? If you’re considering an off-the-shelf solution or rewrite initiative, you will need to bring your staff up-to-speed on the new system. Is there an ideal time of the year to plan retraining activities? Choosing the right time to implement a major change can make the difference between a smooth transition and an operations nightmare.

Remember: every system, no matter how old or new, requires maintenance and regular upkeep to remain fully operational and fend off security threats. If you’re still unsure about what to do with your legacy software system, contact the computer scientists at XorFox for a free consultation.

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