How old is a “Legacy” application?

What do we mean when we use the term “legacy” application?

Jason Stamper talks about ageing technologies and speculates that even old Java applications could often be considered legacy.

I think we should take a business focussed view of this and I suggest we should ask the following question.

If we re-evaluated, today, would we buy/build this application again?  If the answer is no, then it’s a legacy application.

I have more than a sneaky suspicion that asking the business this direct question would yield some uncomfortable answers.  In fact I would go so far as to suggest that by this definition, many business reps would consider a large number of applications to be “legacy” before they are even live.

So we might as well consider every application to be legacy?  In a way, yes.  But in another, maybe we are asking the wrong question.  Legacy applications are a fact of life and they will always be there in enterprise sized organisations at least.

We must acknowledge that a single platform for a single enterprise is just not possible.  There will always be disparate applications fulfilling discrete functions.  The successful organisations perhaps will be the ones who acknowledge this and learn to live with it.

One enterprise I know uses about 240 different software applications of which 80 are considered to be mission critical.  How many of these are legacy is probably not even a question worth asking.  How to make the best business model from such a complex structure, and how to run efficient business processes that don’t require ten thousand employees to do dumb tasks are very interesting questions…..

Leave a Reply