White-hair Software: 5 Simple Steps to Modernization

If you are still running text-based software – often called “green screen”, you’re not alone – many companies do because it just works! Further, the cost to upgrade to new systems can break the budget, if not the entire company.  

But text-based systems are challenging.  You’re probably frustrated at the dwindling number of people who are interested in working on a text-based system, and concerned that at some point you’ll have to update your system. So, in the face of limited budget and potentially a lack of experienced developers for the platform, what can you do?

Here are 5 simple steps to evaluating your choices and moving toward a modern interface:

1. Analyze the entire scope:

  • Budget limitations,
  • The system is working reliably – why replace it,
  • Good staff with necessary operations skills and experience that need to be retained,
  • Little or no time (bandwidth) for new development projects,
  • And others…..

2. Understand your hardware:

  • Occasionally a hardware upgrade may be needed, but that can be a minor investment compared to developing and migrating to a new system.
  • Many Unix and IBM servers are much more capable then people understand – designed to handle heavy workloads and 24/7/365 uptime,
  • For example, one company running an IBM 520 iSeries was able to add a MySQL database onto it alongside the current DB2 database. This allowed them to support new functions. By combining the MySQL instance with multiple HTML/PHP server processes, they gained several benefits:
    • Support for a wide variety of new functionality,
    • Negligible system performance impact due to the way the system separates the workload,
    • Modern language developers could now make enhancements and add new functions,
    • And the best part: total cost for additional software was zero, nada, zilch, nothing (yep free)!

3. Understand your people

  • Older developers can be trained on Object Oriented web development
  • Give your staff time to learn – don’t expect changes in a week or even a month, BUT, don’t let them fall back into old habits either. Give them a real task and expect real results!
  • Team develop – hire additional lower cost younger developers, even as outsourced temporary positions, and allow your experienced developers to provide the depth of their process, workflow, and operational knowledge, coupling that with the younger developers skills with modern languages

4. Your business depends on your data:

Business does not run on applications, but on data and the information and insight your data contains – retaining that as it already exists on a reliable, high-performance system reduces issues such as cost to migrate, potential corruption, and governance impacts;

5. Set your applications free:

  • Start by separating business logic from User Interface (UI) logic.
  • Set your programmers free – let them develop an app or 2 (try beginning on table/file maintenance) Don’t go too far too fast.
  • Change validation from the screen (logic) to the database - this single thing, if you do nothing else, could save tremendous time and money. Today’s modern databases validate any change based on “rules” and/or any other constraints you want. Data access is changing and proactive implementation of rules and constraints to manage access will allow you to validate changes and even stop rouge changes.

These 5 key steps will help you extend the life of your “white hair” software and hardware, enjoy the benefits of modern user interfaces with their intuitive and short learning curves, increase the ROI of the existing architecture and applications, and put you in position to more easily address future requirements. No hair-coloring required!