Starting an Agile Transformation in a Legacy System: Mission Impossible?

How many times did you hear: legacy systems are not a good fit for Agile transformation? Have you ever said it yourself? I want to tell you a story of a digital transformation in Premier to prove you wrong. Agile is not only a great fit for the legacy applications, it an absolute business necessity, because how else can you provide incremental value for hundreds or thousands of users through a flexible adjustable roadmap?

My story is not going to be about an immediate success. We've had our fair share of problems, challenges, and small failures. "Legacy" means "old". It means - outdated technology stack, messy dependencies, code that nobody understands, manual testing, manual builds, manual deployments, redundant features. Also, customer issues, bugs, performance issues, scalabiity concerns. Wait, did I mention dependencies?

Come to the session if any of this sounds familiar, if you're afraid of starting the Agile transformation, or if your company already went through a number of initiatives but the old habits die hard. I will share the valuable lessons we've learned from our experience, the strategies to apply to make the changes stick, as well as the anti-patterns to watch for.


Outline/Structure of the Experience Report

The story spans a 3 year long transformation of two large scale legacy products in Healthcare and Finance area that came into Premier through acquisitions. When the transformation started, both systems were about 15 years old, used Microsoft technology stack, and featured monolithic architecture and manual processes throughout the development cycle. Both groups (about 30 engineers each) were used to long release cycles split into phases, infrequent releases and command-and-control management style.

The session will tell this story in the chronological order. Each step along the way will be outlined with the challenges we faced, the ways we tried to address them, and solutions that worked for us.

  1. Let's build teams!
  2. Can we ship a release in two weeks? No, of course not. Not in a legacy world, this is not possible. Let's peel the onion! Here's what we had to deal with:
    • Manual build
    • Manual deploy
    • Manual test
    • Tangled dependencies
    • Bugs reported by customers
    • Long-term projects, big features
  3. The culture of ownership and innovation - how to change the values and mindset of a group?
  4. A look into the future
    • Test automation - not easy to build into a legacy system, but keep trying!
    • Refactoring
    • Re-architecture or replace
    • Performance and scale - find the bottlenecks!
  5. Wrap up

Learning Outcome

At the end of the session you will feel empowered and ready to tackle the legacy monster. You will have a list of potential pitfalls and know what to pay attention to:

Teamwork - unleash the super power of collaboration

Go faster! - automate all slow repeated processes, stop wasting time on manual work.

Culture, values and mindset - don't fall back into the comfort zone

Technical debt - explore and address based on the risks and business value

Innovate and rework - build new to replace old.

Target Audience

All: individual contributors, managers, Agile coaches, Scrum masters, POs, etc.

Prerequisites for Attendees


schedule Submitted 2 years ago