Top Risks of Software Modernisation


06 December 2023


Software Development


Navigating Risks

Software Modernisation presents various risks, including challenges in data migration, integration issues, and security vulnerabilities. Budget overruns can occur due to unforeseen complexities, while user resistance can impact productivity. Downtime and business disruption carry threats during transition, and a shortage of skilled resources may delay delivery.

Therefore, it is crucial that organisations know how to navigate challenges through careful planning, thorough risk assessments, and transparent communication. Continue below, for a more in-depth breakdown on the top risks of software modernisation and how to mitigate.

Top 6 Risks

There are several risks to consider when modernising software. Find out the top 6 risks of software modernisation and how we mitigate and manage risks at WorkingMouse.

Top risks of software modernisation

1. Data migration challenges

  • Data migration in legacy system modernisation poses risks due to complex structures, potential errors, and data loss. The volume of data and issues like inconsistency increase migration challenges. Interconnected systems, downtime, and integration complexities further complicate the process. This increases the risk and can lead to data corruption. To mitigate data migration challenges, thorough planning, testing, and contingency measures are crucial to ensure a successful data migration during modernisation.

2. Integration issues

  • Integration issues carry a significant risk during the modernisation of legacy systems due to outdated technologies, unique data formats, and interconnected systems. This results in the use of outdated technologies not being compatible with modern standards, moreover this can create a complex system that could be disrupted during modernisation. This means that compatibility challenges, such as communication protocols and security measures need to be in place to carefully manage and ensure a smooth transition. Legacy systems are often highly customisable to specific business processes, adapting the customisations to fit a modern environment requires careful attention to detail to avoid business disruption. Implementing comprehensive testing is essential to mitigate these challenges as it helps identify and address integration issues. This includes unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing, this can help identify and address issues early.

3. Security vulnerabilities

  • Security vulnerabilities carry a significant risk during legacy system modernisation due to several factors. Legacy systems often rely on outdated security protocols and lack support for regular updates, this makes them more susceptible to modern cyber threats. Legacy systems often have weaker encryption methods or lack encryption altogether, making sensitive data more vulnerable. Furthermore, older systems often lack security features, such as access controls, authentication mechanisms, and intrusion detection systems, which are now standardised. Integrating legacy systems with new technologies during modernisation expands the attack potential, providing additional opportunities for cyber attackers. To mitigate these risks, organisations must conduct thorough and regular security assessments, implement updated security measures, and ensure that the modernised system complies with current best cybersecurity practices.

4. Budget overruns

  • Unforeseen complexities during modernisation projects can lead to organisations exceeding the planned budget. Complexities, extended timelines, and resource allocation challenges are just some complications that can contribute to an increase project cost. Additionally unplanned upgrades, integrating new technologies with existing systems can strain budgets. Resource-intensive tasks such as thorough testing, user training, and compliance testing can add to the overall project costs. To mitigate these risks, it is crucial organisations conduct a thorough assessment, plan for potential contingencies, and maintain open communication with stakeholders. Establishing a realistic and flexible budget that allows for potential challenges is crucial for the success of a legacy modernisation project.

5. User resistance

  • User resistance is a significant risk during the modernisation of legacy systems, stemming from users’ familiarity with and comfort in existing interfaces. The learning curve required with new technologies and the potential impact on productivity are common sources resistance because users may prefer the current version to avoid disruptions. Additionally, concerns about system downtime, data loss, and deficiencies contribute to a resistance mindset. To mitigate user resistance, organisations should involve users in decision – making, address communication gaps, and provide transparent information about the benefits of modernisation. A user-centric approach with effective change management strategies can additionally ensure a smoother transition and greater user acceptance towards the modernised system.

6. Downtime/ business disruption

  • Downtime and business disruption bring significant risks during the modernisation of legacy systems. The changes involving introducing new technologies often require temporary outages in business operations. Data migration is a crucial aspect of modernisation and can sometimes lead to service interruptions. Likewise, integrating new technologies and thorough testing ay require system shutdowns, impacting ongoing business operations. This means employee productivity may be temporarily affected as users adapt to the updated system, contributing further to disruptions. Unforeseen issues sometimes occur, leading to unexpected system downtime, requiring additional tie and resources for a resolution. To mitigate the impact on operations during the modernisation of legacy systems, organisations should plan phased rollouts, controlled testing environments, and effective communication between stakeholders.

Mitigating Risks

In software projects, governance delays pose a significant risk, potentially impeding crucial milestones due to bureaucratic processes and decision-making bottlenecks. This can lead to project setbacks, increased costs, and a higher risk of misalignment with strategic objectives. To mitigate this risk, we use PRINCE2 framework within our projects. This streamlines governance processes, clarifies decision-making, and improves communication channels which is essential for maintaining agility and ensuring timely project execution.


We use PRINCE2, a widely used project management framework as it provides a structured method for planning and executing projects. The framework has key benefits such as adaptability, clear organisational structure, and emphasises continuous improvement. During software modernisation it is common for requirements to change, PRINCE2 is an efficient approach to manage risks, restructure processes, and ensure effective communication. PRINCE2 in combination with Jidoka enhances project control and visibility within WorkingMouse’s Way of Working, making it beneficial for navigating the challenges during software modernisation.

Risk Management

WorkingMouse implement a five-step risk management procedure recommended by PRINCE2 to mitigate risks during software modernisation.

1. Identify: Complete the Risk Management Approach document for a project, and then identify the risks (threats and opportunities) that could affect the project

2. Assess: Assess the risks in terms of their probability and impact on the project objectives

3. Plan: Plan steps to prepare the specific response to the threats (to help reduce or avoid the threat), or this could also be to plan to maximise the opportunity if the risk happens

4. Implement: Carry out the planned response mentioned in step 3, plan if the risk occurs

5. Communicate: Keep communicating to the stakeholder

We also store documentation alongside the source code to minimise the knowledge loss which is a key contributor to legacy systems. The documentation (Git) repository can be used in a DevOps pipeline and retrieve any relevant 3rd party data from other systems. This makes the documentation proactive instead of reactive and up to date.

Additionally, our support team known as the DevOps Centre is responsible for both development and operations for our customers. They have skills in development, fixing critical bugs, and feature enhancements. DevOps are also responsible for maintaining and monitoring production applications across multiple environments including AWS and Azure.

Risk Register

WorkingMouse further implements a risk register which is crucial for systematic risk management within a project. This helps our team systematically address potential issues and uncertainties that could impact the project’s success throughout the project lifecycle. The document is owned by a designated individual, and includes a version history to track changes, involves stakeholders, approvers, and endorsees. The document outlines the scope, applying to all personnel at WorkingMouse. Each risk is uniquely identified and documented with its registration date and current status.

The register provides a detailed risk description, considering internal and external contest, proximity to anticipated events, and likelihood and consequence assessments using predetermined scales. Additionally, the risk register categorises risk response categories, detailing how the project plans to treat risks, along with corresponding actions aligned with chosen response categories. Scores are adjusted based on treatment, leading to the calculation of residual risks. The register ensures a thorough assessment to risk considerations, ensuring that potential issues are addressed in a timely and effective manner.

The risk register covers the following points:

  • The status indicates whether action has been taken.
  • Risks are uniquely identified, including information about which product they prefer to
  • Access to the Risk Register is controlled and it is kept in a safe place.


To navigate through the risks of modernisation, mitigating in software modernisation involves a comprehensive strategy that includes thorough planning, effective communication, and strong change management. WorkingMouse ensures project agility by implementing PRINCE2 framework, streamlining governance processes, clarifying decision-making, and improving communication channels during software projects.

PRINCE2’s adaptability, clear organisational structure, and emphasis on continuous improvement, makes it valuable during software modernisation as it helps analyse potential complexities. This helps effectively manage changing requirements, mitigate risks, and enhances project control and visibility. The integration of PRINCE2’s five-step risk management procedure further strengthens risk mitigation efforts, emphasising identification, assessment, planning, implementation, and stakeholder communication.

Additionally, implementing phased rollouts and conducting thorough testing reduces disruptions to ongoing operations. Strategies for data migration, security measures, and access to skilled resources also contribute to successful risk mitigation. For further information on a successful legacy migration, please refer to our Police NSW Legacy Migration Project here.

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Jessica Montgomery

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