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Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:00

PowerBuilder – Automated Migration vs Manual Rewrite

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As PowerBuilder applications approach end-of-life, CIOs must decide among multiple modernization strategies for their critical enterprise applications. For PowerBuilder applications, strategies at the two ends of the spectrum are automated migration or manual rewrite.

In our experience, initial momentum within the IT department usually coalesces around manual rewrite for one major reason: enhanced application features. Most business users have a personal wish list of functionality tucked in their desks, and the modernization presents the perfect excuse to get done what has never managed to climb to the top of the software enhancement queue.


But this allure of manual rewrite frequently becomes its undoing. While the initial driver for modernization is exiting outdated technologies, this primary objective can be obscured by the diverse agendas of individual team members seeking feature enhancements.  When the manual rewrite moves to the execution phase, the enthusiasm quickly dissipates as requested features are eliminated and the exhaustive task of recapturing just the existing business logic dominates the effort.  Ultimately, these initiatives are often abandoned.

A study performed by the Standish group titled Modernization Clearing a Pathway to Success found that nearly 50% of manual development modernization projects fail completely and only 4% fully succeed in terms of Time/Quality/Cost.

By contrast automated migration does not offer the initial shiny appeal of a manual rewrite. But what they lack in excitement, automated migrations make up for in focus.  With automated PowerBuilder migrations, all existing business functionality is automatically retained, without any dependency upon subject matter experts or existing documentation. Additionally, little or no training is required for business users to learn the new system since the look and feel of the previous application is retained.  The only major task that must be completed by the client is testing, involving the same test regression cycles normally applied for any application updates.

With far fewer moving parts, and a laser focus on the primary driver for the project, automated migration projects are more than ten times as likely as manual rewrites to succeed.  According to the Standish Group, only 8% of automated migration projects fail compared to the 50% noted above for manual rewrites.

Does this mean those feature wish lists are destined to remain indefinitely at the bottom of desk drawers?  No.  With automated migration, dramatically less time is wasted recapturing existing business logic, and instead the focus is simply on getting the application to the new technology platform in as short of time as possible.  Once the application is on the new platform, new features and enhancements can be implemented on a much shorter timeline than would be possible in automated migration.

So our recommendation is not to abandon the new features and added functionality.  We all know that’s why we love technology anyway.  Rather, simply apply automated migration for the mundane part of the project so you can get to the new feature development in shorter order.  Go to for more information about PowerBuilder modernization.

Read 50950 times Last modified on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 06:49


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