How do you convince management to invest time and money into refactoring your legacy monolith?
Convincing management that benefits of refactoring are worthwhile can be a stopping point for many. It’s your job to provide a cost-benefit analysis of refactoring your legacy monolith and convince your team that this makes sense.
Btw, this is a sequel to my previous post on this topic where I discussed a starting point when facing this topic:
- Code that can be tested (at all!)
- And… have tests
- Business logic separated from your presentational logic
- Stop wasting time building code that is already available in stable/tested 3rd party libraries
Let’s look at overcoming the next hurdle in this process.
At this point, you and your dev team are all on board, but you (or your senior developer) doesn’t have the last say on big decisions like this. So, you need to convince management that a large scale refactoring is needed.
But there’s a problem: your company is not interested in making software, they want to make money and please their customers. This is how your non-developer manager or company owner (even if he is a developer) will probably think this through:
Spending weeks and months changing a bunch of code (i.e. refactoring) doesn’t really affect our users! It doesn’t even change what the customers see and how they use our product. Instead, we should build new features to give our customers more value. Afterall, more value given to our user = more money in our pocket.
So, you have a problem. You know that the software you have is hard to maintain, hard to extend, can’t be tested, and is not portable. But, that means nothing to the people who need to actually decide if they will pay you to do the required work.
How do you overcome this?
The answer is pretty straightforward - but it just takes a bit of work. You need to convert each of your “developer benefits” into how they will save the company money. In other words, a formal report and analysis of the benefits of refactoring for your company.
Convert all technical benefits into $$$$
You must research each area yourself. Based on where your code and system is, the final report will differ from product to product.
Here’s a small sample of what your report may look like and include:
Catching bugs during design time (by using test-driven development) saves the company over 100 times the cost vs. fixing after deployment.
Catching bugs during development (not using strict test driven development but implementing code based testing) can save the company 15 times the cost vs. fixing after deployment
Implementing code reviews can save the company 30 hours of fixing missed software defects and maintenance per hour invested
If we separate our business logic from our presentational logic it means now we can actually build the following using all the features of the current system:
- Public API
- Mobile API
- Mobile App
- Desktop App
Having a refactored codebase means future features will be much quicker to develop (less time wasted on trying to figure out our legacy design and extending it)
Having an industry standardized architecture enables new developers to be “up-and-running” much quicker
Using modern industry standardized technologies means:
- Faster development in general
- The company is more appealing to potential hires
- Enhanced security - less prone to security vulnerabilities
Gather your research into “right-to-the-point” bullets, highlighting how this will save money. Then, present it to whoever needs to hear it.
Make sure you include numbers and exact figures of how much time and/or money each point will save the company. This is key. “Developer benefits” doesn’t mean anything to people who want their business to be profitable. Money and time are what matter. And don’t forget - include reports (like in the example).
Every decision a lead/senior developer needs to make should be made this way. For example, making developers “happier” by introducing various benefits like free coffee, more vacation time, remote options, etc. can be presented as a money saver. How? It increases employee retention and appeal of the company to potential hires. And, you can list these benefits as a marketing gimmick on your company’s website to show everyone how great your company is - which can be appealing to potential customers.
I hope that this was helpful and gave you some useful tips!