Application Modernization: Ushering onto new-age modernization journeys

Tanvee Rathi • July 02, 2021
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Large IT investments by enterprises have served the needs over the years however the digital revolution and the fast-paced change in customer demands have triggered the need to look at the newer agile systems. Everyday a new business model is getting created, ideas are getting transformed, hence the underlying technology landscape needs to be agile, nimble, and aligned to the evolved needs and demands of a modern system in terms of cost, security, accessibility, availability, and scalability.

A modernization exercise is required if any of the conditions are true:

  • Accumulated technical debt
  • Limited reach, scale, accessibility, uptime
  • Inefficiencies due to sub-optimal architecture
  • High operational costs
  • Difficulty in terms of maintenance and adding newer functionalities
  • Difficult to find skilled engineers to maintain the current system

If there are so many concerns around older and current applications, then why are companies reluctant to modernize?

Some commonly seen reasons because of which modernization is delayed –

  • ‘Why break something that is working?’
  • Lack of awareness of the latest and the best available tech stack and skills in the constantly evolving technology space.
  • High amount of effort and cost to move the product to newer technological platforms.
  • Group decisions and well thought investments to align with the cause and concerns.

Drivers of Application Modernization

“A research article by Data Science Central says that businesses that have implemented IT modernization can increase their annual revenue by 14% with a drop in business cost by 13%. Upgrading to a modern application can boost the productivity of developers by 40%. As many as 44% of CIOs globally believe that current architecture systems should preferably be modernized for a company to reach its growth potential”

In a poll at a digital transformation company, 13% of senior executives say, “We struggle to keep pace with fast changing customer needs”; 37% say “We are unable to adapt quickly to the newer technologies”; 50% say “Our technologies are not scalable and restricts continuous innovation.”

Though there are some concerns because of which enterprises are skeptical of pivoting towards the modernization journey, there are some compelling reasons too, which drive the enterprises towards the same –

  • Eliminating siloed systems and improving integration
    Today, multinationals tend to have redundant platforms across regions and systems often perform in silos which ultimately reduces the efficiency. The objective is to get multiple applications working together to help the organization achieve its business goals. Interconnection requirements are standard, and reusability of data is often a top priority. Enterprises need to be able to reuse data to avoid redoing the same work, to optimize their processes and ROI.
  • Preparing for a change in technical skillsets and domain knowledge
    According to analysts at Forrester and Gartner, thousands of old languages’ (e.g., COBOL) programmers retire every day, a trend which is expected to continue beyond 2019. Many organizations have found themselves very reliant on their mainframe developers for maintenance of key business applications that have been updated many times over the years and have been in production for a long time. Transforming these systems into an environment that can be understood by non-mainframe developers and system analysts is crucial to address the current as well as future needs of these organizations.
  • Increasing speed to market and agility to adapt
    Enterprises need quick turnaround and agility to address the continuously changing market dynamics and customer demands, hence rapid development and deployment of business software products is the key. Just as the demands the organizations place on software have evolved over time, to stay aligned to the business needs, so has our understanding of the best coding and development practices.
  • Reducing costs
    Companies generally face the pressure to reduce the operating costs and increase the profit margin, acting as a significant driver for modernization efforts. Although the current systems are operating fine but at the same time, they are expensive to run due to their hardware infrastructure, software license fees and maintenance staff.

Approach to Application Modernization

After weighing all the pain points with current systems, the reluctance of moving to the newer architecture and the key motivational drivers to shift to modernization, when the leadership team decides to modernize the current system, following can be the approach –

  1. Consult and Assess
    With so many apps in inventory, there is a need to assess clients’ current applications, their digital maturity, challenge areas, gaps, and major dependencies. A design led discovery can help in deciding the components to be re-hosted, re-platformed, or re-factored, aligned to client’s business requirements and budgeted cloud investment.
  2. Design
    Moving ahead, it is important for the clients to understand how to migrate the services ensuring optimum availability with minimum interruption to them. An approach and strategy to the migration is to put together a blueprint which typically includes the selection of methods, migration groups, and migration execution tools as per the needs and requirements of the business. A minimum marketable plot can be made to display the outcome of the blueprint.
  3. Build and Migrate
    If the MVP is a success, then an agile and iterative approach can be adopted to scale up by rinse and repeat method to modernize the entire landscape as per the solution tenets.

    When you are looking to transform your business, factors like business continuity risks, shortage of experts, high cost of modernization etc. tend to act as few of the roadblocks. Even with a carefully thought-out plan, the successful adoption of transformation can be quite difficult. Nevertheless, with the right strategic approach and possibly a trusted vendor or consulting firm, desirable ideas of transforming the business can be put into action to achieve the intended goal. And regardless of whether you engage an external team, start thinking about how you would make room in your own organization for a team dedicated to the modernization efforts. Such a team must be able to apply modernization best practices and help navigate the challenges. In conclusion, measure the success of the teams’ efforts going by the amount of friction encountered to change the software and/or the cost needed to operate it.

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