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How to Build an Effective Roadmap for Application Modernization Services

The rapid evolution of business technologies has provided companies with advanced capabilities that non-digital platforms and legacy systems simply can’t match. This IT modernization is being driven by a variety of operational needs and technological trends, creating a surge in interest for new digital platforms. Industry consolidation has pushed many enterprises to integrate application modernization services to comply with shifting regulatory requirements, leverage competitive positioning and capitalize on new business models. While some enterprises adopt modernization to improve their operational efficiency and reduce IT consumption costs (e.g. mainframe MIPS), others focus on improving application performance, stability and scalability to better meet customers’ needs and preferences. With the added impact of COVID-19, it’s no surprise that business leaders are focused on creating an application modernization roadmap.

Unoptimized platforms and legacy systems, particularly those that are hosted onsite, can have a major impact on business continuity and reliability. The reasons for modernizing these outdated systems are threefold:

  • They often act as a barrier to business growth and internal collaboration.
  • Most legacy systems and siloed digital platforms are inflexible and cannot be quickly adapted to shifting business needs.
  • Creating a fully integrated environment is difficult when legacy systems are involved, mostly due to compatibility issues.

The need for digital transformation is even more profound for companies that are still paper-dependent. Transitioning to a digital environment can help increase productivity, automate time-intensive tasks and accelerate innovation at every level. By incorporating faster applications that are intuitive and user-friendly, enterprises can future-proof their IT strategies and reduce costs across the board.

Modernizing applications becomes a strategic necessity for businesses across industry lines, both for improving IT resilience and adaptability. But before companies can take steps to improve their IT systems, they first need to create a detailed application modernization roadmap.

When is application modernization needed?

Application modernization involves replacing legacy applications and outdated digital platforms, and rewiring their infrastructure, architecture and core features. Modernizing legacy apps can help enterprises reduce operational costs, improve business agility, maintain compliance and security and enhance performance. Legacy systems typically have two characteristics that make modernization desirable:

  • They are difficult to update and integrate with bleeding-edge technologies
  • Scaling them up is complex and costly

Currently, many companies are focusing on deploying cloud-based applications and infrastructure to make their IT systems more flexible and cost-effective. Research from Gartner found that more than $1.3 trillion in IT spending will be impacted by the shift to cloud computing by 2022. Realistically, any deployment that enhances a company’s digital operations can be considered a form of “modernization.” But how can business leaders tell when is the right time to make use of application modernization services? Typically, there are four factors that drive the adoption of new digital platforms and modernization strategies:

  • Economic and market trends
  • Customer demographic trends
  • Increased stress on traditional IT applications
  • The impact of work-from-home mandates

The best way to prepare for a large-scale IT transition is to create a comprehensive application modernization roadmap. These implementation plans should take into account an enterprise’s current IT posture and outline every stage of the modernization journey. These blueprints should also offer clear deployment goals and benchmarks to measure the success of the project in the long term.

Creating an application modernization roadmap

One of the most common modernization strategies is to break down monolithic applications into a collection of small, loosely coupled microservices. This architecture allows for the rapid and reliable delivery of complex applications and enables enterprises to constantly evolve their technology stack. However, since every business has its own needs and budgetary constraints, no two application modernization roadmaps will be identical. By incorporating design thinking methodology, you can help flesh out the modernization process in more detail, ensuring new projects serve a specific purpose and have clearly defined goals. Here’s a quick breakdown of a basic application modernization roadmap:

Stage 1: Vision setting and “as is” analysis

Before rolling out new digital platforms and applications, you should take a detailed inventory of all the hardware, software and business apps currently in use. Next, you’ll want to conduct an application evaluation to determine how easy it will be to migrate your IT portfolio to the target architecture. Hosting collaborative workshops is crucial at this stage, as key stakeholders across departments must work together to define the goals and strategies for the modernization project. After creating a list of modernization-ready applications, businesses should prioritize transformations that will add real value to their workflows. Key questions include:

  • Which legacy systems are most out of date?
  • Which legacy applications are leading to a decline in employee productivity and performance?
  • How are outdated systems and applications impacting the customer experience?

Stage 2: Prioritization and target operation modeling

Once the initial assessment is completed, the next step is to start prioritizing applications and business processes that need to be modernized. During this stage, you should balance present business needs with considerations about the future of your organization. This will allow for a more targeted implementation plan that includes governance and transition recommendations, process standardization and a reduction in the total cost of ownership. A prioritization framework can also help you create a modernization schedule and start mapping out the project from end to end.

Stage 3: Survey the market for available IT solutions

After the application assessment and prioritization stages, you’ll need to survey the market to locate bleeding-edge solutions that can add tangible value to your computing environment. Enterprises must focus on finding a golden ratio where technology and business goals are in complete synergy. However, the oversaturation of the digital operations markets can make it difficult to identify solutions that meet existing and future needs. When researching new technologies, company should focus on:

  • Agility
  • Scalability
  • Cost control
  • Customization features
  • IT and data security

Modern techniques that enable application modernization include microservices, DevOps, cloud transformation, low-code application platforms, containerization and customizable APIs. Microservice architecture and containerization are particularly important to application modernization. Microservice architecture protocols are lightweight, allowing companies to easily build and maintain new applications, improve development efficiency and increase the resilience of business-critical operations. Containerization, a form of operating system virtualization, involves running applications in isolated user environments using a shared OS. This helps ensure key business apps run the same, regardless of the underlying infrastructure. Keep in mind, it’s important to locate both operational and technology-driven solutions to create a long-term blueprint for digital transformation.

Stage 4: Implementation and ongoing management

Creating a tailor-fit application modernization roadmap requires careful planning, proactive change management and input from stakeholders with different backgrounds. To set your company up for success, you should study as-is architecture, define migration goals and strategy and take steps to minimize downtime and other disruptions. During the deployment phase, you should hold regular workshops to monitor progress and seek feedback from end-users.

iOPEX’s application modernization services help clients transform their applications landscape into a digital-ready, cloud-ready and agile ecosystem. This holistic approach ensures your modernization roadmap will enhance employee and customer experiences, drive revenue growth and eliminate back- and front-end inefficiencies that waste time and money. We deliver this expert insight through our digital operations framework, which creates unity between business processes, technologies and people.

To learn more about our application modernization services, check out our low-code application development platform and support framework.

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