App Modernisation and Digital Transformation – A Journey

In the era of digital transformation, organisations are modernising their platforms in preparation for change. Businesses need to adapt to new technology, increased security requirements and the regulatory mandates that result. Transformation allows companies to stay competitive and remain compliant, and, to transform, they need to start on a journey of modernisation.

Transformation isn’t a one-off process; it’s a journey that aims to help manoeuvre the constantly evolving digital landscape and competitive environment. Companies that have legacy applications are at increased risk from the competition of digitally-native startups. Application modernisation is a core pathway in support of business transformation, allowing legacy systems to work together with newer cloud-native applications.

The Challenges of the Modern Business

Digital technologies are redefining every industry and creating many challenges for the businesses that operate within them. There is a rising pressure to improve efficiencies, focus on innovation, and build digital versions of physical offerings. CEOs across the globe are giving more importance to digital platforms, and their business models are changing as a result. The potential for digital disruption is a real threat, and early adopters are arming themselves with digital technologies to allow them to evolve accordingly.

The need to modernise both core systems and ways of working has several key drivers:

  • Rising customer expectations – end users are demanding new experiences, and they want them to be immediate, personalised and, of course, perfect. Today’s consumer quickly shifts their loyalties if businesses don’t give them the experience they expect.

  • Data volumes – with the rapid uptake in digital technologies comes a huge amount of data. Data needs to be shared between applications, handled sensitively and anaylsed to learn and gain competitive advantage.

  • Security concerns – with increased data volumes, as well as an increase in the number of platforms and applications on which data is used and generated, comes the need to protect it. New laws have come into force to protect consumers, and organisations need to ensure compliance to avoid serious business risk.

  • Shift to the Cloud – this essential part of digital transformation calls for a rethinking in workload deployments. On top of this, business-critical legacy applications can be too costly and risky to rewrite. The platforms need to be integrated with cloud-based platforms to ensure maximum yield.

Applications, both new and old, need to be sufficient to meet the demands that are being put upon modern businesses. Applications need to be modernised at a speed that meets business requirements while fitting within budgetary constraints. The answer is to find a flexible approach to modernisation to meet the requirements of each application.

The Value of Legacy Applications

Many businesses have legacy applications which provide core infrastructure and are critical to operations. However, these applications should not be exempt from digital transformation. In fact, there is an even greater need to transform legacy systems as it is the only way to leverage the value that they hold to an organisation.

Digital transformation results in new business models and engagement models. However, these models have to be rooted in core business systems. A company can adopt a new mobile channel with an AI-driven conversational interface. However, the conversations that take place on the new channel still need to link back to core systems. Transactions need to be handled, and they need to be handled securely, reliably and promptly. The interface between new applications and core legacy applications should be carefully managed.

Application Modernisation as Part of Digital Transformation

Every business approaches modernisation differently according to their business strategy. Some applications may require the code to be changed to suit how they are consumed. Another application might require a new infrastructure or API-based architecture. Others might need to be modernised to help widen access scenarios.

Ultimately, applications are modernised incrementally based on business requirements, priorities and budget. Requirements may include:

  • Modernising the application experience

  • Modernising the access method

  • Driving integration and automation to create new workflows

  • Modernising the application code to improve application performance

  • Making legacy application functionality available to web-based services

  • Leveraging new business models

The process of application modernisation involves not only upgrading the supporting software and hardware, but also overhauling business processes. Upgrading applications needs to be handled as part of a wider cultural change, with support and training for all staff involved.  Ultimately, this ties modernisation to digital transformation; it is a company-wide change which requires buy-in from throughout the business.

The Ongoing Journey Towards Modernisation and Transformation

Application modernisation was previously primarily based on a ‘rip and replace’ approach. The journey towards transformation, however,  involves an integrated modernisation strategy that is aimed at gaining significant business value from the outset. Legacy applications, when modernised, can benefit from increased agility, new functionality, and improved security.

A more structured approach is required for application modernisation than purely replacing existing systems. As multiple platforms are often consuming and generating a huge amount of data, customised applications need to be handled carefully. Having a strategy for the ongoing journey is the only way to integrate modernisation and transformation. This involves looking at the needs of each application individually. Decisions can then be made as to whether to lift and shift applications over to the cloud, optimise them for the cloud environment, or completely overhaul them with a new modernised architecture that takes full advantage of cloud capabilities.

Digital transformation is not a destination, but rather a journey that needs to constantly evolve. Modernising applications is a primary way to begin the process of transformation, to convert a business to become more digitally competent and to take advantage of the many benefits that come from working in the cloud. While applications may initially be migrated to the cloud, they can later be entirely modernised.  As a business continues to transform, its applications will move with it; the journey goes on.

Elevenses: The IBM 1130 Computing System Console

Introduced in 1965 it was IBM’s least expensive computer at the time, aimed at price-sensitive technical and engineering markets. Bizarre accounts exist of how the 1130 was so-named (from some speculating it was the time of day the product planners reached a stalemate regarding what to call the product). With the total production run of the 1130 estimated to be in the region of 10,000, the machine claims itself many notable users including ‘father of the spreadsheet’ Dan Bricklin, creator of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet computer program for personal computers.