How to De-Risk Your App Modernisation Strategy

Legacy applications may well get the job done, but there comes a time when they can’t do it quickly or efficiently enough. Organisations need faster performance to compete and also advanced capabilities that are often extremely challenging to incorporate in monolithic software. The risk of avoiding application modernisation is a serious one. Siloed applications become a drain on company resources, custom code becomes increasingly complex, and costs begin to skyrocket. Modernisation solves many of these problems. So why hasn’t every organisation made the leap yet?

The Value of App Modernisation

Even though apps can become challenging to maintain, they are often fundamental to daily business operations. The arguments for modernisation seem apparent, but there is an underlying fear of change. Organisations can be cautious of making sweeping changes as they’re unsure how it will impact business services. Modernisation can easily be misunderstood in terms of cost and complexity. The concept of integrating legacy systems with new solutions can be overwhelming, especially when they have fundamental business value. Budgets are often stretched, focused on keeping the lights on instead of innovation. Meanwhile, IT teams are too busy to provide the analytics needed to inform application modernisation strategy.

The truth is, however, that the value of modernisation far outweighs the costs, perceived complexity and process of change that is involved. Legacy applications will only become a more significant burden as they age further. The total cost of ownership (TCO) of existing applications needs to be compared to any costs involved in making the change. What’s more, modernisation isn’t a one size fits all approach. There are many approaches and strategies to enable existing applications to be migrated, modernised or completely rebuilt. The crucial part is analysing any risks involved, creating a robust strategy and ensuring that applications can deliver business value quickly, efficiently and continually. 

The Challenges of App Modernisation

There is a lot of pressure on organisations to adopt cloud technologies, and rightfully so. However, identifying and assessing challenges is the key point before taking any steps towards modernisation. Legacy app modernisation doesn’t happen overnight. It can take many teams and many months or even years to transform effectively. Operational issues that may impact the business need to be taken into account.

A modernisation strategy should address the following challenges if technology performance is to be improved, and business disruption avoided:

  • Application knowledge – IT skills will be required to understand the components and complexities of existing applications. It is crucial to understand the interdependencies between them to ensure these are successfully incorporated into the new structure. 
  • Company culture – there can be resistance from legacy users to embrace new technologies. Employees are often settled in the existing systems, processes and ways of working. The whole organisation needs to be on board with the change and the benefits it will bring them. 
  • Resources – it’s vital to evaluate existing resources and whether they’ll be able to cope with changing demands in terms of volume and skill level required. 
  • Budgetary constraints – project managers need to have a clear understanding of the costs of modernisation and to allow contingency. Unknown dependencies due to complex application architecture can add expense and should be considered when developing a modernisation strategy. 
  • Business continuity – data transformation and code conversion are essential parts of application modernisation, but the focus should also be on businesses processes. It’s necessary to gain insight into how operations will be affected during and after any period of change.

As well as these challenges, it’s vital to address security, data integrity and functionality.

The Importance of a Robust Modernisation Strategy

While app modernisation makes good economic sense, it doesn’t automatically secure user satisfaction. Modernisation should result in increased agility, improved interoperability and lower costs. However, if infrastructure develops to be a cluster of moving parts that aren’t holistically managed, the applications will suffer. To build a robust strategy, application and infrastructure lifecycles need to be managed together. There is no benefit in making a decision purely based on the belief that modern is better. The complex connection that every piece of software has to the infrastructure must be considered. 

To build a strategy, it’s vital to understand how each application fits into the broader IT landscape of an organisation. A full understanding of infrastructure and architecture is required before effective modernisation can begin. To get the most from modernisation, the fundamental organisation of the IT department will change, including component, relations and principles of the systems that work within it. Ultimately the speed at which applications are modernised, delivered and maintained must meet business needs. With the right strategy, modernisation can provide value from the outset. 

Mitigating the Risks of App Modernisation

Without a robust modernisation strategy, the approach can be unnecessarily risky. This can happen due to schedule slippage, failure to meet objectives and significant cost overruns. Any strategy must consider functionality, time, disruption and data integrity. To mitigate the risks, businesses should create an incremental approach that allows them to gain significant beneficial progress towards the final objectives with each increment. 

To create an incremental and sustainable modernisation strategy, the following stages should be included:

  • Assess – understanding the existing on-premises environment and highlighting any current dependencies will help define modernisation priorities. This will ensure the modernisation plan is aligned with business needs. 
  • Migrate – there are several ways to move operations over to the cloud. It can be as simple as rehosting applications without making any code changes. Or as complicated as rebuilding them entirely to fully take advantage of cloud-native technologies. Each application often takes its own journey to the cloud, based on the business assessment. 
  • Optimise – to be successful; a modernisation strategy should include how the cloud-environment will be maintained. There are always further changes and increments that can be made, moving additional workloads, modernising other applications or improving capabilities. 
  • Secure – with the vast volumes of data that are consumed and generated by today’s application, security is fundamental. Cloud security management, monitoring and backup services should be included within modernisation strategy to ensure data is always available and that it meets regulatory requirements. 

By building a plan that involves all of these stages, it will mitigate risks and ensure it delivers on its promises. To create a sustainable modernisation strategy businesses should evaluate where they are, where they want to be, and how they’ll get there. With the right strategy, applications can deliver value quickly and efficiently. 

A Successful Journey to the Cloud

By not bringing data management capabilities in line with today’s capabilities, businesses can greatly suffer. Moving over to the cloud is a firm business choice, but it needs to be carefully managed. Modernisation shouldn’t be a painful undertaking, as long as a strategy is in place that assesses and manages the associated risks. By building an incremental strategy, app modernisation will deliver the scalability and flexibility needed to meet future business demands. 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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