How You Can Create New Business Value from Old Apps

The only thing that is certain in business is change. This is even more relevant when it comes to technology. There are constant improvements in hardware, infrastructure and methodologies that force organisations to evolve. It is only by accepting these developments that business demands can be met. The challenge is the old applications and legacy systems that need to be accounted for. Fortunately, change doesn’t have to mean rip and replace; it can come in the form or reuse or repurpose.

With the right approach, it is possible to create new business value from old apps. It comes in the form of modernisation, taking existing applications and transitioning them to more modern architectures and infrastructures. However, there are several ways to go about modernising apps and choosing the right one is vital to get the most out of existing applications. 

How Applications Have Become Outdated?

A lot has changed with regard to the development and deployment of business applications. Old applications were built in formats and languages that were unique to a particular processor or operating system. As such, the systems were both self-contained and sizeable. They needed upfront requirements and took a long time to develop. However, due to the rapid pace of technical innovation, these applications have lost their business value, becoming a drain on precious time and resources. 

Today, development and deployment processes are agile in nature, using the likes of DevOps to guide the creation of microservices. These new applications are usually cloud-based and are deployed on containers. They are developed in a highly collaborative nature and take advantage of automated and continuous integration and delivery. The functionality of modern applications is separated into components, which, using application programming interfaces (APIs), can be accessed by other services and applications. Modern applications are no longer tightly coupled to hardware. They are written in standards that can be easily deployed to different hardware, operating systems and hosts. Meanwhile, infrastructure has evolved from application-specific servers to scaled servers that support multiple applications. 

Bearing all this in mind, it’s easy to see how applications have become outdated. They are too large and restrictive, unable to integrate with other applications, platforms and services that have become vital to the way in which we work. Fortunately, however, there is a way to create new business value: through app modernisation.

What is App Modernisation?

Modernisation isn’t about adopting new technologies and practices; it is about what we do with old applications. They need to be able to work alongside the new technology that an organisation implements if they are going to continue to provide real business value. This includes being able to use the functionality and data from the old systems in new applications and also bringing the benefits of new processes and technologies to old applications. 

Application Modernisation Methods

There are many methods for modernising applications that allow for businesses to derive new business value. Using software development, the life and utility of existing applications can be extended and aligned with modern practices. There is no need to necessarily completely rewrite an application from scratch. In fact, even old legacy systems can benefit from modernisation without being entirely overhauled. Three of the most common software development patterns include:

  1. Lift and shift – this is the process of changing how existing applications are packaged and deployed. The process moves components, so they are on a more modern deployment platform. This allows for improved application performance with current and faster hardware, more flexibility with modern platforms and reduced operational costs by retiring one-off servers and centralising application management. 
  2. Augment with new layers – this is a development pattern that allows existing functionality to be accessible to new applications. When business critical functionality works well and has been tested and proven over time, it doesn’t make sense to redevelop. 
  3. Rewrite – rewriting doesn’t involve creating new applications from scratch. Moreover, it is the process of creating new functionality to replace existing applications. Rewriting is the most time-consuming and expensive of the modernisation approaches, and needs careful consideration in terms of its potential to deliver new business value. However, in the case of very old applications with unsupported operating systems and hardware, it may be the only way to derive new value over time. 

The Benefits of Application Modernisation

Obviously, the primary goal of modernising old applications is to derive new business value. However, it’s worthwhile taking into account that this can come in many forms. The key benefits of modernising existing apps include:

  • Enhanced productivity – by updating old apps to use modern application interfaces, business can create richer and more intuitive experiences. Modern apps are easy to navigate and faster to access, and productivity increases as a result. 
  • Increased relevance – there is often enormous potential in existing applications. By incorporating new features, old applications can more easily become relevant to changing business needs. 
  • Extended availability – with our more mobile workforces, making applications available regardless of time or place can make a significant difference. Modernising applications allows essential company information to be accessed from any device at any time, supporting business agility and growth. 
  • Improved reporting – by modernising applications, access to operational and customer data is made simpler and faster. This means that business decisions can be made more quickly, and businesses are able to respond to opportunities as they arise. 
  • Integrated capabilities – linking old applications to essential business systems such as email clients and desktop tools greatly increase workflow and productivity. 

Application modernisation can seem like a daunting process, but the opportunities for lowering operational costs should be a significant motivation. What’s more, Modernising existing applications is often quicker and less expensive than replacing them. By choosing the right modernisation process, organistionas are able to exploit data and systems company-wide, which creates enormous business value. 

It shouldn’t always have to be out with the old and in with the new. There are opportunities to enhance what we already have, to create value and adapt our existing applications to derive new business value. 

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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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