After years of talk, we’re finally seeing proof the business world is embracing a long-delayed journey into widespread digital transformation. According to Rackspace’s The State of Application Modernization survey, two-thirds of 1,400 IT decision-makers from around the world said their business was engaged in digital transformation at a systemic level. This has promising implications for the ability of those businesses to elevate their performance and opportunities in the long run.
However, we don’t see the modernization process as having an endpoint. Organizations should always be looking to use the latest languages, frameworks, and platforms; not for their own sake, but as a way of adding the most value to business users, customers, and their overall enterprise.
When we see businesses doing this right, they almost always have an application modernization strategy consisting of very clear pillars that carry from one project to the next. What are they? Here are a few that we keep in mind in our own projects – and you should too.
1.) Unifying Stakeholders on the Project
Right from the start, effective application modernization needs to have a unified vision. Business stakeholders are essential to sign off on the final direction. They must agree on the destination and the necessary steps to usher the current platform onto the cloud or into a more scalable and accessible form. Achieving that goal without devolving into design-by-committee is easier said than done.
One of the key fundamentals during this stage is asking the right questions that strike up conversations to reveal the real needs addressed and value-add created by the modernized application. These questions can get to the root answers:
- What current value is provided by the legacy application?
- What value does the legacy application restrict you from achieving?
- What are the operating costs of the current application?
- What will it cost to modernize and maintain a new application?
- What is the projected timeline for application modernization?
- Should the project be modernized in its current form, should it be broken into various applications, or should it be expanded?
- Who will be using the end application?
- How does this application modernization project align with business or operational goals?
At the end of the planning process, your organization should have precise answers to each of these questions. Otherwise, your project may lack a clear destination with delineated goals, which can—and often will—cause the development team to deviate from the intended path.
2.) Nurturing the User Experience
If you are modernizing an application, there is a clear opportunity to improve upon any shortcomings within the current user experience. Rehosting or a “lift and shift” strategy only works if the legacy application functions fine but needs the accessibility and portability of cloud-based platforms. Otherwise, you’ll likely need to either replace or rewrite what exists, which requires uncovering your customers’ or end users’ real needs.
More than asking point blank what users want, the requirements-gathering phase of the application modernization process needs to take an omnidirectional approach to their experience.
- What are users’ goals?
- What are their perceptions? How do they think about your tool?
- How do their experiences shape their interactions?
- What are their pet peeves? What ruins the user experience?
Finding the answers to these and other questions give you a holistic view that will only enhance the performance and satisfaction for the modernized application. Whether users want expanded features, greater portability, faster turnaround time on their current journey, or a completely different ask, you have an opportunity to integrate a servant partnership mentality (one of our own cornerstones) into your process.
3.) Fortifying Application Security
Are you thinking about security? As application modernization elevates the performance and accessibility of core business platforms, the process itself opens a world of cyber threats that organizations need to anticipate and monitor. The same connectivity that makes cloud-based tools desirable for your end users is also an asset to industrious hackers.
With the goal of keeping the good and reducing the risk of the bad, more organizations are adopting a DevOps Security or a DevSecOps mentality. This approach to the IT lifecycle takes the interdisciplinary tactics of DevOps and adds the component of security by design. Every step of the lifecycle not only incorporates development best practices and continuous improvement into the routine but conjectures the types of tactics hackers will use to sabotage application security.
Again, this mindset is at odds with the old school “lift and shift” approach. More often, application modernization will require a reassessment of data flows and functional requirements to bake protection and security into the final product. Everything from app segmentation through microservices to zero trust security frameworks are necessary to consider as you reevaluate your development initiative.
However, by combining a security mindset into culture and practices, your IT team will be better equipped to migrate applications at faster speeds without sabotaging your overall security.
4.) Breaking Monoliths into Microservices
In the past, the task of updating an application often resulted in migrating the comprehensive functionality of one behemoth platform onto a similar or larger system. With that thinking, it’s not too long before you have a Tower of Babel, a structure too big for its own good, and you sabotage your own good intentions.
Application modernization strategies have shifted away from the idea of building monolithic on-prem platforms to creating microservices with the agility and scalability to offer a more consistent and reliable experience. The goal is to create modular components that can be continuously developed and enhanced with each iteration, all without disturbing the experience for your end users.
Before you modernize your application, ask yourself:
- Is your larger project actually several smaller, quick-win projects in disguise? Which features can stand on their own? Though you still want your app ecosystem to be interoperable, there is often an opportunity to create modular divisions that allow rapid updates and scalable performance.
- What is your timeline? Can you extend the longer project for faster short-term wins? Microservices extend the initial delivery timeline as you need to make more investment in the design and division of applications upfront.
In the end, these types of improvements go over well with users. In an IBM survey of 1,200 IT executives, developer executives, and developers, 30% have higher customer satisfaction and retention and 28% percent have improved application quality and performance.
Picking a Partner That Embodies These Values
In all four instances, checking boxes is not enough. The core of good application modernization requires an ability to instinctively take these actions at every phase of the development lifecycle. And if the project itself is involved and will pull your IT team away from other crucial projects, you’ll need to work with IT solution providers.
You want a partner that embraces DevOps in their methodology, keeping security and quality assurance in mind throughout the entire process. They also need to think of stakeholders and end users, getting everyone’s buy-in before proceeding forward with their development process. If and when there are changes to your legacy application, you need a partner that can think in terms of microservices, breaking down big components into scalable and high-performing pieces.
More than that, they need to realize that application modernization and digital transformation are not an end of the road, but the beginning of a journey, preparing your business to take the next step forward when the time comes.
Are you looking for ways to elevate your application modernization strategy without having to lift heavy weight? Find out how our custom development solutions can impact your business.