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Successful Application Modernization Strategies

How to Succeed in your Application Modernization Projects

Application modernization is the process of applying new technologies to existing legacy applications to improve their efficiency, reduce operating costs and improve scalability or provide new functionality.

One of the main outcomes of an application modernization project is a modern application that can easily scale to meet user demand while staying at the forefront of technological innovation and security, oftentimes incorporating DevOps and SRE (Site Reliability Engineering) along with continuous delivery as part of the project.

Application modernization makes it easier for businesses to innovate and respond to changing market conditions.

Application Modernization Done Right

The application modernization process can be a daunting and complex endeavor, but it is an essential step toward the successful application of modern IT solutions and with a strategic software development partner, like NearForm, the transition can be smoother and have a transformative effect on the ways of working and doing business.

Understand the Effects on the Organization

There are a lot of ways to approach modernizing applications. One of the most valuable things to consider, especially to businesses and enterprises that are trying to transform the way that they're working, is how the new application is also going to change the way their teams are interacting.

Team structure needs to be questioned and modernized. Modern applications require new and more collaborative ways of working together which improve productivity, inspire innovation and empower developers to work with exciting tools and technologies. Organizations should look inwards and ask whether or not their current team structure is set up to succeed.

"Are developers productive within your organization?"

"Are there opportunities for us to look at the platforms that they're using to accelerate development, time to market in their productivity?"

It's going to change not only the way users are interacting with their systems but also all the people that are supporting and sustaining these systems. One of the hallmarks of modern software development is that everyone needs to have the tools, skills and processes in place in order to be enabled to continue sustainably supporting those systems.

Understand the Effects on Users

Another important aspect of application modernization is behaviors and, first and foremost, users as a North Star. It's important to ask questions from a user-centric viewpoint.

"How do you want your users to interact with the system?"

"What are the capabilities of your legacy system that you can continue to leverage, but may need to be changed?"

"What are the new capabilities that you need to build in order to better support those users in how you want them to interact with your technologies?"

Organizations must consider, first and foremost, behavior, thinking about how all these things align from top to bottom. Users should be a North Star to the teams that are actually supporting these applications and mission-critical systems for an organization.

Establish Goals

While it may seem obvious, one of the key questions an organization should ask is, "how are you going to define success?" As application modernization has become a sort of buzzword in the digital transformation world, businesses need to understand what it means to modernize and what they hope to gain from the endeavor. Without a proper roadmap, the path can become political very quickly

Organizations need to think about how they're going to measure that modernization journey and then, with that, determine the frameworks to use moving forward. Because the legacy frameworks that they used to get to where they are today are probably not going to be the best tools moving forward.

It's important to define in detail the OKRs of the application modernization journey in a way that applies lean governance and is actually empowering people throughout the organization to be able to make the right decisions.

Lean Governance

Lean governance is also a pretty important factor for making sure that the project is a success and scalable throughout the organization.

Modernization that just happens from the top down is probably not going to be effective. While it's imperative to have executive-level support, people on teams need to be empowered to make certain decisions as well. The people that are doing all this work to make the organization better should also be rewarded as they continue to modernize the organization and the systems that are critical for the business to continue.

How to Determine When to Modernize Legacy Applications

At the beginning of any modernization project, it is important for businesses to conduct a thorough evaluation of the current state of their enterprise and existing infrastructure to identify possible gaps between their current application environment and business requirements. This will help determine what applications are ready for modernization.

One industry that is seeing a lot of application modernization projects currently is the Financial Services industry. Fintech startups are being born in the cloud every month it seems. They have access to all these services that the cloud provides and they have extremely lean and very fast-paced teams. They can get new features to market very quickly.

The established financial institutions are feeling the competition as the Fintech startups are taking a large part of the market share, which is resulting in a push to accelerate cloud adoption and adopt modern ways of developing and innovating.

Some of the signals to be aware of that could mean it's a good time to start planning an application modernization journey are:

  • Competition: when businesses feel the pressure of competitors outperforming their targets due to modern approaches it's probably past time to begin the modernization journey
  • Time-to-market: if it takes a long time to push out new releases and is a pain to innovate and evolve an existing product, modernizing is a good option to consider.
  • Compliance: if systems security was not a first-class citizen for the an existing app it is probably time to do a complete refactor or leverage certain methodologies to break apart that system and rebuild it.
  • New Revenue Sources: continuous integration and innovation coupled with scalable architecture can open many opportunities for new revenue streams.
  • Savings: if technical debt is eating up the development budget moving to a new system can free up developers to work on new features rather than fixing bugs.

Organizations that are recognizing these signals should begin looking for an experienced partner to collaborate with sooner rather than later.

NearForm's Role as a Strategic Partner

At NearForm we take an outcome-based approach to software consulting and application modernization is at the heart of our practice. We actively seek out projects that will allow us to make a positive impact on our client's organizations. We are constantly improving our practices so that we can bring robust solutions to the table which allow us to meet the client's needs, improve the client's capabilities and empower clients to innovate, grow and scale their applications long after the inital engagement is finished.

“"What NearForm really brings to the table is almost like a trifecta between the consulting, the engineering, and the product to get best of breed and to really modernize, not just your application, but really your whole organization."

Akin Walker, Client Principal, NearForm”

Asking the Right Questions

As a partner, it's important to be aligned with our clients to make sure we are delivering the maximum value.

Based on our extensive experience we know the questions to ask that will help facilitate the conversations which bring the project to life.

In consulting, we often hear things like, "We want to move to the cloud."

Our role is to understand why and formulate a roadmap for reaching that objective. We don't just say, "great, we can do that". Investing in technology for the sake of technology without really thinking about the impact to the business is a sure path to a disastrous outcome.

We work to understand the motivations and objectives behind this sudden push to move to a modern cloud platform.

If the objectives and motivation are not aligned with the advantages that moving to the cloud brings it's time to dig deeper and get to the root of the problem. Because moving to the cloud may not be best for an organization depending on their goals, but we have the knowledge to make that call, devise alternate solutions, such as a hybrid cloud set up, and implement the best approach alongside our partners.

A Comprehensive Approach

Working with NearForm as a partner is more than just working with a technology consultant or software architect. We take a top-down approach to not just modernizing an application but helping to shape client organizations from the top down so that they are not only getting the best technology solutions but are getting the organizational structure and internal capabilities that will empower them to get the most out of their applications.

Strategy is more than key decisions about architecture and infrastructure. Product strategy, design, user journeys, etc. all play a big role in determining whether a modernization project will succeed or fail. Our 10 years of experience working with organizations on holistic modernization efforts gives us that unique perspective and insight to make sure the project is successful.

“"When you have that strategic partner that gives you that perspective, they show you the roadmap, they give you the confidence that they can actually execute this. And then they actually do execute. It only validates that you have chosen the right partner."

Akin Walker, Client Principal, NearForm”

Application modernization is a journey, not a task to be completed. Working with a partner that recognizes the importance of the journey, like NearForm, can help de-risk the modernization effort by establishing a strong foundation, adhering to a roadmap and positively influencing the cultures of client organizations.

Enabling Clients and Building Capability

In order to get the most out of any application modernization project, it's important for us to work alongside client teams and build their capabilities in the architecture, tools and technologies as the project progresses.

New system architectures sometimes require organizational restructuring or developer upskilling to get the most out of the products we create. We work with the tools and technologies that developers love to work with, increase developer productivity and bring that passion for Developer Experience to all of our client projects.

“"We bring that senior talent to the teams as we're building out, refactoring new capabilities for systems as well."

Akin Walker, Client Principal, NearForm”

Read more about application modernization in this comprehensive article from RedHat - Understanding Application Modernization .

Insight, imagination and expertly engineered solutions to accelerate and sustain progress.