The Relevance of Application Modernization in the New Normal

Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.

Since 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call summoning his assistant Thomas Watson from the next room, communication technology has massively evolved. With technology advancements that followed, there came corresponding changes in the conduct of business. And the changing business climate of today demands high-performing software upgrades.

Earlier, organizations approached IT modernization initiatives incrementally, i.e., first addressing the most pressing issues and then targeting pain points as they came up, usually in extended one-to-three-year phases. However, under the present circumstances, organizations have to opt for a holistic IT modernization approach to fast-forward digital transformation in weeks. 

While digital disruption has been in the picture for years, the pandemic brought about the sudden need to support people, processes, and systems from home, severely straining unprepared organizations. Outdated, legacy systems often compromise security given their incompatibility with the latest OS, hardware, and network protocols. Aging applications also demand higher maintenance, licenses, skilled resources, etc., resulting in escalating costs.

Earlier, organizations approached IT modernization initiatives incrementally, i.e., first addressing the most pressing issues and then targeting pain points as they came up, usually in extended one-to-three-year phases. However, under the present circumstances, organizations have to opt for a holistic IT modernization approach to fast-forward digital transformation in weeks.

The Dependence of Organizations on Application Modernization Courtesy Covid-19

The pandemic threatened human health and also challenged the capabilities of organizations to cope with remote work styles. The need for the virtual collaboration of employees, workplace modernization, upgrading applications, and digitizing the interactions with customers that together constitute IT modernization saw a tremendous increase.

End-to-end IT modernization ensures that organizations are armed with the right technology capabilities for decades rather than just a few years because, let’s face it, digital disruption is going nowhere. Application modernization is a subset of IT modernization which is the subject of this blog.

Can Existing Applications Weather Today’s Digital Disruption?

Consider the below points to understand if your legacy software applications can cope with modern customer requirements:

  • Security

One major challenge many organizations face is ensuring the security of their data and business knowledge. Legacy systems can be a bottleneck when stepping up security given their incompatibility with the latest versions of OS/hardware or network protocols necessary to avoid security vulnerability.

  • Incompatibility with Latest Technology

Organizations with legacy systems may want to implement new technology/applications or upgrade other existing infrastructures. Legacy systems may prevent this, given their incompatibility with newer technologies.

  • Support and Maintenance Cost

The cost involved in maintaining a legacy application can be relatively high as (a) many legacy systems built on proprietary technology solutions require licensing from the provider, (b) some may require specific infrastructure and (c) the need to have specially skilled manpower to maintain the application, all of which will add up to the cost.

  • Resource Availability and Training

The technology used in the legacy system may need specific skill sets to maintain it. Such resources are scarcely available in the market and organizations will have to train them.

  • Single Point of Failure

Organizations that depend on legacy systems may find it as a single point of failure in their path to success. The criticality of the legacy system and upgrade costs often tempt organizations to stick to legacy systems.

  • Adaptability to Customer Requirements

The business may require new features or modifications to existing features to adapt to new market requirements. Modifying legacy systems is a high cost and time-consuming affair if not managed properly.

Plan Your Application Modernization

Here’s how Gartner defines application modernization:

“Application modernization services address the migration of legacy to new applications or platforms, including the integration of new functionality to provide the latest functions to the business. Modernization options include re-platforming, re-hosting, recoding, rearchitecting, re-engineering, interoperability, replacement, and retirement, as well as changes to the application architecture to clarify which option should be selected.”

Modernization is a Continuous Process

Modernization of applications in an organization should be an ongoing and continuous process and must be supported by the Management. Organizations should have a policy in place to define their application modernization approach. This policy should outline conditions that will determine the modernization of applications /infrastructure. Parameters may include: Duration, business need, technology change, legal requirements, technical support, security concerns, etc.

Each modernization cycle should have the following steps:

  1. Set the goal that is to be achieved from the modernization process. 
  2. Thoroughly understand applications and select those that are to be modernized based on priority.
  3. Choose a modernization approach for each application. 
  4. Monitor and measure change against your goals before, during and after modernization.
  5. Start over with step one.

Once organizations identify problems with obsolete or outdated applications, we suggest considering the modernization options listed below, depending on the current technology stack, business criticality, and application features.

1. Migration: This process moves applications from one computing environment to another, for example, moving applications to the cloud from on-premises servers or vice versa, etc.

  • Rehost: Move applications to another infrastructure (cloud, physical or virtual) without modifying its code.
  • Replatform: Upgrade legacy systems to the latest versions of the same technology or moved to a new open-source database with minimal code changes but not changing the business logic.

2. Enhancement: Enhancement employs certain modifications to the existing application. The business logic of the legacy system remains intact while improving performance.

  • Encapsulate: Extend the features and data available in the legacy system as services via an API. 
  • Refactor: Change insecure API to a REST API or optimize portions of code that create unnecessary load on the infrastructure.

3. Re-engineer: This modernization approach replaces legacy systems or demands complete reworking.

  • Rearchitect: Alter the code to move it to a new application architecture for exploiting better capabilities. 
  • Replace: Remove the existing application component altogether and replace it after studying new requirements.
  • Rebuild: Redesign or rewrite the application component from the very beginning while preserving its scope and specifications.

The pandemic made it clear that organizations must waste no time in their efforts to adopt, upgrade or transform their IT. It is about time that businesses invest in holistic IT and application modernization initiatives because clearly, digital evolution did not just stop with the invention of landlines.

End-to-end modernization tackles system upgrades and redefines the complete IT infrastructure of the organization. Adapt to fast changing market demands and stay ahead of your competition with latest and up-to-date applications embedded into the DNA of your organization. Established application service providers like CCS Technologies can help.