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How to Go About Modernizing Legacy Applications

The best practices around application modernization trends include evaluating legacy systems and their approach to modernization, choosing the most valuable strategy, mapping the workflow, conducting end-to-end automation, and addressing portability issues, among others.


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tony Stark

5 months ago | 4 min read

Change is the only constant, so goes the saying, wherein businesses across domains and geographies need to change and adapt for a host of reasons. These include the need to stay competitive, deliver better user experiences, control costs, launch new products or services, comply with regulations, and others. Digital transformation has become the mantra for businesses to deliver business value, strengthen brand equity, and drive customer loyalty, to name a few goals. It involves making incremental changes to the application landscape, transforming the organization’s culture as mandated by Agile-DevOps, and implementing technologies to speed up delivery and improve quality.

Digital transformation involves taking an application modernization approach combined with quality engineering to change the existing processes and methodologies. It leads to building intelligent workflows, removing silos, enhancing collaboration, and accelerating time-to-market. According to Statista, global spending on digital transformation by 2024 is expected to reach $2.4 trillion.

However, notwithstanding the drive towards app modernization as part of digital transformation, most businesses fail to achieve the stated objectives. This is due to the fact that they do not necessarily follow an application modernization strategy across the digital landscape. Remember, enterprise application modernization is not a generic or mere incremental improvement. In fact, it entails streamlining or implementing processes and optimizing applications to get measurable business outcomes. Besides, it also involves changing the organization’s work culture and skillsets to adapt to and benefit from the new technology. The steps to roll out a successful modernization journey include:

  • Assessing the current state of the legacy ecosystem and the need to drive application modernization.
  • Choosing the right application modernization services that can deliver the necessary services and meet defined goals.
  • Crafting a roadmap having multiple journeys with each adding value without hampering business continuity.
  • Transforming the organizational culture, skillset, and governance to take advantage of the new workflows.

Steps to Modernize Legacy Applications of Businesses

App modernization is not about replacing existing legacy applications with new ones. It involves integrating some of the legacy applications with the new workflows by adding new features or changing their UI. The best practices to modernize legacy systems are as follows:

1. Evaluate legacy systems: Businesses should evaluate their legacy systems to identify the issues or impediments that such systems have due to their architecture or functionality. They can use drivers to implement app modernization through digital product engineering. These drivers may include business value, business fit, and agility. For instance, if the legacy ecosystem does not meet the new requirements of a business, it needs to be modernized or transformed to fit into the workflow.

Also, the legacy ecosystem needs to be upgraded to provide better business value. Furthermore, legacy applications that do not have the agility to keep pace with evolving business needs may increase costs and risks for the business. The other drivers include cost, risk, and complexity. If the legacy systems are costly to own, the technology is too complex to handle, or regulatory compliance is difficult to implement, then they need to be modernized.

2. Evaluate Modernization: According to Gartner, there are seven options to modernize applications, as mentioned below:

  • Encapsulate the data of legacy applications and functions, and extend its features. Thereafter, make the features available as a service using APIs.
  • Deploy the application to another platform, be it on a cloud, virtual, or physical, without changing anything (features, code, or functions).
  • Migrate to a new platform while making minimal changes to the code. The changes do not relate to the code structure, functions, or features.
  • Improve the nonfunctional attributes of the existing code by optimizing and restructuring it.
  • Alter the code and shift the legacy application to a new architecture to leverage better capabilities.
  • Rebuild the application from scratch while keeping its scope and specifications intact.
  • Replace the legacy application components with new ones.

3.Select the Most Valued Approach to Modernization: Select an approach to modernization that offers a higher value to the business. And while doing so, map the seven options mentioned above and their impact in terms of risk, cost, technology, architecture, and functionality. Modernizing legacy applications often involves choosing between rebuilding, replacing, or altering the code. Each of these options carries costs and risks, and so, it is better to weigh all options before choosing one that will have the maximum impact with the minimum effort.

4. Map the Workflow: Organizations are often beset with a mind-boggling array of tools, platforms, and plug-ins to perform mundane tasks. It is important to map out a development workflow where key dependencies for every tool used across teams are identified. It is important to verify whether any new application added to the existing legacy system can synergize and add value to the software delivery pipeline.

5. End-to-end Automation: Not only tests but every phase of application development and delivery should be automated. Full automation of the SDLC done using CI/CD software can allow organizations to achieve more with fewer resources. Besides, it can mitigate management concerns about stability issues arising out of application modernization.

6. Address Portability Concerns: Many times, application modernization projects fail to achieve their goals as teams do not look into ensuring application portability. They only focus on the narrow prism of migrating and hosting legacy applications. Application portability can ensure their run across on-premise and cloud platforms without having to go through major overhauls. Importantly, with portability, enterprises can future-proof their applications against changes and achieve success.

Conclusion

App modernization needs to be customized as per the specific requirements of businesses. It can deliver enormous benefits, in terms of a 14% boost to revenues and a 40% reduction in maintenance and operational costs. However, with the right strategy, businesses can transform their legacy ecosystem. What they need is to partner with experienced application modernization servicesand accelerate the transformation efforts. The latter can provide the expertise, technology, tools, and modernization execution plans customized to the individual needs of businesses.

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