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Best practise for app modernization

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/niroworld)

For many businesses, app modernization can be an overwhelming task. Often, it can be difficult to know where to start: apps have to communicate with each other and to work on multiple networks and devices. With so many different routes and potential options, deciphering the best approach to modernize each unique business application can be a headache in itself; especially considering some enterprises have over 900 applications.

However, it’s becoming essential to keep apps up to date to maintain business operations, especially considering most employees are working remotely. As a result, it’s clear that businesses need to rethink the ways they assess and manage modernization programs so that they can set clear goals, measurement and communication.

The strategy is figuring out what not to do

When it comes to transformation, jumping ahead can often lead to ill-informed and rushed decisions that don’t address business requirements. Instead, taking the time to carefully consider the requirements and the business objectives is usually the best approach for drawing up a successful plan of action. This helps businesses get a holistic view of their digital estate to determine how different applications are connected, map their portfolio, rethink old processes and incorporate new ways of thinking, and reconsider their resources.

Once they have assessed all of this, they are finally ready to set their plan in motion one step at a time. Often businesses begin implementing one approach, see the benefits and then adapt to other approaches, adding more feathers to their bow, before progressing along their modernization journey. This allows the project to advance at a calculated pace and enables the IT team to course correct as and when needed.

But a plan is only successful if it can be measured. This can be a real challenge for companies that haven’t fully analyzed what they want to achieve and how modernizing apps will support the business. Benefits can include anything from a surge in productivity, increased collaboration, reduced outsourcing or better access to data. What matters is that there is a comprehensive measurement framework in place to demonstrate the value of the project to the business.

Consolidation and performance are key

When considering the different applications within a digital estate, working out which applications can be consolidated is also a useful exercise. Whilst many organizations have a complex web of applications, there tends to be many that are no longer relevant and can be quite quickly replaced or even rebuilt. Businesses need to reflect on how to rationalize each estate, get a clear understanding of each app and its interdependencies to ensure they remove any that aren’t driving significant advantages and are, in fact, constraining innovation.

Introducing microservices can help to understand how the existing estate can be both rationalized and often split into smaller individual microservices that can in turn support business agility, ease of change and ultimately scale and performance. Combined with a solid cloud strategy based on multi-cloud or distributed cloud architecture for portability, it provides organizations with the flexibility and security they need to address their customer and internal needs without compromising on security. 

Businesses must also understand how each application is performing in its current environment through data and measurement, including how they behave under different load patterns, the user experience of the applications and how this all relates to underlying infrastructure performance.

Something that many organizations overlook during this process, however, is a deep dive into the type of errors that are occurring with applications and finding out why they are happening. For any applications that drive critical business functions, having a clear baseline of performance helps demonstrate the correlation between the business KPIs and the underlying technology performance.

These steps give organizations a solid foundation for making informed, data-driven decisions as they develop their modernization strategies. Failing to do so leads to IT teams relying on guesswork and employee feedback to understand how their apps are functioning — which can be misleading and unreliable when compared to accurate data analysis, and provide an unclear picture of the necessity of app modernization. In short, understanding your digital estate saves time, money and effort, and avoids costly mistakes that will be hard to justify back to the business.

Don’t do it alone

Apps will always need to be adjusted to evolving needs. But now, the IT team has the right strategies and technologies to help it assess priorities and bring in help from across the business as it prepares the infrastructure for Britons to return to work in the coming months.

Legacy systems and architectures that no longer meet the company’s requirements are yet another issue that gives the IT team headaches. For many organizations, digital transformation is only possible with a complete end-to-end rebuild, which is extremely costly and complex. In this instance, the best approach is to modernize existing workloads that can create the most value. But how, when everything works on an outdated system? In most instances, modernizing applications doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of legacy hardware. Instead, it’s about embracing new technologies, people and processes in addition to the existing stack.

One solution is adopting the right technology, such as a low-code, which empowers businesses to operate on a higher abstraction level than traditional code. This allows for people across the entire business, whether they are a developer or not, to collaborate in the application development process. It’s also much easier for non-technical employees to know exactly what is needed within an application as they are working much closer with the end user than the IT team usually does. Involving business stakeholders early on in this process helps avoid costly, time-consuming friction between business and IT, and ensures IT builds apps that satisfy end-user and business requirements.

Technology like low-code can help businesses to achieve their application modernization goals by accelerating the time from ideation to delivery, removing inefficiencies in the development process, and actively encouraging collaboration between operations, development, and other less technical teams across the entire business.

Ultimately, although application modernization can be a daunting journey for any business, most companies already have access to the right framework to ensure integration isn’t such a lengthy and complex task. And while digital transformation and application modernization have always been important, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of businesses to rapidly adjust their operating models to support their staff. Empowering non-technical staff to participate in the modernization of apps alongside the IT team helps organizations to speed up the process whilst reducing the strain on IT teams and costs to the business.

Nick Ford, Chief Technology Evangelist, Mendix (opens in new tab)

Nick Ford is chief technology evangelist at Mendix, where he helps organisations rapidly embrace and execute digital projects to get the most out of the adoption of new technologies.