What is Application Modernization? And Why is it Important?

Most companies who have been around for a while have collected legacy applications. They do more or less what you want them to do, and changing involves training and overcoming a lot of historical use. However, legacy applications are often inefficient and often come with security risks. Thankfully, there is an alternative to simply replacing your legacy applications with brand new software that your employees then have to take hours to learn. In comes application modernization.

What is Application Modernization?

Application modernization takes your existing legacy applications and updates them with modern capabilities. When done correctly, the experience for users changes for the better.

Applications can also be reworked to operate through the cloud, reducing local IT costs and improving performance. Additionally, the UI can be updated to work on mobile devices.

This doesn’t mean completely reprogramming your applications. It means taking the original framework and improving it to meet your current needs. Modernization can be non-invasive, in which case the app is simply linked to a better front end. Or it can be invasive, in which case heavy coding is done to, say, rewrite an application written in COBOL in Java. Either way, you keep whatever customization you might have paid for over the years.

However, this can be expensive, especially if you need to do heavy re coding. So, why should you do it?

Why Modernize Your Applications?

There are a number of reasons why you should modernize your applications. Not all of these may apply to your current situation, but many likely do:

  • It allows you to retire legacy hardware. Do you have a mainframe just to run a legacy database that won’t work on modern systems? Modernizing that database lets you get rid of the mainframe, get the space back, and save energy.
  • It greatly improves security. Unsupported legacy applications often develop security holes as hackers improve their tools. Your IT team wastes time patching these holes, only to have more develop. With modernization, you can patch your applications and make sure they are compliant with any regulations.
  • The cloud is now affordable and reliable. This allows you to reduce your investment in on-premises architecture. Moving applications to the cloud makes it easier for your employees to work from anywhere, from home, or while traveling. Modernizing applications lets you take better advantage of this.
  • People expect more sophisticated user interfaces. An employee faced with a legacy application that has an old, clunky interface is likely to balk. In fact, it can even limit the people you can hire. If you are still using COBOL applications then you will need to hire a COBOL programmer, and they are often in high demand.
  • It improves functionality. You can add features easily, and poll your employees on what they would like to see changed and improved. The limitations of your old, unsupported software can be transcended, allowing for greater productivity.
  • It reduces cost. While there is an upfront cost to modernization, modernized apps cost less and take less time to maintain. Your IT team is no longer having to try and maintain an app designed to be run locally on the cloud. You can lower your utility bill by moving power-hungry computing technology off site.

Modernizing your applications clearly has a number of benefits. So, what are the results of modernization?

What are the Benefits of Modernization?

The benefits of modernization can be clearly seen in the real world, with companies such as Goldman Sachs using modernization to simplify their workflows and improve customer experience. Other companies have seen significant improvements in their workflow and employee morale. Modernization simply makes your company a better place to work as well as far more efficient than clinging to legacy systems, no matter how good they may have been when first introduced.

The ROI of modernization is such that you can surge ahead of your competitors and become more agile. However, it requires knowing what approach to use. You need to know when to simply re-host an app and when you need to re-code or re-platform it. However, when correctly done, the process should be seamless from the user side. Obviously, issues can crop up during the transition, but they should be minor and easily resolved.

So, this is all a matter for IT, right? Wrong.

Who Should Care About Modernization?

The easy, obvious temptation is to hand application modernization over to your IT department. However, the fact is that at a business level you need to have set goals for modernization, and those cut across your entire company. You need to consider:

  • How much you can move to the cloud.
  • What employees need in terms of an improved user interface and/or new
  • How much IT support is going to cost for the new systems (it should be a lot less).
  • The upfront cost, and whether you should try to modernize everything at once. If not, which applications have priority?
  • The needs and desires of your customers.
  • Any compliance needs you might have, such as privacy and security regulations.
  • Which features of the legacy applications you absolutely need to keep.

Therefore, it’s important for everyone on your team to care about, and be involved with, the application modernization process. Employees should have input on their preferences, especially if designing a new front end. Customer support needs to be involved, especially if anything you are modernizing hooks into an e-commerce store or other customer-facing system.

Application modernization should be planned and conducted with your overall business needs in mind, and should not be a one size fits all matter (if it was, then you could simply retire and replace systems as needed).

Your business needs to modernize your legacy applications. However, you need to do so with thought and planning to both reduce downtime and ensure that the new systems match your business needs and those of your employees and customers.

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