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Major benefits and risks of modernizing your business applications
Applications play a crucial role in the way we work and interact. They help businesses expand the functionality of the product, improve productivity, optimize costs, and so much more. However, achieving results with obsolete tools, which are not adaptable to the changing business environment, isn’t possible. This is where application modernization comes in.
It would be naive to think that the way from a legacy application to a modern variant is covered with rose petals. Nothing of the kind! In fact, it’s quite thorny. But forewarned is forearmed. That’s why before deciding to opt for something new, it is vital to evaluate the risks and challenges that may crop up in the process.
There are a bunch of reasons why not everyone rushes into modernization. But the main one is its cost. Deciding to modernize your application can be a financial challenge, and delving into it without an adequate evaluation of the possible expenses can cause issues in the future. For this reason, it’s crucial to understand the transformation processes that you’d possibly go through, make a thorough assessment of the workload, and anticipate possible additional expenses.
Outsourcing components of the project can also reduce the costs and let your internal team focus on the most important code. So, not to get stuck with a half-completed project, make sure that you collaborate with qualified partners who have enough successful cases under their belts.
Tackling the technical debt
Technical debt is a metaphor that refers to the consequences of poorly written code. The most virulent kind of technical debt is code that is difficult to change.
Many teams know about their tech debt and ‘spaghetti’ code, but they are reluctant to do anything to fix it. As time passes, the situation only deteriorates: the debt increases, while development slows down. It gets even worse when team members leave, taking their knowledge with them. That might seem unfair, but it’s not those who walk off into the sunset that pay the interest on tech debt. It’s those who stay. The idea of dealing with technical debt often becomes a dealbreaker, and many prefer to choose the ever-tempting ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.
Unfortunately, the longer you wait before repaying the debt, the more it will eventually cost. And that’s not to mention inefficiencies in running the app and frequent bugs.
So, whether you like it or not, managing technical debt needs to be done in any case. And, if carefully planned, it can be fairly trouble-free. You should involve the stakeholders in this process to create a shared understanding of a debt elimination plan and outline the next steps of the project.
The adoption of cloud computing is a good opportunity to address technical debt issues. Cloud providers allow companies to shuffle off the burden of maintaining and upgrading the underlying infrastructure of data centers. This means that your in-house team can focus on developing new solutions rather than dealing with bugs.
Lack of knowledge and technical experts
Many legacy applications are really old, which means that employees who have built them either no longer work in the company or are about to retire. Thus, maintenance of these apps becomes a problem, but it still comes in second to their enhancement. The current teams are usually reluctant to ‘touch’ the code because they are unsure about the side effects of any changes.
Besides, the shortage of modernization experts is real. This position requires a challenging set of skills, from conducting legacy asset analysis, code restructuring, and refactoring to contributing to designing, developing, and potentially leading other specialists.
There is a variety of needs to evaluate when selecting vendors. These are must-have requirements your vendor needs to meet to ensure the seamless transition from legacy to modernization:
- keeping their finger on the pulse of the latest technologies;
- understanding the desired business outcomes, and aligning the application environment to those. Not the other way around;
- having expertise in the solutions your company depends on, such as ERP, CRM, etc., so that you know your critical systems will be in good hands.
Impact on business processes
While working with legacy code, the necessity for constant bug fixes and enhancements is almost inevitable. Add to this users’ initially reduced productivity, caused by significant changes in the UX of the application, and you’ll understand the anxiety businesses usually feel in the face of modernization.
A gradual approach to modernization might be a problem-solver. It includes using a code freeze to reduce risks and avoid disruptions to a stable system. Also, step-by-step modernization allows business users to take their time to get to know the new application better.
Stakeholders get cold feet at the thought of the modernized app not running well or not being functionally equivalent to its old version. And, to be honest, their fears are not completely unreasonable. Dealing with IT products naturally implies a high level of risk. There’s a linear relationship between the project’s technical complexity and the risks it entails. Essentially, the more difficult the modernization process is, the more risks can show up.
Experienced vendors can highlight the most likely issues to avoid adverse consequences. It’s also important to make sure that all possible test scenarios are well-defined and planned in advance of the testing phase.
Another guarantee of success is business users’ involvement in the modernization process right from the discovery phase, which allows the contractor to be on the same page with the customer and deliver better results.
Personnel stuck in old technologies
The staff might be reluctant to trade the systems they’ve been using for ages for new technologies. Accepting new things means expanding the comfort zone. And it seems quite difficult for most of us, even if the changes are for the better.
Curiously enough, it isn’t always the employees that show resistance. Sometimes, decision-makers—the main drivers of a company—aren’t excited about upgrading and migrating to newer technologies either. They are afraid that modernization will undermine conventional work processes. One of the most effective ways to change such a myopic approach is to emphasize the benefits of modernizing legacy applications.
Although modernization is not a low-cost process, its price is definitely justifiable. By moving your application to the cloud, you can significantly reduce the maintenance cost, as the data centers will no longer be sustained on-premises. You won’t have to worry about old code, bugs, system failures, and outages. It’ll be the cloud provider that will take responsibility for keeping your systems up and running.
Legacy applications might be hard or impossible to expand to increased capabilities. Thus, companies paint themselves into a corner with technologies that aren’t flexible enough to grow. Any update to the legacy system requires time and effort, neither of which come cheap. But, really, is there any use in having an app that cannot adapt to your business? Obviously, the answer is no.
On the contrary, modernized systems can be transformed incomparably faster than the old ones, allowing you to respond instantly to the market dynamics.
The older your application is, the less reliable it becomes. Outdated systems are vulnerable to malware and breaches, and they are less resistant to cyber-attacks. Thus, modernization might help you to reduce the risks and cut the losses related to the faults of the system.
Facilitation of remote work
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced an abrupt shift to working from home. Just like that, in an instant, remote work has become our new normal. However, not all businesses were ready to set up effective collaboration across teams under altered conditions, as it’s impossible without up-to-date apps and cloud computing.
Today digital transformation is not an option you might either go after or deny. It’s more likely the only chance to keep the lights on when the ‘legacy’ world is falling apart. By modernizing legacy applications, you do yourself a huge favor and ensure that your business can keep going no matter where your employees work from.
Time to upgrade your legacy software?
Do you want to enjoy the benefits of a modernized application? Then don’t give up in the face of the challenges that might stand in the way. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, “in a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” So, keep calm, repeat the above-mentioned quote like a mantra and look for a qualified, trustworthy technical partner to get you on the right track of cutting-edge technology.