Rapid Application Modernization – Balancing Existing Systems With Digital Objectives
Most organizations have trouble in finding the perfect balance between keeping up with advances in technology and maintaining their existing applications and IT infrastructure. Legacy systems, while tried and true, often require modifications or changes over their lifetime to keep up with business demands. Each time a change is needed the system becomes more and more difficult to support and maintain, putting many organizations into a difficult position when making decisions on how to enhance their software solutions.
Replacing a legacy system simply isn’t an option in almost every conceivable scenario. The cost, impact on daily operations, and complexity all make it extremely hard to justify this undertaking so many businesses have begun to search for alternative ways to modernize their systems without having to replace everything through the process of leveraging their existing systems in new and different ways.
The Legacy Aging Issue
At some point in their lifetime, legacy systems will begin to fall short of business expectations. Most legacy applications were built in a time when interoperability or advanced analytics were unheard of and thus they are not well-equipped to keep up with modern business demands. Additionally, technology that ages is no longer a highly sought skill meaning that there becomes fewer options in finding capable personnel to manage and support it.
Yet for all the pitfalls that legacy systems present, the value they bring to an organization cannot be easily dismissed. Most importantly, a legacy system will contain historical information, ranging from maintenance programs to purchasing information or even regulatory compliance results. In any case, businesses cannot afford to lose this kind of information that has been collected over the years.
Most importantly, these systems are in place actively managing various aspects of daily operations. They’re tried and true, consistently delivering key functionality to end-users, managers, and other personnel daily and they contain huge amounts of historical information. These are the systems that personnel have used day in and day out, learning the intricate details of how to maximize their daily routines. And regardless of which industry you service, most organizations rely on these systems to be available virtually around the clock.
The culmination of all these factors forces businesses to often reject the idea of completely replacing their legacy applications. Too much time has been invested in creating, learning, and using them that it becomes cost-prohibitive to make a sweeping change. Therefore, many have begun to search for new and innovating ways to not only leverage their existing systems but adding modern features to keep up with expectations by undertaking application modernization efforts.
Rapid Modernization Efforts
Unlike a creating a new application, a modernization effort looks to leverage certain features in an existing system under the premise that these pieces can still offer value. This approach allows design and development teams to focus on the parts of the system that need to be replaced while re-using other pieces that are deemed to be useful. This emphasis on being able to re-use parts of a legacy system stems from the idea that certain parts of the system will stay relevant and useful regardless of their age as they do not have a direct impact on the overall health and value of the application.
Features like user management and authentication for example. Although LDAP has been around for many years, it very much remains as a standard for managing users. System designers and developers can re-use this piece of functionality and incorporate it into the updated application with for a fraction of the time and cost it would take to design, development, and test a new method of user management. And while this is only a specific instance of where pre-existing can offer value, there will undoubtedly be many more hiding throughout a legacy system.
Minimize Risks & Technical Limitations
The key to success with an application modernization effort is that some existing technology is retained while the pieces being replaced and updated are built in a much more intelligent way. Focusing not only on eliminating limitations or other issues, these pieces are often built with interoperability in mind. This commitment to forward looking development creates many new opportunities for an organization to better use their data, often in ways that were impossible before.
Not only does it promote better analytical capabilities by allowing information to freely shared between multiple departments and applications, but this pattern of interoperability helps alleviate future issues by transforming the application into a system that’s capable of being easily modified or adjusted to meet changing needs. And today, being able to meet even the toughest demands is essential in providing businesses with the tools they require to be successful day and day out.
The process of modernization will also have a direct impact on support and management costs going forward. Because of the modernization efforts, the system becomes much more robust and flexible and therefore is less prone to errors or other issues that commonly take up a significant part of a support teams time and budget. By using newer technologies to augment the legacy system functionality, the support staff is now better equipped to respond to abnormalities and properly maintain the system.
Broader Effects of Modernization
A key but often overlooked benefit from the modernization process is the effect it has on other aspects of the organization. Most if not all businesses will have near-term (defined as being realized in the next 12 months) expectations that include improving business process, controlling costs, improving workforce efficiency, and growing revenue. And while these are the right areas to focus on, year after year many organizations are left wanting more improvement.
In fact, so often has this been the case that many analysts have begun to openly question as to whether it stems from ballooning budgets required to support existing systems. Gartner, one of the world’s leading research and advisory companies, expects spending on IT (including hardware, infrastructure, software, and other aspects) to top 3.5 trillion dollars worldwide in 2016 alone. Of this, it’s also suggested that businesses spend as much as 57% of their total IT budget on maintenance of existing systems, while roughly 25% is dedicated to business opportunity and a meager 8% being dedicated to driving innovation.
Previously thought of as an unavoidable cost of doing business, organizations that take advantage of modernization practices can drastically reduce the amount of time and resources they dedicate to maintaining their software systems in exchange for a minor upfront cost. This trade-off of investing a small amount of resources upfront to gain much bigger returns continuously has become more and more of a desired plan of action because it allows significant portions of a budget to be dedicated to areas other than maintenance alone. Thus, businesses can devote more resources to innovating new and improved products and features, improving business processes, and generating new revenue.
What to Expect
Modernizing a legacy application requires careful thought and planning. Not addressing all needs, issues, and limitations currently being faced will only hinder the system’s ability to meet expectations and will ultimately result in a sub-par product. To prevent this, it’s imperative that all stakeholders work together to carefully plan and execute this process. Usually, the process will involve three distinct phases:
- Planning & Architecting
- Development & Implementation
- Testing & Deployment
Planning & Architecting
Arguably the most important stage of a modernization is the planning and architecting stage of the project. Stakeholders will work together to examine the current system and determine which pieces still offer value, which ones have the proper process but need refinement, and which parts need to be changed completely. As this phase ends, all parties involved should be intimately familiar with the plan, what to expect, and ready to give instruction to the development teams.
Development & Implementation
When the development and implementation stage begins, the modernized system plan should be complete, reviewed for any areas that were overlooked, and approved by all stakeholders. During this phase, the system will begin to come to life, with developers breaking ground on new features, integrating existing features into the new system, and more. By the end of this phase, the system should be largely functional and ready for testing and the final phase can begin.
Testing & Deployment
The final stage of the application modernization process, testing and deployment will be the final stage of the project before it’s rolled out into production. Those responsible for quality assurance will meticulously review all the various pieces of the new system to ensure that everything is working properly. Once approved, the system will be rolled out in a controlled fashion so that downtime is minimized or eliminated.
In the end, a modernization effort resolves a significant portion of issues that have up until recently plague organizations daily. By recognizing the potential for improvement and acting upon it, many businesses are now able to free themselves from the burdens of ever growing maintenance budgets. CHAMPS Software has been providing modernization services for many years, helping numerous organizations take advantage of all the benefits mentioned above. To learn more about how CHAMPS can help you achieve your goals, click here. Or contact a solutions expert to receive consultation on how to address your modernization needs.