Like organizing your garage, modernizing your applications can seem daunting before you start, but you know it will pay off once done. So, instead of thinking about this project as a technical challenge, let’s look at it in the wider context of the business. Just as getting rid of old junk in your garage frees up the space you need for things you actually use, modernizing your apps helps your business run more efficiently and scale more easily. Based on my experience with many application modernization projects, here’s how developers can best approach app modernization, including what you’ll need from your team and technology, six key ways to tackle the task and how to prioritize.
Start With a Business Assessment
Before you can make any changes to your applications themselves, you need to lay out a plan based on your company’s needs. That means assessing every application in your portfolio, not just as individual properties but in the way they interconnect.
Like most developers and engineers, when you have a technical background, it’s tempting to build a strategy around the most exciting technical opportunities. But the purpose of all the applications your company uses is to enhance the business. For example, your organization is likely considering an app modernization initiative to better serve customers and clients; to increase revenue or cut costs.
That means when you approach modernization from a business perspective, you should prioritize apps based on business value. Large modernization projects can get complicated, so you won’t necessarily be able to complete this process for every app.
When it comes to large-scale, complex applications, the effort required to modernize every piece is significant. So, it’s important to decide what applications are of the highest value and plan your modernization efforts starting there.
There are several business-focused questions to consider, such as:
- What are the business’ needs now and in the future?
- Which problems are we trying to solve as an organization and as a department?
- What capabilities does the business need to add in order to grow?
- What does the business need to do to better support customers?
Smaller organizations may be able to modernize every app and component. But if you’re in a large business or an enterprise, you will have to choose the apps and components that are most critical to the business goals. Of course, if you’re successful with the first crop of applications, it’s more likely you’ll get the go-ahead to move on to other apps and components.
It’s important to stress how important this kind of assessment and planning process is. You need to get that business buy-in for that ultimate alignment and for delivering the most value for your business in the shortest amount of time.
Choose Your Application Modernization Program
Different applications require different modernization approaches, some of which are more labor-intensive than others. Here are six methods (the six Rs) used to modernize an app and how to assess which one is right in each case:
- Retain: If an application is working as well as it possibly can in its current environment, leave it alone. This is rare, but it does happen.
- Rehost: In the case of apps that already work well, you’re more likely to want to move them to a new platform than leave them completely untouched.
- Retire: If an app no longer serves a useful purpose, is outdated or runs on technology that no longer exists, retire it.
- Repurchase: Switching apps from perpetual licenses to software-as-a-service (SaaS), subscription-style models means less hardware maintenance, easier access to updates and cloud storage for all users.
- Replatform: Transfer an app from a hardware-based option to the cloud, with a few small changes.
- Refactor: The most work-intensive option—and the most interesting! This is the coding equivalent of a movie remake, in which you update the code to improve performance, availability, security and more.
Follow App Modernization Best Practices
All right. You’ve got leadership buy-in and you’ve categorized all your business’ apps according to the six Rs we mentioned above. Now, the real work begins. There are app modernization best practices to follow as you continue on this journey. Most importantly, remember that the effectiveness of your modernization efforts comes down to two key components: Your team and your tech. Here’s what you need from both for a successful mission.
Deploy the Most Advanced Technology
The underlying purpose of application modernization is to bring your apps up-to-date with the latest cloud technology. For the best results, you need to use the best available tech. There are a few elements of modern cloud technology you should consider. Serverless infrastructure is one. With serverless, you can make large-scale changes in real-time without having to maintain servers.
Data management is another area where you should employ cutting-edge tech. You can use purpose-built databases that best suit different types of data for faster and more efficient processes.
Autoscaling is also a key benefit of moving to the cloud. Be sure to factor in the need to scale from the start of your modernization project to avoid bottlenecks further down the line.
Hire an Agile Team
The most advanced tools in the world are useless if the people using them aren’t sufficiently trained or skilled. When hiring a team, look for agility. Application modernization processes are a lot of work. You need a team that moves quickly in order to hit your deadlines.
Culture and responsibility, as well as ownership are also important. A demanding work environment requires open communication and people who will take responsibility for their part in the system. Consistency is another crucial factor. Involve the people who will be responsible for managing the apps from the start of the modernization process. This makes it easier for them to continue the work once the app is ready.
Getting the most out of your application modernization project requires the right tools, personnel and services. And while taking your first steps into the cloud can seem intimidating, by following tried-and-true best practices, you can stay on the right path toward a big payoff in the cloud.