Application Modernization can feel like one of those buzzwords that’s loaded with implications. We create these terms to simplify complex topics and streamline conversations. The reality of what it means depends on the specific threats and opportunities facing an organization and its technology infrastructure.
In broad terms, application modernization represents the idea that some kind of legacy application needs to be updated to leverage modern technological capabilities. This also implies there is an existing application and that it is out of date.
How Do You Know if an Application Needs to be Modernized?
In many cases, the primary driver of modernizing applications is a response to some kind of technical debt. Technical debt is another one of those terms that was invented to simplify complex conversations. It accumulates because technology is constantly changing as new advancements and capabilities are being released.
Technical debt can accumulate in the following ways:
- Changes to or end of life in the technology ecosystem
- Emergence of security vulnerabilities
- New laws or regulations
- Change in user preference or expectation
- Evolution of software design patterns, frameworks, and libraries
- Degrading performance of legacy applications
While technology advances are often a root cause of technical debt, they also often represent a business opportunity.
Security and Compliance Concerns
Security and compliance concerns are a form of technical debt, but it makes sense to address them separately because they represent a unique business threat due to the huge financial impact that can result from breaches or fines. These often necessitate an immediate response to new threats or regulation.
If you have robust application lifecycle management practices (like those provided by a Managed Services plan at Core BTS), you can mitigate many technical debt concerns as they occur. In this way, technical debt (and thereby application modernization) is addressed incrementally, extending the useful life of your application. However, it is inevitable that your legacy applications will someday need to be replaced due to the evolution of the technology landscape (along with changing business conditions). This is an opportunity, though, to leverage technology advances to gain a competitive edge.
5 Scenarios to Gain a Competitive Edge with Application Modernization
While technical debt or security concerns may be triggers, the modernization conversation should focus on available business opportunities to take advantage of new capabilities. Each of the scenarios below has the potential to improve operational efficiencies and create differentiators that will give your company a competitive edge.
1. Competitive Edge with Cloud Mobility
You may have a legacy web application that was developed years ago. Since then, technology and user behaviors have changed – resulting in accumulating technical debt because an application or some underlying technology is no longer supported or is difficult to deploy. Business has also changed to allow for a more mobile workforce, and more customers are interacting with businesses from mobile devices.
In this scenario, a new web front-end can be designed as mobile responsive, and / or a companion mobile app can be created as an add-on capability. You can also host the web application or the backend API supporting the mobile app in the cloud to make it more accessible to your users. In this way, app modernization addresses the technical debt, but it also takes advantage of a business opportunity. By accommodating mobility, you are now meeting your internal and external users where they are, you’re expanding your business’ reach, and you’re increasing operational efficiencies.
2. Competitive Edge with Cloud Scaling
It’s well known that one of the benefits of cloud computing is the ability to rapidly scale up or down. Consider the business opportunities your organization faces. Do you have peaks and valleys in your business that drive application usage up or down? This could be cyclical (as with retail during holiday seasons), a one-time occurrence, or it may be driven by a campaign. There might also be consideration for scaling up as a business grows.
In this scenario, modernizing your applications lets you take advantage of cloud computing platforms to achieve flexibility of scale that was not previously possible to optimize performance, gain operational efficiencies, and give your business a competitive edge.
3. Competitive Edge with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Most companies don’t have the budget to develop their own AI technologies, but many cloud vendors have democratized AI by creating SaaS services that can be easily integrated into your application. Below are three examples of how integrating AI into your applications could give you a competitive edge.
Image Processing AI
Use existing cloud-based APIs to evaluate digital imagery to identify flaws, categorize images, conduct facial recognition, or even perform product searches.
Cognitive Searching AI
Leverage cloud-based search APIs to enable a more flexible and robust searching capability so users can more easily find relevant information or products.
Chat Bots and AI
Chat Bots are not necessarily AI, but more advanced Chat Bots do incorporate AI to learn and respond to patterns – thereby improving the customer experience (with features like online chat).
In this scenario, where building AI on your own was previously cost-prohibitive, with technology advances these types of enhanced user experiences can be incorporated into any application. Consider your industry or use cases; incorporating these (or other AI capabilities) into your applications could improve your customer experience, increase operational efficiencies, or enable automation to give your business a competitive edge.
4. Competitive Edge with DevOps (aka CICD)
DevOps, sometimes referred to as Continuous Integration Continuous Deployment (CICD), is about automation. Agile project management frameworks like Scrum are common in software development. They are designed on the assumption that constant feedback is important to developing good software. Therefore, I always coach agile teams to “release early, release often”.
In this scenario, proper use of DevOps to automate testing and release processes is a huge enabler. Additionally, it forms the basis of an active lifecycle management strategy that will minimize technical debt, improve software quality, and streamline release processes. This efficiency and quality give you a competitive edge, but so too does the ability to more rapidly release new features your customers and users are requesting.
5. Competitive Edge with Business Process Automation
Custom applications are often conceived of and developed to facilitate and automate business processes. But these processes often change as business needs evolve and change. Any app modernization effort is an opportunity to incorporate those changes into the software updates (along with addressing technical debt). In fact, these enhancements often carry more business value than does addressing any specific technical debt.
In this scenario, you can use these improvements to help justify a larger modernization investment. Business process automation is also an opportunity to explore more advanced automation technology like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) that can be used to automate manual processes that could previously not be automated because of a need for human intervention.
The need for application modernization is often precipitated by external factors. While it is important to acknowledge and address technical debt, you should also look for ways to increase value and add ROI. Capitalize on technology advancements and enhanced functionality to gain operational efficiencies and develop differentiation. Build your business case for modernizing your apps on the opportunities to create a competitive advantage. And contact us to partner with an experienced IT consultancy that knows how to develop apps that will help you get a competitive edge.
To learn more about App Modernization, click below to watch our experts share How to Create Digital Experiences with Modern Apps.