Digitization has become a big part of the modern business ecosystem as organizations grow increasingly reliant on technology. One thing about technology is that it’s inherently dynamic, shifting quickly with new ideas and innovations. As information technologies evolve and advance, older systems gradually become obsolete and need to be updated or replaced. Keeping up with technical innovations is crucial for business success, and application modernization is one of the easier ways to do that.

The basics of application modernization

Application modernization, also known as legacy or software modernization, is the process of updating older software applications to retrofit them with newer computing capabilities. It may involve modifying the software’s platform infrastructure, internal architecture, or underlying code to introduce new usability features and functionalities.

Rather than retiring or entirely replacing a legacy system, application modernization extends the software’s lifespan. Think of modernization as the software equivalent of renovating or refurbishing an old property.

There are several approaches when it comes to application modernization. The choice largely depends on the nature and characteristics of the software in question, such as portability, architecture, and interoperability. Common application modernization patterns include:

  • Lift and shift/rehosting: Moving the application as-is from a legacy infrastructure (such as on-prem servers) to a new environment (such as the cloud).
  • Refactoring: Rewriting the application’s underlying code to retool its functionality or usability. This approach is often used to break down monolithic systems into smaller, independent microservices.
  • Encapsulating: Extending the application’s scope by packaging its functions and data into an API. This is similar to creating microservices.
  • Replatforming: Making slight changes to the software’s code and migrating the modified system to a new runtime environment – usually the cloud. It’s a middle ground between rehosting and refactoring.
  • Rearchitecting: Modifying the software’s architecture by restructuring the code and internal workings to take advantage of newer capabilities.
  • Rebuilding: Redesigning and rewriting the entire application from scratch while preserving the core functionalities, scope, and business specifications. This is usually done to change the programming language for compatibility or usability reasons.
  • Replacing: As a last resort, you may choose to replace the entire application with a customizable SaaS equivalent but preserve all the data and standard routines. It’s still generally considered application modernization if the new solution mirrors the legacy system.

The importance of application modernization

Legacy modernization is a popular trend among organizations. The application modernization services market alone is a rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar industry. But why go through all that trouble to modernize legacy applications? From a financial and operational standpoint, this is the easiest way to maintain critical digital performance standards.

Most organizations hold on to legacy systems because they’re critical to the core business operations. Decommissioning such systems and starting from scratch would severely disrupt and disorient essential business processes. Also, newer does not always mean better, at least from a business perspective. Some legacy systems have no exact matches in today’s software market, making replacement difficult or downright impossible. In such cases, application modernization is the only way to ensure that mission-critical systems stay updated. Doing so is vital for the following reasons:

  • Allows businesses to quickly leverage emerging technologies such as cloud computing, automation, VoIP, big data, blockchain, and the Internet of Things
  • Upgrades legacy systems to modern functionality and performance standards
  • Reinforces the system’s security protocols and measures to fend off new cyber threats and maintain regulatory compliance
  • Shortens time to market and sharpens competitive edge
  • Improves the system’s usability and scope, boosting employee productivity and encouraging a digital work culture

The benefits of application modernization

As much as you’d want to retain legacy systems, they could cripple business productivity if not properly maintained. Outdated legacy processes are not only costly to run but may also demotivate employees, increase security risks, and impair customer services. On the other hand, modernizing legacy applications presents several benefits.

Reduced costs

According to a report, organizations that embrace legacy modernization reduce their IT costs by up to 13 percent and could potentially boost productivity by more than 14 percent. Older systems are more likely to break down, so it takes extra effort, resources, and time to keep them running. By modernizing these systems, you eliminate many of their inherent problems without incurring the cost of a total IT overhaul.

Increased business agility

In addition to improved digital performance, legacy modernization also increases overall business agility. Modernizing accelerates your IT adoption rate, making your systems more reliable, flexible, faster, and easier to scale.

Improved support for modern workflows and employee productivity

Some modern workplace trends and business processes such as BYOD, remote work, intelligent data analysis, and unified communications are incompatible with most legacy platforms. Modernizing the existing software applications enables them to keep up with these new trends. This means your staff can enjoy modern workplace conveniences that enrich the work experience and amplify productivity.

Enhanced customer experience and brand reputation

Interactive and data-driven customer touchpoints such as CRMs, chatbots, and responsive web media are known to enhance the customer experience, build trust, and inspire purchase decisions. Only the most robust systems can provide this level of customer engagement and experience.

Application modernization challenges

The process of modernizing legacy software applications is usually fraught with technical and logistical challenges. Its complexity requires a certain level of technical prowess and strategic planning. For instance, modernizing a single application may require coding, API integration, and hardware configuration to achieve the desired outcome. You may also have to untangle or modify the application’s dependencies. Here are some of the common challenges you should prepare for when modernizing legacy software:

  • Ambiguity in IT planning
  • Lack of adequate technical expertise
  • Unclear modernization goals
  • Undocumented or poorly understood legacy applications
  • Lack of support for legacy systems
  • Budget and time constraints
  • Data loss and downtime risks

Addressing legacy modernization issues

Like most skill and resource-intensive IT projects, application modernization might be too complex to navigate alone. From what we’ve discussed above, the biggest legacy modernization challenges involve lacking either the right expertise or tools. But although application modernization may seem daunting, the whole process becomes much easier when working with the right partner. A managed services provider can guide you through the various modernizing stages, from initial planning and execution to implementation.

Softlanding is a professional & managed IT services provider specializing in all aspects of cloud migration on the Microsoft Azure platform. We also help organizations deploy and integrate essential Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft 365 and Teams. Start your application modernization journey on the right foot – with a knowledgeable, accredited, and vastly experienced IT partner. Talk to us; we’d love to hear from you.

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Softlanding is a long-established IT services provider of transformation, professional services and managed IT services that helps organizations boost innovation and drive business value. We are a multi-award-winning Microsoft Gold Partner with 13 Gold Competencies and we use our experience and expertise to be a trusted advisor to our clients. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, we have staff and offices in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary to serve clients across Canada.

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