Application Modernization

Business agility and cost reduction are two fundamental factors that drive modernization. Added to this are the growing technology obsolescence. According to Gartner, by year-end 2021, more than one-third of all application projects will be driven by the need to deal with technology or skills obsolescence. Forrester’s new survey revealed that modernizing key legacy applications is the top software initiative for businesses in year (2020). Rising cost of maintenance, integration challenges, technical skill obsolescence, demanding market and industry regulation changes are front runners business cases for legacy and application modernization strategy. Just as you define another wave of your organizational SOA maturity model, modernization is tied into, and is most likely enabled by service oriented architecture in a progressive approach modernizing your technology and application stacks while maintaining your existing applications and its operations.

Every application modernization program starts with organizational readiness. Just as in every business transformation journey, it is necessary that your modernization strategy is strongly supported by your organization. If you consider this is an IT department job, forget it. Ideally, your business should drive the need for application modernization while Information Technology division acts as the thought leaders and evangelists to socialize this idea and is need to the business.

Modernization is a multi-year effort and it takes in different variation and forms such as IT Modernization, Technology modernization, Application modernization, Legacy system modernization and the list continues. No matter how you define it the approach and challenges are applicable to all. Moving your legacy code to JAVA, which sometimes calls “JOBOL” does not complete your modernization. Personally, I feel this is just a programing language conversion. But definitely it is one step forward towards the modernization cycle. There is no tool that I am aware, that are available in the market today to do this conversion 100% accurate and 100% automatic. But there are many specialty vendors that offer services to extract your legacy business logic and convert them into JAVA or similar standard based code. These vendor could also help you to translate these legacy codes into a service component that you may use to build your SOA based application.

Your modernization strategy may be a multi-phase, multi-wave milestone driven plan. At each phase you may further split these project with smaller waves. The best way is to phase it by your common business domain. Modernization can start in many ways, but typically it starts with business process re-engineering, language conversation, rules mining, data mining and building the meta-data dictionary or catalog for each business domain. Your SOA approach can then easily decompose these dictionaries to create service components based on further business analysis. Although it is not necessary, setting up your SOA infrastructure ahead or parallel with modernization will shorten your overall plan sometimes. It is not a surprise that some of the modernization program really starts with SOA transformation program or may be your SOA program drives the application modernization needs.

Defining your business services domain helps you to quick start your modernization journey. One easy way is to define your functional areas and key processes supporting those. Your modernization roadmap should also include data migration and meta data management strategy. You could start with one of the core business processes such as customer acquisition. Once you define key processes under customer acquisition (applications, intake, pre-approvals, channels, promotions..etc) you could start moving those components away from your legacy systems and expose them as services. For a financial services mortgage domain, this cycle repeats for other processes such as risk, approval, underwriting, closing, funding, servicing and other areas.

However, easier this may sound, the challenges and road blocks is huge, you should conduct detail analysis and due diligence before you endeavor your modernization journey.