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3 Ways CIOs Can Boost Buy-In for App Modernization

Rafael Dourado

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Application modernization is vital for companies to meet the needs of customers and make their internal operations more efficient. However, that does not mean it’s easy to get buy-in for these initiatives from key stakeholders.

Only 53% of CIOs have full commitment from other c-suite executives for modernization, according to a recent study. These stakeholders may be skeptical of modernization for many reasons. Some of them think technology teams just want state-of-the-art platforms for their own sake. Others worry that modernization will take too long and can’t dynamically meet changing market conditions.

In this article, you’ll learn three ways to earn and keep stakeholders’ trust throughout your application modernization initiative.

1. Work With (Instead of Against) Legacy Systems

Some people assume the only way to transform digital platforms is a full teardown and rebuild effort. However, this takes years to show value. Meanwhile, employees and customers are left with the same subpar experience.

For these reasons, your internal stakeholders may be skeptical of tossing out legacy systems. One in five CIOs surveyed said that executives’ fear of change is the main reason why they do not have buy-in for application modernization, according to the previously-mentioned survey.

White male CIO in buttoned-down shirt and glasses frustrated from not seeing value from application modernization

Luckily, there’s a way to realize value faster from modernization and ease stakeholders’ concerns about drastic (and unnecessary) changes. Instead of tossing out legacy systems, your application modernization strategy can iteratively improve these platforms.

For example, our Fast-Track Application Modernization service targets and removes the barriers to value in legacy applications every 90 days. This avoids the need to build new, flashy systems that do not actually drive results to your organization.

Here’s a case study: One of our clients helps colleges and universities recruit high school seniors with a robust CRM tool. However, this platform could not handle spikes in demand during peak recruitment season in the fall.

Instead of completely building a new CRM tool, we iteratively moved the legacy application into the cloud. That allowed them to better operate at scale while avoiding a costly teardown and rebuild initiative. You can read the full application modernization case study here.

2. Make Modernization Adaptable to Company and Industry Changes

A company’s goals are never static. As industries and customers change, organizations must alter the ways they define success. However, many application modernization initiatives are too rigid to change course. This leaves stakeholders wondering why they should care about reaching benchmarks that no longer matter to them.

To maintain buy-in for application modernization throughout the process, you must adopt a more flexible approach. Make sure that there are plenty of opportunities to reevaluate goals and pivot when necessary.

Programmers’ Fast-Track process has this reflection period built into the end of each 90-day modernization cycle. If our client’s needs have changed, we can make another feature or platform the focus of the next 90-day sprint.

Female doctor with red painted nails holding a phone and enjoying modernized application
For example, the healthcare industry needed to adapt applications rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, most organizations’ goals revolved around modernizing systems to enable remote treatment. However, the barrage of messages from remote patients contributed to nationwide physician fatigue.

The next step was to find inventive ways to lower physician workloads, such as automating data entry into electronic medical records (EMRs). Finally, as COVID-19 infection rates lowered, many organizations built or streamlined features that allowed them to reach out to patients who had avoided checkups during the pandemic.

3. Achieve Short and Long-Term Value

90% of companies expect their modernization initiative to have a profound effect on their long-term growth, according to a recent study. Of course, this isn’t surprising. Application modernization should make your organization more efficient and unlock new capabilities that benefit your customers and employees for years to come.

However, we also know that stakeholders cannot wait years to see value from modernization. They’ll need to see the benefits early and often throughout the process. Otherwise, with each passing budget meeting, it will become increasingly difficult to convince leadership that this initiative is worth the investment.

Black female CIO with glasses and Apple laptop reviewing paper deciding whether or not to buy in to modernization.

Your digital modernization initiative should reach short-term benchmarks and work towards long-term goals at the same time. That way, you can clearly show stakeholders where modernization has delivered results and how it will continue to be a value multiplier.

Here’s another case study: One of our clients is a healthcare revenue cycle management company that wanted to provide faster, more accurate data to its clients. This was a long-term goal, but we found several short-term benchmarks that could put the organization on the right path.

We noticed that the RCM company depended on a lot of manual processes. This slowed down data delivery and left open the possibility of human error. In the short term, we used each 90-day modernization cycle to automate these manual processes.

The company steadily enjoyed more reliable, fast, and cost-effective data collection processes. This put them on a trajectory to meet their long-term goals and gave them more efficient processes which will allow them to grow at scale in the future. You can read more about how we made this application modernization initiative happen here.


Broader Organizational Buy-In for Application Modernization

Throughout this article, we’ve discussed securing buy-in for modernization from c-suite executives. However, it’s also important to have the support of employees up and down your organization. After all, advanced digital capabilities will do your company little good if no one internally uses them.


The most straightforward way to encourage buy-in for modernization among employees is to ensure it makes their jobs easier. Make cumbersome applications easier to navigate, automate repetitive manual processes, and clean up code to reduce the time your teams need to spend maintaining legacy systems. More than 50% of employees in a recent survey said old tech hurts their productivity. With modernization, you can greatly reduce that pain point for them.


A robust modernization initiative will also help employees upscale their digital skills. As systems become more intuitive, employees should be able to leverage more data, better address customer needs, and collaborate with more internal teams than they could previously. All of this boosts their professional development and unlocks skills they can continue to nurture for decades to come. 


Next, it’s important to communicate the benefits of modernization to employees throughout your company. Transparently lay out the steps of your modernization strategy, give them an estimated timeline for each step, and clearly outline the value they will see at each milestone. This clear communication demonstrates that you’re not just modernizing for modernization’s sake. Instead, you’re making employees’ lives easier and giving them more ways to develop as professionals.

Final Thoughts 

Stakeholders throughout your organization will have understandable concerns about application modernization. However, securing their buy-in is possible by demonstrating modernization’s business value.

Work in shorter modernization cycles that allow you to pivot quickly as your organization’s needs change and ensure you iteratively meet short-term benchmarks. Plus, construct these benchmarks in a way that guides your company towards its long-term goals.

Programmers’ Fast-Track Application Modernization service is designed with this exact fast-to-value mindset. We sit down with your leaders to understand what brings true value to your company. Then, we uncover roadblocks in your legacy systems preventing you from reaching your goals. In 90-day cycles, we iteratively remove these barriers, allowing your company’s stakeholders to see value early and often. Download our free guide to Fast-Track today.

Let us know how we can help you.

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