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6 Keys to a Viable Application Modernization Strategy

Rafael Dourado

In this article, explore and understand what is a vector database, this promising and innovative trend in the data market.

Most executives understand the benefits of application modernization in our growingly digital world. It is vital to reaching new customers, streamlining operations, and lowering the cost of maintaining legacy systems. 

However, what is less clear is the most effective application modernization strategy. While most companies begin modernization efforts, 74% fail to achieve value. There are many pitfalls along the way that can derail these initiatives, such as a lack of planning, diminishing buy-in from stakeholders, misguided benchmarks, and more.

Below, you’ll find six keys to creating a competent and value-driven application modernization strategy. From mapping out risks to continuously modernizing, these tips will give your team a realistic view of how to build a successful initiative.

1) Consider Working With (Instead of Against) Legacy

What is the best way to salvage aging applications to maximize business value? This is the core question of a digital modernization strategy. One option is to start from scratch. If an outdated application is costing so much to maintain and causing customers frustration, then scrapping it in favor of a state-of-the-art application seems like a viable plan.

However, before discarding these legacy applications, consider the complex relationship they play in your current and future business processes. It may bring more value to your organization to iteratively improve the systems you have instead of initiating a full teardown.

Trying to modernize everything at once is like changing the entire engine of an airplane mid-flight. It disregards how much you fundamentally rely on these systems right now and doesn’t consider that there is a path that can improve both short-term and long-term results.

2) Understand the State of Your Legacy Applications

Your legacy applications’ current architecture, design, technology, and code quality directly influence your modernization approach. Once you know where your system stands and its barriers to value, it is easier to envision an application modernization strategy.

Two Black women in office looking at tablet and looking for opportunities to modernize application

Another crucial factor is how the legacy application collects and leverages data. How will modernization impact these processes? Are there opportunities to collect high-quality data more efficiently as part of your modernization initiative?

Review all layers of the existing applications, including their accessibility and compliance. A detailed understanding of the current state of the legacy application will help identify the gaps and changes needed to succeed in modernization.

3) Map Risks

Companies rely on their legacy systems throughout their day-to-day operations. That directly impacts their productivity, employee satisfaction, and customer experience. If modernization disrupts normal performance, it will affect the business. Also, if modernization fails, the company could lose its investment and begin again at square one.

Book of maps sitting on table with pair of glasses on top of it

Outline the potential risks in your application modernization strategy to better understand every scenario and guide best practices throughout the initiative. This should be a robust list, including at least 50 topics related to the complexity and cost of modernization, as well as the processes and technologies you plan to leverage. Topics include cybersecurity, data governance, and user needs.

4) Review Your Options

For every system, there’s a multitude of approaches you can apply. Which one you choose depends on your organizations’ current status, future goals, and technical constraints. 

Before deciding on the best path towards modernization, first understand the pros and cons of your options. Here are a few examples:

  • Retire and Replace: This legacy system has little or no business value. The most viable option is to build a new system or replace it with a SaaS product.
  • Reinvent: Despite bringing value to the business, this application incurs enormous maintenance costs. An effective application modernization strategy can make this system more flexible, scalable, and cut costs by cleaning code or

    integrating systems.


  • Restructure: This application could generate more business value but is limited due to an outdated platform. It’s time to encapsulate, redesign, refactor, or rewrite the system to reconnect it with better business outcomes. 
  • Retain and Maintain: With high business value and solid technical resources, this application does not require major transformations. Instead, plan on periodic investments and enhancements that increase application life. 

5) Monitor Results

Before you begin executing your application modernization strategy, it’s important to have a way to measure success. Define measurable KPIs that can show stakeholders how modernization is boosting the company’s bottom line by saving money, labor, and time. Also, consider how the modernized solution improves customer retention, employee morale, and brand reputation.

Here are some commonly used metrics in application modernization:


        • Time-to-market 
        • ROI
        • Maintenance cost
        • Test time 
        • Resiliency 
        • TCO 
        • Opportunity cost 
        • Technical debt
Page of reports mapping results of modernization

Remember to have these metrics in place before modernization begins. Having a baseline of what success looks like for your company’s stakeholders will make it easier to show value to them once the initiative is underway. 

6) Be Modern Forever

After implementation, the modernized system should still receive continuous support. That way, customers and employees enjoy services that dynamically respond to their changing needs. 

To do this, your teams must shift from a project to a product mindset, meaning that instead of looking at modernization as a one-time “project,” they should look at it as an ever-evolving line of products. 

Continuous modernization keeps your technologies one step ahead of industry changes, newly-added regulations, and growing customer expectations. Plus, constantly streamlined applications save your organization money, which it can then invest in new innovations. 

In summary, a successful application modernization strategy will consider legacy systems instead of tossing them aside. It will also include a deep understanding of those systems and divulge the risks of modernizing them. Finally, an application modernization strategy will consider all tools, set benchmarks, and be scalable for the application’s continuous evolution. 

At Programmers, we use our Fast-Track Application Modernization service to help clients see measurable results from digital modernization every 90 days. Want to partner with a technology consulting company that can boost your bottom line early and often? Learn what sets our Fast-Track Application Modernization service apart.


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