Four steps to app modernization success


App modernization can save costs and increase revenue, but you need a strategic approach. Success requires a deep understanding of your organization’s needs and a plan of action that won’t disrupt your business as you integrate new methods into your company culture.

The recent IBM Consulting publication Strategic app modernization drives digital transformation spells out the enormous potential benefits of a successful app modernization project:

  • 15–35% savings on infrastructure year-over-year
  • 30–50% lower application maintenance and running costs
  • 74% lower costs on hardware, software and staff
  • 10% improvement in application operational efficiency
  • 14% boost in annual revenue

Yet the vast majority of app modernization attempts struggle to succeed or are underwhelming. How can you avoid the pitfalls that can cause efforts to stall out or underperform?

App modernization is a series of journeys that add up to a more thorough digital transformation. You can respond to each new opportunity over time and address new challenges as they arise. In this way, every modernization effort — for apps, infrastructure, processes or something else — mirrors the goals of the IT industry as a whole. They’re fundamentally about adapting to change driven by business demands.

The following four steps provide a sound framework for app modernization. Think of them as best practices for starting your journey and as guardrails to protect you from common mistakes.

1. Assess

Understand the current state of your company, the goals you want to achieve and how to transform without disruption. Then go through an org rationalization exercise to analyze your existing systems and workforce. Build a solid basis of understanding of both your business needs and your existing application landscape. This step incorporates the three types of understanding outlined in a previous piece, “What keeps a CIO up at night?”

2. Select

Transform your understanding of challenges and starting points into a concrete plan of action. You need to move from a general desire for improvement to the specific technical goals that you can achieve through app modernization. This step also involves choosing the correct hyperscalers or other public and private cloud providers to deliver the services you need.

3. Outline

Design a roadmap and timeline with strategically staggered app modernization journeys, each of which adds value without disrupting existing operations. In this step, you draw on your understanding of your current situation to plan how processes and dependencies will change as you modernize each app. Third-party help is particularly useful in this step, because internal perspectives on processes and dependencies often lack clarity.

4. Adapt

Connect your new app environment to the people and processes in your organization. As you modernize your application mix, it will support and challenge your workforce in new ways. Integrated processes might be more efficient, but they’re also unfamiliar. As you empower people with new capabilities, they’ll also take on new responsibilities. The process can be disorienting without proper support and training. And in the worst case, a disengaged workforce can completely undermine the value of any modernization effort. Planning cultural change as part of your technical modernization is essential, not an afterthought.

The right help can make all the difference. An experienced modernization partner can work alongside you to assess, plan and modernize your apps. By working with IBM Consulting, you can leverage years of institutional knowledge, experience across industries and our expertise in delivering cutting-edge innovation.