How to overcome apps modernization barriers
Technical integration challenges and effective project planning are hindering the digital transformation efforts a range of enterprises are taking to modernize their application portfolios. – apps modernization
According to the Connectivity benchmark 2020 report released by software management company MuleSoft, 99% of IT organizations will be undertaking digital transformation projects in the next five years, but 85% of them
say integration challenges are slowing these initiatives.
MuleSoft reports that while the average IT enterprise has around 900 applications, only 28% of these are currently integrated. This demand for integration is only set to grow as new technology investments, such as security or big data analytics, increase the burden on IT departments, which will need to provide further integrations to connect any new sources of data.
Separate research by data management firm Boomi on enterprise resource planning (ERP) finds that, for European IT organizations at least, the main challenges of modernization can be split into two camps: people and process issues; and technical issues.
“Apps Modernization programmes need to be properly scoped and managed, with clear goals, measurement and communication in place,” says Boomi in The ERP innovator’s dilemma report, adding that the biggest technical
challenge is “integrating and managing data across complex hybrid environments, where some legacy technology is still in use”.
The situation is further complicated by the sheer scope of older systems that require modernizing. In its Application modernization should be business-centric, continuous and multiplatform report, analyst firm Gartner warns that enterprise IT portfolios are far too large for a cost-effective and comprehensive inventory of all applications, in all
To overcome these challenges, enterprises should assess, segment and prioritize their modernization workflows so they can plan projects in a targeted way, while still having enough holistic visibility of their digital estates to understand how different applications are connected.
Segment and prioritize
Gaining visibility of digital estates, including all of the legacy applications in use, can be a daunting task for many organizations. Nick Ford, chief technology evangelist at low-code software platform Mendix, urges IT decision-makers to start with portfolio mapping exercises to understand what is in their digital estates.
“We tend to find in any estate of applications that there are apps that can probably be consolidated, or are no longer relevant and can be easily replaced with off-the-shelf solutions, or even rebuilt in a lot of cases,” he says.
“We’d advocate taking a look at that estate, looking at how you’re going to rationalize that estate and then picking off those areas that are going to give you the most significant advantage in a short period of time,” adds Ford.
Ian Fairclough, vice-president of services at MuleSoft, says most organizations have “a very complex web of interconnected applications”, which constrains innovation. “We’re talking about IT estates that have grown up over the past 30 to 40 years, and you find that many of these organizations have not invested in technology over time,” he says, adding that a lack of integrations between these applications is a major barrier to building agile, modern application portfolios.
Like Mendix’s Ford, Fairclough recommends apps modernization projects are divided into “prioritized chunks”, which he says enables IT teams to tackle the most important things first.
“Maybe there are some things that you don’t even need to tackle, so actually you segment and decide that we can run those IT systems over there for another few years and then just retire them,” he says.
Describing a challenging modernization project he worked on, Fairclough says the amount of work required to complete the project had been “totally underestimated”. He says the project involved an IT estate of more than 500
applications, which meant the customer did not understand how everything was connected. As a consequence, project costs were pushed up “exponentially”.
“Whenever we set out to modernize one application, we effectively lifted it up and found a tangled web of other applications, so we couldn’t just take that application in isolation and move it to a new environment,” he adds.
He says the project team needed to develop new integrations to support the connections between the new and the old systems.
To solve the problem, the team needed to divide the applications into gold, silver and bronze tiers to denote their priority level. Each gold application would have a number of silver and bronze applications attached to it, meaning that although they were lower priority, they needed to be moved over along with the gold applications.
Musato Technologies specializes in building custom applications that help businesses collect, manage and analyze data. We build applications for a variety of uses and industries including information management, process optimization and project planning.