The move to modernize applications continues to accelerate. Verified Market Research forecasts the global app modernization market to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 18.7% from 2023 to 2030.
The tools that were once ideal for most businesses have now become stale and obsolete. Legacy code is a major roadblock to your business’s digital transformation – a hindrance to the maintainability and scalability of your software products.
To keep up with demands, there is a need to move your systems to modern infrastructure. What’s the gain? Reduce lumps of technical debt, fix inefficiencies, create better experiences for customers, and, more importantly, increase revenue generation for your business.
While all this is well and good, application modernization can be challenging to say the least. How do you go about it? What’s the ideal roadmap for application modernization?
It took you years to build your legacy codebase; you won’t modernize in a single day! In this article, you’ll discover working strategies to develop an effective modernization roadmap for your applications. Learn from our step-by-step guide on how to create a strategic app modernization roadmap for your legacy system.
Understanding an App Modernization Roadmap
Legacy application modernization is a compound process that essentially involves moving a legacy codebase to a newer and better infrastructure which can also be seen as legacy software re-architecting or refactoring.
Consequently, an app modernization roadmap is a well-structured project plan for transitioning an existing application to modern infrastructure. It is a document that describes the path for the modernization of your existing applications. Depending on your organization’s size and goals, it can be a single page or more than 100 pages long, but it always includes steps for upgrading legacy applications or migrating data to new systems.
Your application modernization roadmap should be developed by your project team in conjunction with business stakeholders. The goal of this document is to provide a valid framework for transforming legacy applications into modern systems that are scalable, secure, and easier to maintain.
It is important to create your roadmap at the beginning of an enterprise transformation project so that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of what they can expect from the process and when you show up the results.
Prepare for your ERP system upgrade with our ultimate strategy. How to Set Up an Effective ERP Upgrade Strategy: Key Do and Don'ts
Why You Need An Application Modernization Roadmap For Your Project
Before you begin any modernization project, it’s important to lay out a plan. A well-written application modernization roadmap will help you set realistic expectations, manage timelines and budgets, and identify potential roadblocks along the way.
Without a roadmap, you will get off track or confuse priorities as you move forward. A well-written roadmap document provides clear direction on where your project is headed and what needs to be done along the way.
A good application modernization roadmap will reveal:
- The business goals of the project – the reasons why you’re modernizing, What problems you’re trying to solve;
- An overview of the project’s scope and objectives;
- A list of risks that may affect your project;
- A list of human and technical resources that will be required for your project (e.g., people, time, money);
- A detailed description of each deliverable (or “milestone”) needed to complete each phase of your project;
- A timeline for each phase of the project (including milestones).
4 Strategies for Creating a Modernization Roadmap Document
We’ve distilled expert strategies for creating an application modernization roadmap that you can apply immediately to your legacy application modernization project.
Strategy #1: Learn from others
Just gather information. You don’t need to do much more than read up on what other businesses within your industry have said or are doing about modernizing their applications. Find out how these other businesses create roadmaps for specific purposes and then customize their steps to fit your business and needs. You can also talk with people who have already modernized their organizations’ software and are leveraging cloud computing or go to a conference or event where others talk about it and adopt the best practices.
Learn from others, then implement best practices on your projects. 3 Legacy Software Modernization Case Studies and 12 Lessons We’ve Learned
This approach is useful when you don’t have the resources to hire a professional to produce such a document, nor the time and expertise to build an application modernization roadmap yourself.
Strategy #2. Start from the ground up
You may choose to start your roadmap document from nothing. Use the guide described later in this article to create your roadmap document, one step at a time.
If you have the resources, and necessary expertise to create your roadmap from scratch, then this is probably the best option for you.
Here’s an important question to ask: How to speed up modernization delivery in legacy transformation? ModOps (DevOps principles for software modernization) is the best technique for modernizing legacy code because it works on DevOps principles such as agility – which are essential for keeping up with the fast-paced advancements in technology. In addition, it also encourages continuous and faster changes and more frequent deployments.
To help modernize your legacy applications, your IT Ops team can use ModOps techniques. ModOps applies the best of DevOps practices to the legacy code modernization process so you can modernize effectively and fast.
IT ModOps provides access to new tools and processes, such as continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) that help teams work better together on projects. Get more done faster with fewer errors, so you can transform your businesses with less risk of failure or disruption to existing systems while also improving customer experience.
Strategy #3. Use pre-built templates
When you do not have time or resources to get into the nitty-gritty, this is another approach to developing a good roadmap document. You may use online templates to kick off your roadmap document. Templates split the roadmap document into major sections for you to fill up your project information. In a later section, we discuss a step-by-step guide that you can apply to fill up a pre-built template.
The problem with this approach is that it’s not so reliable, since companies can’t fully adjust pre-built templates for their needs. Plus It’s suitable only for small companies with well-organized processes and documentation. And the outcomes aren’t predictable.
Strategy #4: Get a professional service to modernize your applications
Instead of figuring out how to develop a roadmap and mounting despicable pressure on your team to implement your plan and deliver a modern product in no time, there’s a better option.
At Modlogix, we have just the right team and expertise to develop an actionable modernization roadmap for your business. And you can hire our dedicated legacy modernization company to bring this strategy to life, efficiently. It’s cost-effective and saves you and your team lots of trouble.
Technology moves so fast, so investing in a great service that will modernize your legacy systems quickly and effectively while your team focuses on new projects is the smartest thing to do.
Step-by-Step Guide Development of Modernization Roadmap for Legacy Applications
Developing an actionable app modernization roadmap for legacy systems is no easy feat. Because the roadmap dictates in practical terms all that needs to be done to move a legacy codebase to modern infrastructure, a modernization project cannot succeed without one. Here’s our comprehensive guide on how to plan a roadmap for application modernization:
Step 1. Audit and Assessment
Modernization starts with a thorough assessment of your current infrastructure. What do we mean by assessment? Here’s what you should look into:
- inventory of all the hardware, software, and infrastructure,
- integration issues,
- compatibility issues,
- outdated features (what isn’t working).
Ask questions like why do I need to modernize my systems now? What issues do I have with my current software? What kind of problem is the new application supposed to solve?
Perform an in-depth analysis of your current system architecture and its main components. You may use your software architectural diagrams, a visual representation of the general structure of the software system, and the associations, limitations, and boundaries between each element, for a better analysis.
Do the analysis yourself, or invest in a dedicated software modernization service for a thorough analysis of your current architecture.
The goal is to help you see what’s working, and what’s faulty. In your roadmap document, describe what needs to be modernized, and what the result of modernization will look like for your legacy applications.
Now that you know what modernization should look like, take the time to set SMART goals that your developer team will work towards achieving. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Your goals may be expanded versions of the following:
- improve end-user experience & security,
- enhance business continuity.
- improve the agility of your system.
- reduce the total cost of owning and managing a legacy system.
Step 2. Business and Technical Understanding
Assess and outline your business and technical needs. Every change starts with the business objectives, that’s why you must outline every detail of your business needs in the early sections of your document.
Answer questions such as: Why do you need to modernize your systems now? What issues do you have with your current software? What kind of problem is the new infrastructure supposed to solve?
To answer these questions, you should take the following actions:
- Check on business documentation and business processes;
- Conduct SWOT analysis to assess internal and external factors, as well as current and future potential. By analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of your modernization project, you’ll get clear directives on how to proceed with modernization to assess internal and external factors, as well as current and future potential;
- Perform user interviews to get feedback from your customers.
Next, study and outline your technical needs. In this section of your roadmap, you’ll answer technical questions such as: What kind of software are you looking for? Do you have any security requirements? What types of licenses will be necessary?
Actions you can take to find answers to these questions:
- Review the legacy codebase;
- Conduct functional testing;
- Check the security state.
How to safely test your legacy codebase? Learn here. Testing Legacy Codebase: What is, Common Problems and Best Practices
Here you can calculate how much the maintenance of your system cost, TCO, and determine what exactly needs to be modernized (the whole system, its part, or you shouldn’t do anything).
Step 3. Create a Modernization Plan – Choose the Right Approach
This stage is all about making the right choice regarding your legacy system before engaging in application modernization services. Put your requirements forward, look at your analysis outcomes, and the resources available to choose the best modernization approach.
You can either decommission your software and build a brand-new one, plugin API to expand functionality, buy an off-the-shelf solution if it corresponds to your needs or choose one of the popular modernization approaches (sometimes it can be a mix of approaches), and suitable technology.
Here are the most common modernization approaches to choose from:
Refactoring is a great approach for businesses that want to move from containers to microservices to avoid software failures. You can use refactoring to improve the state of your software system – Make modifications in the configuration, solve tech issues, and make the code clear and maintainable.
Instead of patching stuff here and there, why not just rebuild? It’s arguably the best approach. All components of your legacy system will be rebuilt, and new features are rewritten. In your roadmap document, describe exactly how every component of your legacy system will be rebuilt.
Replatforming allows you to migrate components of an application to a new platform with minimal changes in the code. You do not have to change core code or features, which is attractive for you who are not set on modifying “too much” of the new system.
If all you want to achieve is to change the interface of your legacy system, then encapsulation is the approach you should use. Encapsulation is the process where you’ll reuse the main components of your system by building new access layers while omitting the legacy code sections. You’ll use APIs to connect the old (legacy code) components to the new access layers, thus providing new interfaces for old components.
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Step 4. Define the Development Methodology and Set Timelines
The development workflow is a choice you should make. You can use the Agile methodology, which means that your stakeholders will see an early version of the final, modernized system soon after the project starts.
You can use Jira (a standard-issue tracker) to manage tasks and communicate with stakeholders. Slack is a good option for internal communication and Google Docs or Microsoft products for documentation.
Break down the entire modernization process into smaller projects/phases that can be achieved within fixed time frames.
Software modernization projects don’t succeed without timelines. In this section of your roadmap document, create a high-level and detailed timeline for each phase. Then add some buffer time because things always take longer than expected! In your roadmap, assign people who have expertise in each area of development.
Certain sub-projects or phases will have higher priorities over others, and prioritization is often a major conflict amongst stakeholders.
Prioritizing modernization efforts is a key step in achieving an enterprise-wide modernization roadmap. The following steps will help you prioritize your efforts, using the Eisenhower matrix :
- Identify the most strategic/urgent business processes.
- Identify the most critical processes: If it’s a critical issue costing you money and customers, handle it first.
- Automation may be a viable solution if the situation is urgent but not critical. And if it’s neither urgent nor important, then it doesn’t bring any value!
Step 5. Create a Risk Management Plan
Application modernization is an essential part of the digital transformation journey, and it can help you be more agile and efficient. But it’s also a big undertaking that can introduce new risks to your organization.
Here are some tips for creating a risk management plan for application modernization:
Identify your risks. Before you can mitigate them, you have to know what they are. Work with your IT team to identify all of the possible threats that could happen during the application modernization process. Include both technical issues (such as data loss or system downtime) and business concerns (such as damage to company reputation).
Define how each risk will be mitigated. Once you’ve identified all of your risks, it’s time to figure out how each one will be addressed if it happens during the process of modernizing applications. For example, if there’s an increased chance of downtime during the cloud migration process, create a contingency plan that outlines how employees can still access their systems while they’re down (such as using mobile apps or email).
Step 6. List KPIs and other vital Metrics for Your System
In your roadmap document, also set key assessment and success metrics to assess the progress of your modernization project.
Here is a few important modernization KPIs to look into:
Performance metrics: How fast does the system under modernization perform and how quickly can it process requests? This can include response time, throughput, and other similar measurements.
Availability metrics: How often is your modernized system available? This can include uptime or downtime measurements.
Security metrics: How secure is the new system? This could include security vulnerabilities, security breaches, and other similar measurements.
Cost efficiency metrics: How much money do you anticipate spending to maintain your modernized system? This could include hardware costs, software costs, and other similar expenses.
Step 7. Plan for Cutover
The cutover is the period during which the new system is being introduced and made available to customers. Cutover plans will vary depending on the project, but some common activities need to be addressed:
- Plan for a complete system cutover before your system goes live.
- Create a checklist of tasks that need to be completed before you switch over. Put this list in an email and send it to all stakeholders. Include a callout explaining why each item is important so that if someone finds something missing they can easily add it to their schedule.
- Make sure no one touches anything on your production environment except those who have been permitted by the project manager or lead developer.
And you are ready to modernize!
4 Pitfalls to Keep in Mind During Creation of App Modernization Roadmap
There are various challenges that you might encounter when creating an application modernization roadmap. These bottlenecks can result in various consequences, including budget overrun, increased technical debt, compromised application quality, or even missed opportunities for change and innovation. With that in mind, here are the pitfalls to have in mind:
Inadequately defined business needs
One of the most overlooked pitfalls when defining the roadmap for application code modernization is not fully comprehending the business objectives and requirements. And on top of that, convincing non-IT business executives to completely overhaul what’s already working for them can also be an uphill task. If the modernization plan doesn’t align with business goals and key stakeholders are not on board, the efforts will be fruitless since the solution will unlike drive desired benefits.
It’s imperative to conduct an in-depth analysis of the current application before pitching the idea to key stakeholders in a bid to understand their expectations and get budget approval. Create a clear list of resources that the project needs and present it in familiar terms so that everyone can buy in. Involving everyone to garner feedback and expectations will help you understand and define the underlying business needs better.
Old and outdated application dependencies
Nearly all software applications are bound to encounter the challenge of technical debt sometime in their lifetime. In other words, the modules powering the application might become outdated over time and negatively impact your organization’s business agility. This is also true for the underlying dependencies, such as frameworks, libraries, and platforms. Unless these dependencies are updated, the app modernization process might delay or fail due to incompatibility or security vulnerability issues.
While creating the roadmap, it will help if you thoroughly evaluate the current dependencies and isolate any obsolete component that might require an upgrade or replacement. This will help you create a solid app modernization roadmap that will form a foundation for integrating new technologies and implementing security enhancements. And when the time to replace a module comes, deconstructing the source code to its base fundamentals to make functional updates iteratively will give your team an easier time than rewriting it from scratch.
Another big pitfall that many CTOs get themselves into when preparing for app modernization is adopting a timeline-based roadmap. While it’s well and good to have deadlines and run the project on a schedule, successfully executing app modernization strategies on arbitrary timelines is nigh impossible. In other words, you can’t rush the process without factoring in the complexity involved or availability of additional resources when needed.
It’s important to build a roadmap for app modernization with a realistic approach, especially if you’re going to achieve complete functionality, reduce technical debt, and improve quality. With a roadmap that thinks into the future, you’ll implement an effective modernization process that fulfills the testing and quality assurance standards to drive desired business outcomes.
Revisioning the governance process
Modernizing legacy apps is more than just making technological improvements. While creating the roadmap, it’s important to factor in how different organizational processes, structures, and skills are going to evolve as well and communicate the same to key stakeholders. Failing to revise the governance process with everyone on board might result in resistance to change, slowed down decision-making, or even general confusion.
However, not everything requires reorganization. It will help if you spare ample time to think it over and define the feasibility of change before inclusion in the roadmap. For instance, if you intend to achieve efficient automation, revising the whole governance process might not be necessary. Instead, you can plan and implement individual changes in the governance process or frameworks during CI/CD.
After Your Modernization Roadmap, What Next?
The next big step is to get your roadmap approved by your team and stakeholders.
The devil is in the details! This statement can’t be more true when it comes to creating a great roadmap. To make sure that your roadmap is truly helpful and functional, here’s what to do:
Share it with your team members and stakeholders so that everyone can see what’s coming up and how they fit into these plans for the future. Get feedback on how well the individual stakeholders’ needs were addressed by this particular roadmap.
It’s true: your roadmap shouldn’t be a static document. You do need to keep it up-to-date as you go, but it shouldn’t be a rigid process. If you have a major change in your company’s direction or if you have new business goals, then yes — you should update your roadmap.
Start Writing Legacy Application Modernization Roadmaps with ModLogix
In RackSpace’s global survey, 20% of respondents indicated that they intend to repurchase software or tools for migration purposes. While it’s okay to develop your plan on your own, leaning on a professional service is probably the smartest thing to do. You’ll get a plan that works, created with expertise and not speculation.
ModLogix has been helping companies with application modernization services for 8 years now, and we’ve seen just about everything there is to see when it comes to modernizing enterprise software. Our team has extensive experience in all areas of application modernization.
You’d want to work with us because we’re one of the best legacy app modernization services on the market, and we say this not to brag but to reassure you of our huge expertise in the area of software modernization.
Whatever industry you’ve chosen to excel at, we’ve got your business covered. We’ve been modernizing codebases across different industries including healthcare, finance, marketing, non-profit, pharma, technology, insurance, and others. Visit our services page now to find out more about how we can help you develop the best possible transformation roadmap for your business.
A well-written legacy application modernization roadmap will serve your IT department and management well. Your roadmap should clearly define your goals, vision, and objectives and include actionable steps to make the transition to a modern application environment successful, even if the project is not expected to end at some distant point in time.