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There’s more to Applications Modernization than meets the eye

now.jpgBy:  Goran Strangmark, Managing Consultant, Hewlett Packard Company

 

TechTarget’s recently published definition of Application Modernization drives home a proper business perspective but fails to recognize the larger application portfolio challenge with which most enterprises wrestle. Portfolio management should focus on applications modernization, which includes continuously killing, merging, replacing, and changing apps to keep the apps portfolio optimal for business.

 

However, “modern” is a moving target.  The goal of an ever-green portfolio is hard to achieve for several (and not always well understood) reasons. TechTarget mentions the most obvious reason, which is technology change, but is silent about other reasons.

 

IT is the business

The need to modernize applications is fundamentally driven by changes in business expectations. IT is used to increasing expectations in efficiency, cost reduction and ease of use. Recent technology advances has fuelled expectations that IT itself can propel new revenue growth. In many companies IT is no longer making business better, IT is the business. In this context, usage or non-usage of an application is a choice by someone not employed by the company. This represents a quantum-leap in usability expectations as modern apps will have to be entertaining or satisfying some need other than the actual transaction being performed. The potential for rapid revenue growth will drive innovation at a high pace and even hot apps will quickly be outdated, making perpetual modernization necessary.

 

The impact of Consumerization

There is a related change that concerns user expectations and touches all apps (even apps primarily used by employees):  Consumerization - it has changed everyone’s way of interacting with computers. Today’s applications must be instantly intuitive to the average person; the norm is coming close to zero learning time. Organizations not modernizing the usability of all their applications – even apps used by IT – will find it hard to recruit new talent as employee expectations escalates.

 

Legacy App “debt”

This is going to be challenging for IT, particularly since the technical design of most old applications no longer have the capability to be modernized. Many legacy apps have deteriorated over time. This is because traditional maintenance and functional enhancements seldom provide neither time nor funding for on-going design improvements. The priority is always on getting back to production or adding more functionality at lowest cost. Gartner refers to this decay in an application’s internal structural integrity as ‘debt’ that will eventually have to be paid.

 

Leadership

Booming expectations and a legacy of unpaid debt is not sustainable. Radical IT simplification should be a priority in most organizations. How IT looks under the hood is a business leadership concern that needs to be addressed with zeal. Business and IT need to work together on this. IT has a responsibility to assess the apps portfolio and candidly disclose its state. Business needs to make trade-offs that free up funding for innovation and support IT with change leadership. Simplification is not going to be easy. Almost all current applications will have proponents somewhere in the organization and the removal of these apps will impact business processes people are used to. For this reason, the transformation program needs to have executive sponsorship and start with a clear definition of the business priorities.

 

It is one thing to present a simple, proper business definition of applications modernization, but although it may be complicated, it is more urgent than ever.

 

Related links:

 

About the author

 

Picture1.jpgGoran Strangmark, Managing Consultant, Hewlett Packard Company

Goran manages HP’s Technology Transformation Consulting practice. He leads a team of senior business technology consultants advising HP enterprise clients on business and technology transformation and modernization.  Goran’s 29 years of experience includes Account Operations Management for large outsourcing engagements and working with large clients in financial services, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, commercial real estate, public sector, and telecommunications industries.

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