Application modernization graphic
Image: Adobe Stock

Application modernization is hands-down critical to the business for 100% of IT leaders, according to a recent survey by Asperitas. However, despite broad agreement on the value of application modernization, 93% of enterprise IT executives said their modernization experience was extremely or somewhat challenging.

What is application modernization and why should IT leaders work on it?

Application modernization is the process of migrating legacy systems to new applications or platforms, including the integration of new functionality to provide the latest functions to the business, according to Gartner. The concept has become popular in recent years as IT leaders have recognized that new technologies can help a company scale and innovate faster.

The survey results yielded several key trends:

Application modernization is critical to the business

Some 45% of respondents said the applications they had chosen to modernize were critical. Meanwhile, 28% of respondents said modernization had enabled them to innovate faster and scale more rapidly. Another 25% said it can improve end user productivity, and 11% said it might make their company more attractive to employees and customers.

Despite the benefits, application modernization can be challenging

Thirty percent of the IT leaders surveyed said that identifying the right tools and technologies was the most difficult part of the process, while 20% said it was finding staff with the right experience. Other top challenges included choosing the right external partner (18%), getting users trained on the new systems (17%) and securing the support of management (11%).

Asperitas also asked IT leaders about application modernization challenges in multi-cloud environments. Twenty-seven percent of respondents felt the biggest challenge was securing applications, and 26% felt it was integration with on-premises systems and other cloud platforms. Another 20% thought the biggest multi-cloud modernization challenge was ensuring portability between platforms.

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Widespread agreement on the importance of upskilling and process improvement

One-third of respondents said their definition of modernization was using cloud-based infrastructure, while 32% said it was moving legacy systems to the cloud and 22% thought it was using cloud-based tools.

Further, 54% said leveraging microservices meant that they were modernizing, and 59% said the use of cloud-native services indicates as much.

Despite the varying opinions, eight out of 10 of respondent IT leaders said upskilling of internal staff and improvements to antiquated processes was extremely important to application modernization.

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Time and tools are the keys to success, while shortcuts and distractions must be avoided

A plurality (36%) of respondents said that a key application modernization best practice was having ample time to complete the project, while 34% said the most important lesson was choosing the best tool for the job.

In terms of pitfalls to avoid, 36% said the biggest issue was avoiding shortcuts, distractions and/or partners that over-promise and nearly a quarter (24%) said it was waiting too long to modernize a system that’s clearly in need.

Getting application modernization right is what matters the most

Seventy-eight percent of IT leaders responding to Asperitas’ survey said the top priority of application modernization should be “getting it right,” giving far less importance to speed and cost.

“Leveraging cloud-based tools and services clearly is part of the application modernization process but applying these technologies alone neither solves your application problems nor helps you attain your modernization goals,” said Scott Wheeler, practice lead at Asperitas, in a statement. “The goal should be to create a measurable process that looks at all key elements of modernization and build a plan to execute against those goals.”

To get here, Wheeler said, companies need partners and staff who have experience using the right tools and connecting business outcomes to best practices.

Asperitas asked 150 IT leaders, ranging from managers, directors, VPs and CIOs in companies with at least 1,000 employees, for their views on application modernization. The consultancy said everyone who responded has been or currently is involved with an application modernization project.

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