Why is software modernization significant?
If software modernization entails that many challenges, why should you consider undertaking it in the first place? The reason is quite simple: outdated software means poor performance and dissatisfied stakeholders, be it users or executives. The business landscape is ever-changing, and the tools you use must correspond with the market demand.
Postponing software transformation will likely do more harm than good. Holding up to a legacy system entails having to deal with numerous issues, such as:
- security threats,
- end of software support and integration troubles for older versions of operating systems and frameworks,
- business inefficiency, which translates into wasting both time and money maintaining a low-performance product,
- decreased team efficiency and motivation due to devs having to work with tech debt,
- difficulty finding specialists with relevant skills.
These and many more factors might jeopardize the company’s efforts to stay on track with daily activities. By undergoing software modernization, on the other hand, you give your business a chance to stay in the game and transform the way the organization works.
What makes you ready for software modernization?
Software modernization can go two ways: it can accelerate your company’s growth or disrupt business. Assuming the latter option doesn’t sound appealing to you, make sure you’re actually ready for the transition, regardless of the scope of work and the path you’d like to take – be it a slight shift or a complete rewrite.
Careful planning is crucial to avoiding pitfalls and coming up with a clear vision of work. The preparation state should help you answer a few outstanding questions:
- What needs to be changed?
- What should be left unaltered?
- What is the top priority?
- What can wait?
The more specific the final answers are, the better. Based on them, you can organize work efficiently and prepare the team for what comes next.
Here are the things you should take care of to ensure your organization is ready to take up the challenge and successfully bring the outdated software to the next level.
Now: documenting the current state
Unless you check if there’s anything wrong with the current solution, you won’t be sure it requires modernization in the first place. That’s why, to begin with, we recommend you gather detailed software documentation covering both technical and business terms. Gaining an in-depth understanding of your system and functionalities critical to daily operations is an excellent way to start the modernization procedures off on the right foot.
Try kicking off the process by creating an updated tech stack overview to understand what’s working and what’s not. During this stage, you may notice that some areas aren’t 100% clear to you, and it’s actually challenging to determine their state. No worries, that tends to be the case with mature systems. After all, your company’s been using the software for quite some time now. The good thing is that you can use this to your advantage. Pointing out the unknowns and the blurry fields that haven’t been taken care of before could be a great starting point for further actions.
Knowing the technical limitations and issues with the current software is one thing. Another one is being aware of the business-critical components. While evaluating the current state of your company and the software you’re using, it’s worth taking a look at metrics.
Numbers very often highlight the red flags that should be addressed. Perhaps some activities take a lot of the employees’ time but could be automated? Maybe too many people are engaged in a particular task? Or there’s a delay in data migration that can be fixed? Have a lot of bugs been detected lately? Is the maintenance cost for the current system higher than the cost of its rewriting? All of these aspects might be good indicators of a need for change.
A well-thought, detailed modernization plan based on a thorough analysis will constitute a good foundation for discussion and a solid argument in your hands when talking about the transition with different stakeholders.
Then: determining the future state
Now that you’ve finished the analysis part, it’s time to think about your vision for the product and the goals you’d like to accomplish with it. Make sure to consider both technical and business dimensions again, keeping them strictly aligned, as the tools should always complement the company’s needs. This step is crucial for defining the short- and long-term objectives, choosing the focus areas, and mitigating the risks related to them.
It’s a perfect opportunity to establish how the tech-related goals (for example, improving the design, creating a more intuitive user flow, improving performance and scalability, switching to modern frameworks, etc.) should support the business value.
That’s when the joint forces of product design and software architecture come into play to ensure that both user and tech perspectives are considered. Design and infrastructure experts apply techniques such as creating user personas, story mapping, event storming, or preparing a value/effort matrix, allowing you to go even further in the planning process.
Apart from that, setting up specific KPIs, deadlines, limits, and critical points might also be a good method to determine what the future might bring. Not only does it enable you to work out a crystal-clear vision of the deliverables and goals, but it also helps you efficiently re-organize the company workflow and set aside a budget covering all the modernization-related costs.
All in all, figuring out the desired state of your software makes you aware of what is needed to achieve the goal. Sometimes, it turns out that you lack internal resources and expertise to reach the point you envisioned. In this case, many companies consider outsourcing part of the work to external partners to ensure the highest quality and efficiency of work, making the process less disturbing for the company’s operations at the same time.
How: drafting the roadmap
Having determined the future state, you can identify the gap between how your software is working now and how it’s supposed to work eventually. At this point, you can consider modernization strategy, architecture, infrastructure, etc. That’s also the moment for meticulous planning regarding the timeline and budget to put your vision into a more realistic and practical perspective. All these factors will be the basis for drafting a roadmap.
Considering how complex the modernization process might be, we’d recommend starting the transition gradually and abandon the “all at once” attitude. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the plan should include milestones, critical points, and deadlines. It’s worth enriching the list with KPIs you’d like to achieve with each step to have a precise picture of where you’d like to be. This is how you’re going to confirm what the missing pieces of the puzzle are.
A reasonable division of the process into smaller steps is also a good foundation for identifying the priorities and differentiating them from the “extra” or less crucial elements. This, on the other hand, enables you to set aside a particular budget for the whole endeavor and carefully plan the timeline for changes. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Which aspects are critical to your daily operations?
- Which areas are the most problematic?
- Which changes will take the most time and which will be quicker to implement?
- Which changes will be the most disturbing for the company’s functioning?
Together with your team, try to prepare technical and operational recommendations to make the transition as smooth as possible. The tech research should constitute an important part of this step – based on it, you’ll determine the best stack for your system and needs. Depending on the current requirements, you may consider introducing cloud solutions, microservices, automation, more scalable programming languages in their most updated versions, extra security measures, etc.
When deciding on the final state of your software, you need to make sure it’s going to be supported and easily integrated with external systems, enabling your company to grow further. Drawing a clear picture of what you’re after allows you to choose the best modernization strategy: lift&shift, refactoring, or a complete rewrite.
The choice should be made bearing in mind timelines, finances, and technical and operational factors. Each company is unique, which is why there’s often a need for a tailor-made approach.
We’re all in this together: getting the stakeholders on board
Last but not least, changes related to software modernization usually concern a huge number of individuals and directly impact the whole company’s operations. For this reason, it’s important to raise awareness and explain to different stakeholders what the process will look like, why it will happen in the first place, and what it will lead to. After all, transparency is key! This way, you ensure the stakeholders are on the same page with you and support the ongoing activities.
The changes usually concern the board, the users, and the tech team. Their needs and tasks differ significantly, which means you need to adjust your approach depending on who you’re talking to.
End users of the modernized software
The group that is the most affected by the software are its end users. When significant changes to the current system are just around the corner, they might become anxious or afraid. Why is that? The lack of control and information makes users insecure about the future that will bring something new. And new isn’t always better – people like their routines and sometimes find it hard to adjust. The whole situation may impact their performance, cause frustration and distrust. If people are scared, they don’t tend to collaborate either, leading to delays in the process. It doesn’t sound great, does it?
To avoid disturbance among the users, keep the communication around the changes straightforward from the very beginning. Make sure to uncover, acknowledge, and address their fears. To do that, present relevant information and benchmarks – this way, people will understand what’s going on and start to feel comfortable in the new environment. Then, implement human-centered management methodologies to achieve a smooth transition and ensure a high level of wellbeing. An open discussion allowing users to express their doubts or suggestions may work wonders – this way, everyone feels like they’re an active participant able to impact the process.
Kotter’s 8 Step Model of Change can help you tame the fears and neutralize the sense of danger in software modernization
The board and C-level executives
With the management board, it might be beneficial to use the language of benefits. Convincing the board should be the core driver of business value. Build a strong need for change among them and show them the gains and opportunities that arise from software modernization, especially finances and time. Focus not only on long-term goals but also on quick wins to build up their motivation and interest.
The in-house project team
Finally, software modernization should be performed in close collaboration with the technical team. By consulting the current issues with the specialists, you can draw a reasonable roadmap and choose the most suitable tools for the job. Their hard work and expertise contribute to the overall modernization success, which entails better efficiency, easy integration with modern solutions, faster deployment, higher code quality, and improved security.
Convincing others to participate in a new challenge is never easy. Feel free to look at our guide to getting all the stakeholders on board when beginning the modernization journey.
Software modernization readiness checklist
Together, we’ve taken a look at some of the factors to keep in mind when starting the software modernization process. Let’s summarise the most crucial ones confirming your company is ready for action.
You’ve done your research, you’ve analyzed the current situation, and made a clear list of objectives to achieve. Still not sure if it’s the right time to begin the modernization journey?
Do you think seriously about software modernization? See how we helped businesses like yours streamline their software towards business growth!