How to pick a software modernization partner

How does modernization make the future look bright?

Before immersing yourself in search of a (lost) software modernization partner, it’s worth taking a step back and spelling out why you need software modernization in the first place. There are a few major reasons to consider, coming from both technological and operational points of view. First of all, upgrading the digital product and eliminating potential technical debt allow companies to make space for improvements which, as a result, dramatically enhances the overall software performance.

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However, it’s not only the question of efficiency and scalability. Outdated technology that is no longer compliant with modern tools and effective law can bring about all sorts of security-related issues. Data breaches or leaks may cost you a small fortune and, what’s even more important, your users’ trust. Finally, staying up to date with the current digital trends enables you to keep up with the competitors and address your users’ expectations in the best way possible. Hence modernization simply becomes a great starting point for the overall company development in the future.

Easier said than done, or the tough modernization challenges

Having the above factors in mind, you should not forget about the complexity of the whole modernization process. Apart from numerous benefits, it might also bring several challenges and unknowns to the table. The digital system that needs an upgrade is often crucial for daily company operations. If it requires multiple adjustments, modernization becomes tricky and complicated.

However, it’s not only about what changes are made but also who’s responsible for implementing them. The shortage of resources and in-house skills needed to get the job done is one of the most common modernization challenges. As technology becomes outdated so do the skills of people using it, causing the pressure to find the right professionals for the job to rise even more. For this reason, a considerable number of companies consider outsourcing and using a 3rd-party organization to support modernization activities. This step enables them to upskill the existing team with competencies that are currently lacking.

The question is, how to find the most reliable and knowledgeable software modernization partner to involve in the process?

Separating the wheat from the chaff, or how to choose the best software modernization partner

Outsourcing the modernization process can be a real money and time-saver, as it takes from you the burden of internal recruitment or training. That being said, finding a perfect software modernization partner is not an easy task. It should be a tech expert able to guide you through the whole journey, mitigate the risks, identify challenges, and come up with solutions that make the process efficient.

Initial discussions with different software vendors may be a good basis for further decisions since they allow you to recognize a mutual fit. There are several questions you might want to ask yourself while looking for the most suitable team:

  • Does the potential software modernization partner have enough resources suited for the job? Ideally, the team should include senior professionals experienced with big-traffic solutions and equipped with a wide range of technical and analytical skills.
  • Do they have appropriate procedures and structures in place to perform the modernization efficiently?
  • Is the company proactive? On the other hand, is it also able to follow your suggestions and respect your vision?
  • Has the vendor in question ever participated in a similar process?

Based on your findings, you should assess if a particular tech team is capable of undertaking the task. Still not sure how to proceed, though? For your convenience, we’ve prepared a list of areas you may want to focus on when talking to potential software partners. Let’s dive deeper into them.

Software modernization partner’s workflow

Tried and tested processes

Processes and methodologies followed by a tech company are a great indicator of their maturity and reliability. Using battle-tested tools and techniques developed through years of successful collaboration with clients from different verticals proves that a team is ready to undertake a more advanced and responsible task, like software modernization. Let’s not forget, however, that respecting certain rules and procedures serves not only software development but also law compliance. Staying up-to-date with ever-changing regulations is considered as one of the reasons to start modernization in the first place.

Moving forward, it’s also worth looking at how the potential software modernization partner handles the pre-development stage. This phase is a perfect opportunity to talk business and discuss a broader context impacting the digital product in question. It allows a software provider to become a consultant who shares advice and helps you define the adequate modernization path, securing both quick wins and long-term business benefits.

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Finally, there are commercial terms to discuss. In the case of IT projects, especially those more complex and tailor-made, time and material contract seems to be the most reasonable choice. It provides you with a high dose of flexibility and leaves room for modifications during the modernization process, which tends to have a quite dynamic scope of work. And, as we all know, it’s usually not possible to have everything planned in advance.

Flexibility as the key to long-term stability

Let’s stay on the flexibility topic a bit longer, as it turns out to be crucial for successful software modernization. A flexible approach enables the tech team to adjust core procedures to your objectives and assumptions, as well as react well to inevitable changes happening along the way. By evaluating methods used in the process, they’re able to ensure continuous progress.

However, flexibility can also concern other aspects, such as product ownership and team composition. There are numerous collaboration models to choose from, each requiring a different level of engagement from the partner’s side. On the one hand, you can go for team augmentation, which entails enriching your internal team with specialists from the partner’s side. On the other hand, your software modernization partner may take full responsibility for the work on different modules and functionalities by assigning a dedicated, multidisciplinary team. Of course, hybrid options are also a possibility.

No matter the model, there always must be some room left for changes. A reliable modernization partner should be able to scale the team up and down and provide you with relevant resources when necessary, continuously adjusting the methods and tools used in the process. Agile methodologies are a perfect fit here since they allow you to plan the roadmap in a realistic and efficient manner, as well as monitor the progress.

Finally, it’s worth examining the software modernization partner’s openness to feedback and eagerness to share thoughts or tips. Collaborative, transparent discussions are a crucial step in assessing the efficiency of activities and introducing necessary improvements as you go.

Respect for rules

Discussions with a software modernization partner allow you to gain a better understanding of their processes, but they’re also an excellent opportunity to explain your internal procedures and requirements. A reliable tech partner should acknowledge and follow the rules of your organization, especially if they’re related to the operational and legal areas.

It’s also worth remembering about external factors impacting the business environment and governing the whole industry you’re working in. These should constitute a reference point during the entire modernization process. While it’s essential that the partnering company shows a proactive approach and can guide you in the right direction, it’s also crucial for them to be open to your vision and respect your perspective.

Knowing all the ins and outs

Last but not least, as a client, you have every right to find out more about the experience of your potential tech partner, both in terms of software development in general and software modernization in particular. A proven track record is always a plus and a good sign of reliability. One way to check it is by using portals with testimonials of previous clients. Independent review sites, such as Clutch, gather clients’ opinions through detailed interviews, touching upon different collaboration areas (communication, timelines, tech competencies, costs, etc.). It’s a source of knowledge enabling you to engage a trustworthy and qualified partner.

Another option would be to look at the portfolio of a chosen company, taking into account the vertical and technologies relevant to your business needs. This step allows you to establish a potential fit.

Getting the full picture

Let’s not forget, however, that there are other factors indicating a software modernization partner’s professional approach. The next one we’re going to discuss is the ability to gather information, enabling the tech team to fully understand your needs and requirements to suggest the best solutions.

The hidden power of a curious mind

Taking over a task as complex and challenging as software modernization requires a lot of skill and preparation from a tech partner. Above all, it’s about understanding the causes and objectives of the procedure, enabling the team to create the most reasonable roadmap. A curious mindset and determination in gathering info about the current state of your software turn out to be critical.

The analysis of your product actually begins with the first call, which makes a perfect opportunity to exchange high-level questions, as well as draw a general business and technical context. It’s also a starting point for determining the next steps. One of the good practices is organizing in-depth UX and technical audits, so make sure that your potential software modernization partner has a wide range of options here.

Such meetings allow a multidisciplinary team to deliberate on particular cases to discover the real goals. It’s a perfect moment for them to challenge your assumptions, dive deep into the roots of the problems, and prepare possible scenarios to deal with them. An experienced and reliable partner won’t be afraid of asking difficult questions and will show meticulousness in analyzing information about your product, viewing it from a more distanced and objective perspective. In the whole process, it’s also important to show a proactive approach in anticipating challenges, identifying interdependencies between modules, and performing an up-front risk assessment.

Preparing a thorough software analysis and a business-driven modernization roadmap requires looking way beyond technology. The tech partner should not just act as a code factory but rather a party responsible for understanding the core of your business. Only this way, based on the industry knowledge and users’ expectations, the tech team will be able to suggest reasonable solutions in the modernization process, leading to further company growth.

Tech expertise

Staying up to date yet critical

After having accomplished the crucial step of information gathering, business analysis, and code review, it’s time for the juicy stuff: the software modernization itself. With regards to technological activities, it’s essential to ensure that your partner has had experience working with cutting-edge solutions, such as cloud architecture, automation, microservices, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, AI/VR, cross-platform development, or Big Data. Following the latest IT trends and industry news indicates the maturity and awareness of your software modernization partner. However, market novelties should always be taken with a pinch of salt and critical thinking. A more holistic approach is recommended in order to choose future-proof solutions and ensure that you can easily scale up the product later on.

Leaving the comfort zone

Revamping a product into a lasting yet innovative solution that brings business value requires a thorough choice of technologies and tools. Since the possibilities are endless in the IT world, it’s worth checking if your potential software provider is open to working outside their core stack, keeping your vision and assumptions in mind. Having broad expertise and a good understanding of your needs, the software modernization partner’s team should be able to propose the best tech combination to aim at. It all circles back to the pre-development stage, consisting of deep software and business analysis, which is the most reasonable starting point for further activities.

How to choose the best software modernization partner?

Test drive with the team

Everything we’ve said so far sounds great in theory, but what about practice? How to evaluate if a particular company is indeed a good match for your modernization challenge? Tech and business expertise can be most accurately assessed only after the project has already started. However, there are some ways to get a sample of the team’s work and approach to determine a general fit between companies.

It can be done by assigning a small task to your potential partner, for example, a code review or a workshop session. Let’s treat it as a trial period, where you get an opportunity to see the team’s efforts without a bigger commitment. It’s a perfect way to examine their competencies and knowledge, but also get a grasp of their processes, communication skills, and project management methodologies. After all, these are the factors that impact a long-term collaboration the most.

Skills and roles

Workflow and skills turn out to be crucial when assessing if a chosen tech partner is ready to undertake the modernization process in your company. To uncover the true value of a team, it’s worth taking a look at the individuals that build it. A strong, multidisciplinary team consists of members whose knowledge and expertise are complementary. Every one of them has a particular goal to accomplish and plays an essential role in your project. Let’s dive deeper into different specialists you may encounter in a tech team.


This is probably the first role that comes to mind when thinking about a digital project. Developers are those who actually write the code and implement changes or features described in the scope. They tackle all the logical challenges and solve them by producing high-quality code, complying with modern standards. It’s beneficial if the devs engaged in the modernization process are knowledgeable of the vertical or the type of software your product belongs to, as it makes finding suitable solutions much easier.

Product Designers

Before the development begins, though, one needs a visual representation of the product. Creating a user-friendly flow and aesthetically pleasing design for the product is quite challenging, especially if the software in question is complex. Within this section, we could differentiate two main roles: a UI designer and a UX designer, and their work is usually intertwined. The first one tackles the interface, ensuring that the layer users interact with is readable and pleasant to the eye. A UX specialist goes a little deeper, focusing not only on the visual aspect of the product but also its performance, making sure the software is intuitive to use. An excellent designer should be aware of the latest designing standards to ensure the usability and versatility of their work.

Software Architects

It’s a skillful individual combining development skills with an analytical mind. Their main objective is to define the software’s internal structure and create the most reasonable project roadmap. Their experience in designing, creating, and maintaining digital products is invaluable for more advanced tech endeavors, including software modernization. A software architect provides you with continuous support at each stage of the process.

Business Analysts

As the name indicates, a business analyst performs a thorough analysis of your needs and requirements to determine the objectives your product has to meet. Their role is to act as your first point of contact at the beginning of the conversation, making sure your vision is clearly defined and understood by the whole team working on the modernization. They often suggest different ways in which the business needs can be translated into cutting-edge software. Additionally, they provide market insights and recommendations based on their experience in a particular field or industry.

Project Managers & Scrum Masters

Efficient project management processes often define the team’s success. The role of a Project Manager is multi-dimensional. It should be a well-rounded and experienced individual, able to prioritize tasks, motivate the team and implement change & risk management best practices. In fact, they might be considered guardians of processes. A Scrum Master, being an ambassador of the Scrum framework in the whole organization, needs to, above all, cherish and exercise Scrum values. Overall, a person assigned to the project in the role of a PM or SM should also possess previous modernization experience. Thanks to this background, they will be able to adjust communication and methodologies to meet your needs.

Quality Assurance Specialists

Although you may initially think their involvement is not always necessary, the QA role is essential for any software project. They are responsible for ensuring high-quality of the new features and smooth functioning of all parts of the system. What’s more, with further development of your product comes increased risk and vulnerability, making the Quality Assurance activities even more important. It’s of great value if your partner’s testing team has reliable standards and a vast knowledge base regarding different test types, including performance tests, API tests, regression tests, or automated tests.

Stronger together

Choosing a software modernization partner providing you with a cross-disciplinary team brings many benefits to the table. It mainly boils down to having a broad skill set and industry knowledge. By combining different programming languages, frameworks, libraries, and integrations, the partner is able to create the most suitable tech stack for a project. The modernization may involve lifting a small portion of the existing software, refactoring the product, or completely rewriting the whole solution. Only by looking at the problem from several perspectives can the team make reasonable tech choices, often involving creative mixes of diverse tools and languages.

As you probably know, finding such a team may be challenging. When looking for the best software company to undertake the modernization challenge, it’s worth organizing a meeting between the two tech teams to verify the experience and see how the external provider could potentially fill in your internal skill gap. It’s a perfect opportunity to ask about things like refactoring, database migration, switching to a newer version of the programming language, identifying areas that could be improved, etc.

Tech expertise and vertical knowledge are just parts of a bigger puzzle when it comes to composing a perfect modernization team for your needs. Soft skills, communication, work organization, and values respected by particular members can make a big difference too.


Keeping things black-and-white

When transferring a modernization project to an external company, you want to ensure that each step in the process is clearly communicated to you. Transparency plays a significant role in a successful collaboration, as it builds trust and shows that a tech partner is mature and treats the challenge professionally.

There are multiple indicators of a partner’s transparency. One of them is their organizational workflow. The modernization plan and management tools should be well-coordinated and shared with you, enabling you to monitor the progress – it’s even more important when you collaborate remotely. The tech team should also be open to discussions, brainstorming and dialogue in order to resolve doubts and explain the reasoning behind certain decisions. It’s also helpful if your partner is able to explain the processes and methodologies they follow early on in the conversation, giving you a better understanding of their approach. Based on that, you can assess if there’s a potential fit between the two companies.

Staying on the same wavelength

It’s not only about the workflow fit, though. Sometimes cultural differences may affect the whole process, letting certain things be lost in translation or simply misunderstood. A general good vibe and chemistry might be underestimated but they’re crucial in building a long-term relationship.

You + software modernization partner = a match made in heaven

Modernization is a journey, not a destination. While a versatile formula for finding a perfect traveling companion doesn’t really exist, there are some factors that may help you make the right decision. The choice should be dependent on your particular needs, requirements, and expectations. Taking into account the fast pace of technological change, it’s worth investing in the modernization process sooner rather than later. Don’t lag behind and find a goal-oriented, experienced tech partner.

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