The 3 stages on the journey to application modernization

  • Posted on April 25, 2017

application modernization value curve

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Leigh Schvartz.

Re-platformed, re-architected, agile, DevOps, liquid, micro-engineered, cloud-first, mobile-first, as-a-service. Application modernization has, I think, more buzz-words per paragraph than any of our major building blocks of IT modernization (Applications, Infrastructure & Workplace).

Perhaps with good reason though, application modernization should be at the core of any modernization journey. They drive infrastructure choices, enable workplace solutions, as well as potentially being a major source of competitive advantage in today’s digital world. Applications are also the face of IT. The face of the service which IT are arguably judged on most, by both internal and external customers. So their availability, user experience, and the productivity that they enable is absolutely critical.

In our recent global IT modernization research, we asked 800 senior IT decision makers to break down their current application portfolio into our three stages - with definitions akin to the journey you see in the image above. On average globally, respondents believe that 32% of their applications are Legacy (adding risk and cost), 35% are Conventional (typical of today) and 33% are Modernized (addressing the emerging needs of the digital business).

Comparing regional trends on the journey to application modernization, the UK had the lowest percentage of apps in the modernized stage (29%) and Germany had the highest makeup of legacy apps (38%). The US appear to be leading the way with 36% of apps modernized. At an industry level, Consumer Services had the highest proportion of apps in the legacy stage (38%) and the most modernized industry we surveyed was Media, leisure and entertainment with 40% of apps deemed modernized.

The Three Stages of a Modernization Journey

Stage 1: Legacy (aging parts of the environment adding risk and cost)

A typical starting point for a lot of organizations on this journey is large, on-premises applications in use for key business critical functions. Their size makes them very difficult to update and their age often means they are running on end of support platforms and/or infrastructure. This only gets worse as time progresses, and the business value of these applications declines rapidly as they fall out of alignment with the emerging digital business needs.

Stage 2: Conventional (typical of today)

The easiest way to move away from some of these problems is to migrate the applications away from the legacy platform, by either retaining on premises, or re-hosting in the cloud using Infrastructure as a Service. Once this is completed the application is current & supported, but this offers minimal additional business value, as the application itself rarely changes at this point. So while useful, this shouldn’t be the end goal. Initial dabbling with Software-as-a-Service is also common here with organizations striving to lower IT support costs, which Microsoft say is possible by as much as 10%.

Stage 3: Modernized (next wave of business value-add IT to help address the digital age)

The biggest bump in value on the application modernization journey comes when application portfolios themselves are rationalized and then modernized to deliver on current business needs. Modernized applications are liquid, in that they are micro-engineered, cloud-first, and assembled rapidly using Platform-as-a-Service, which can enable up to 50% faster time to market. The approaches themselves are also modernized, with modern engineering practices like Agile & DevOps used to improve delivery efficiency and more quickly respond to business demands, providing the business with key competitive advantage.

The Journey In Action – Global Tech Giant

We lived this journey recently with a global tech giant who were tasked with moving out of their datacenters in one year, with over 2000 applications in tow. While it was clear some applications required modernization, the tight timelines required the Avanade team to move them as-is to Microsoft Azure IaaS.  By utilizing our proven industrialized tools and our Cloud Application Studios we managed to move all 2000 within their deadline. While IaaS use allowed them to decommission over 8000 servers, it didn’t allow them to make the cost savings they wanted. Running their on-premises estate as-is in the cloud, coupled with the ability to provision servers in minutes rather than months, led to higher utilization.

We then charted a course toward ‘modernized’ using our Application Roadmap to Cloud tool to gain insight into which applications would give the best business benefits if modernized with PaaS.  We have since modernized over 300 apps, which has immediately allowed them to cut costs by taking advantage of optimized cloud-based utilization, as well as new capabilities for monitoring, disaster recovery, and more.

Your Unique App Journey

Not all application journeys will be the same, nor do you have to move between each stage linearly. What’s important is that you take a strategic and holistic view of your modernization needs across all three modernization building blocks, the remaining two being Infrastructure & Workplace. Infrastructure is up next time.

For more detail on Avanade’s modernization approach, check out our point of view paper here.

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