When to Update Your Application: A Guide to Application Modernization Services

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If your organization runs on a custom software solution used extensively by your internal employees or external customers, it’s important to make sure that it’s kept up to date and modernized for your users. But as you may or may not have experienced, keeping and maintaining a legacy app is not without costs and risks. When your in-house team is fielding high volumes of user complaints (about compatibility issues, missing features, slow performance, bugs, or something else) and building workarounds instead of innovating and working on new products, the costs begin to mount. And the further in time you go without making critical updates, the more you risk an app that becomes unstable and eventually unusable. The solution? Application modernization.

If you’re looking to keep costs low and provide an effective platform for your users, at what point should your organization invest in application modernization? And what do you need to know before you get started to make the process smooth, stay within budget, keep your team involved, and get everything delivered on time?

Here’s a guide to what you should be looking for in application modernization services and what you should expect.

What is app modernization and when is it time to invest?

In some ways, the decision to invest in a new solution for your app is akin to deciding whether to buy a new car. You can certainly do it at any time, especially if your business depends on the newest, most advanced modern features. But the most economical time to do it is when the cost to maintain your current app has started to approach the cost of a new solution.

And the truth is that a new solution is often not as expensive as you might think. One of the most common misconceptions that we see about application modernization is that it’s all or nothing: that you must completely overhaul and replace every element of an app if you’re going to do it at all. But depending on the application’s age, architecture, and features, this might not be necessary. Application modernization does not, by default, mean complete application replacement. More often than not, you can save development time and costs by prioritizing which updates are the most critical and finding quick wins that fit your budget.

Here are a few examples:

  • A monolithic legacy application built as a single unit can be re-architected as a series of smaller, independent units called microservices, which carry out functions independently. This reduces time for maintenance and troubleshooting and makes adding features easier in the future.
  • An application can be subbed out for a more lightweight solution that still costs less and takes less development time than an entirely new native app, such as a progressive web app. This also makes future updates easier to make, though it may sacrifice some of the higher-level features of a native app.
  • An application that is operational but taking up a significant amount of on-premise computing and network resources can be migrated to cloud infrastructure. This provides more reliability and eases the challenges of maintaining your own database and scaling when your business grows.

In each of these cases, changing certain elements can be a quicker, less expensive, and more effective strategy than completely overhauling the application and starting from scratch—but each of these solutions can have a substantial and lasting impact on the technical debt and maintenance efforts required of your team.

But how do you know which solution is the best one for your organization? This is where finding a development team that understands your needs and that can help you determine the right path forward is absolutely crucial.

Working with a development firm on application modernization services

Choosing a development firm for application modernization offers clear benefits over relying on your in-house team.

First, a development firm is entirely dedicated to your application modernization. Relying on an in-house team isn’t the best use of your resources; instead, a firm knows the latest technologies for rebuilding and modernizing an application and can implement them without slowing down your company roadmap. And not only does hiring a development firm take that modernization work off your plate, but it also frees up your team’s time performing time-consuming workarounds and patching up legacy application operations issues.

A development firm can bypass all the learning curves and in-house time your team would require, implementing new components in a fraction of the time. And not only that, but a dedicated development firm can make specialized recommendations based on your budget and timeframe—knowing exactly what application modernizations are critical and which are less urgent so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And knowing app development inside and out leads to more innovative, creative, and cost-effective solutions for the long term.

What to expect when choosing a development firm

When you’re choosing a firm to work with, any experienced and reputable company will offer a discovery, assessment, and planning process along with deliverables to explore your current and future app needs to develop a recommended roadmap. In fact, the work often takes the form of two independent contracts: one for the discovery and planning, and a second for the actual execution.

Business leaders can sometimes overlook the importance of the discovery, assessment, and planning process—after all, when you’ve decided to make a change you want it done as soon as possible—but it’s an absolutely crucial step to minimizing costs and development time and assuring your satisfaction. The firm’s team will want to gain a deep understanding of your organization’s goals and desired impact so that they can develop a detailed plan for your application’s structure, features, and components. These planning deliverables bring tremendous value to your organization in their key strategic insight and evaluation of your current systems—even before a single line of code is written. Any company that recommends an entirely new build without doing this legwork is not worth your time and trust.

Once the initial phase is complete, you can determine whether or not you’d like the company to complete the execution of the development plan. The execution takes the work off your team’s plate: both the modernization work but also the time and labor-intensive work of maintaining your existing app. However, the firm you hire should have a dedicated customer support team to enable knowledge transfer to your internal team. This will help get them up to speed on the new build and stay involved so that they can hit the ground running—albeit with a much lighter load—when the new app is live.

Application modernization at MercuryWorks

At MercuryWorks, we’ve had the privilege of creating successful application modernization solutions and solving wicked problems for numerous clients. Here’s a recent case study.

We pride ourselves on consistently, reliably delivering top-quality software and service. Our robust discovery and planning process, expert execution, and dedicated customer support team make every step of the development process run smoothly and provide a best-in-class customer experience.

Interested in modernizing an application for your organization? Reach out to us today.

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