Modernizing Business Applications in 2020 and Beyond

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Technology has leapt forward at a record pace the year as result of COVID-19. Microsoft CEO,  Satya Nadella, stated in a recent earnings report call that, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”. In the midst of supply chain disruptions, economic instability, and vast changes in social and consumer behaviors, innovation has only become more important as the pandemic threatens to permanently change the business ecosystem. Everything is changing—and nothing is changing about that anytime soon.

In this volatile landscape, we’ve seen winning companies develop digital solutions to pivot, innovate, and address consumer and business needs quickly. From curbside retail to virtual healthcare and education delivery to mission-critical applications helping to automate processes and monitor supply chains, it’s clear that a company’s ability to adapt is only as strong as its technology. Now more than ever, application modernization and the agility it brings prepares companies for potential disruptions and enables them to quickly take advantage of new opportunities.

Legacy Technology and the Status Quo

Despite posing security risks and costing more time and money to maintain, older “legacy” software remains firmly entrenched in tech organizations across all industries. In an effort to minimize costs and avoid slowdowns at a time when every second counts, many companies cling to solutions that no longer serve them well. Decision makers might choose to avoid the perceived costly learning curve of a new application. They assume that their tech teams can create manual ad hoc workarounds, saving money by squeezing a few more months or another year out of their current system. After all, good leaders conserve resources, right?

The problem in this logic is that there is inherent cost in servicing a legacy application with outdated technology. And, while this cost is often quite large, it’s typically unmeasured and therefore goes unaccounted for. Tech costs grow not in modernizing, but in the “whack-a-mole” effort of trying to make old software keep up with tasks that it wasn’t originally built to perform. There comes a time when a modern application solution is actually a better choice from a cost-savings and productivity standpoint. Furthermore, modernized applications run more efficiently yielding  significant operational savings (a 2018 McKinsey report found that migrating to Cloud infrastructure could save up to 50% in data spend).

Adopting a Modernized Application Solution

Businesses relying on outmoded legacy software in 2020 simply can’t pivot to the new business practices that we are seeing at this scale. When the reactive nature of dealing with cumbersome legacy software begins to block innovation and adaptation, it’s time to upgrade. Modern application development is proactive and flexible—precisely the approach that companies need to adopt when change is a constant.

Identifying the weakest parts of your application in times of stress allows you to determine where to focus your efforts. Upgrading doesn’t have to mean total replacement of the app all at once.  Rather, you can achieve quick wins by using microservices and adopting a proven design framework like the Strangler Pattern, which delivers new features and functions while gradually retiring antiquated legacy components.  Modern development has evolved to ensure that software built for today is also ready for the uncertainty of tomorrow—allowing development teams to make continuous improvements and adapt quickly while minimizing disruptions.

Business as (Un)usual

Application modernization provides clear benefits to businesses on both internal and external fronts. First, it allows companies to stay competitive in an increasingly digital market. Customer demand drives innovation—in the case of COVID-19, it’s occurred very quickly—and legacy systems can block businesses’ ability to adapt and meet needs in uncertain times. An agile mindset must be accompanied by agility and flexibility in tech solutions, something modern software is designed to provide.

Agility has also been at top of mind this year as business leaders decide how to adapt to the most distributed workforce in history. A vast majority of global CEOs believe that recent trends of remote automation and digital collaboration are here to stay. If they are correct, businesses will require modern software to support these activities. Slow processing times, lack of functionality, and new needs outside what a legacy application offers can contribute to slowdowns in productivity. There is an opportunity to automate processes around how employees work today and how they may work in the future. Instead of creating more work for teams, as current systems might do in this new context, modern applications can empower employees and contribute value to the organization.

Investing in modernizing your company’s core applications amid tumultuous and uncertain times may appear risky. But when it comes to making any investment in your company’s growth, context always matters. Today we see more and more evidence that tech innovation is key to surviving times of change. Employees and customers alike rely on digital experiences that work. And when those digital experiences comprise an ever-larger percentage of essential business operations, making sure they work effectively is no longer an option. It’s a core necessity.

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