One of the key ingredients in Digital Transformation programs is the ability to migrate business logic to new-age applications that are easier to maintain and are more agile. This is broadly classified as Application Modernization; one of the several pillars of a true Digital Transformation journey. There are many schools of thoughts on how to carry out Application Modernization. There is a significant number of them that essentially lead you down one of the two paths – “Big Bang Approach” or a “Rip and Replace Approach”. Vendors have become smarter to coin alternate terms for these approaches; so, you will possibly hear different terms; but essentially leading down one of these paths or minor variations to it.
I am not saying that these approaches do not work; but we need to analyze the success of these approaches in trying to solve the problems for applications that cater to complex functionalities built over several years especially in large complex organizations. Chances are that you will find very few cases that have been reasonably successful. Parts of the solution would have worked; but the larger question is – did you achieve what you intended to achieve? You might have started to believe that the program has been successful; because the goalpost of success would have shifted since the program was originally conceived with a set of stated objectives.
So, how do you ensure that you can achieve early success before embarking on a complete overhaul of application modernization in-line with your Digital Transformation journey? In my view, there are four fundamental steps that you need to have as your top-priorities:
- Focus on Data
- Identify your data sources and consumers
- Identify owners of data – both from an application perspective as well as from a user point of view
- Have a strategy for clean data
- Focus on Data Integration
- How reliable is your data integration pipeline?
- Review data synchronisation frequencies, payload sizes, breakdowns
- Revisit data integration protocols, tools, and methodologies
- Do you have data replay and audit capabilities when needed?
- Expose Data
- What is your API strategy?
- Does it address exposing data that is possibly available with little to no modification to your legacy application? There is a good chance that you can expose data using APIs from your existing application landscape
- Expose Business Processes using this Data
- Identify business processes that consume this data
- Identify consumers for this data and these business processes
- Look at decomposing a complex business process or composing a complex business process using these “micro” business processes
- Expose these business processes (aka services) using APIs
Always, and always, have the end consumer experience in your radar at every step. You might want to also start thinking of the steps in the reverse order and the reason for this is that all Business Process Transformations are to make the end consumer experience more seamless.
Once you have clarity on the above four themes, start migrating functionalities gradually to modern applications. This can then take the forms of co-existence, retiral of current applications, etc.
It may sound overly simplistic; it is not! When we slice and dice each of the above topics, you will see that these are journeys by themselves. Considering that this is one of the core aspects to address in a complex Application Modernization tower that is part of a long Digital Transformation journey possibly shows how these simple concepts are so foundational. Ignoring these can cause the very foundation to shake.
Once you have these topics addressed, you will start to see that your Application Modernization and the end goal of Digital Transformation will start to show early signs of success.