Are any of these true about your IT organization?
- You are encumbered by workarounds to your existing applications.
- Your business can’t take advantage of new technologies or make future changes.
- You can’t react to external forces with the speed necessary to remain relevant to customers.
If so, it might be time to modernize your applications. As you review your portfolio, there are four areas to explore to see if modernization is the right path for you: maintenance costs, brittleness, speed and information silos.
Rising maintenance costs are a signal it’s time to modernize your applications. These increases include the costs of running your application, homegrown components that aren’t available “off the shelf” or specific domain expertise for which you’re paying a premium. If the application was poorly architectured to begin with, you might experience snowballing problems that will cost more to fix with each new iteration.
The costs of manual testing and testers quickly add up. As with poor architecture, you have a snowballing effect. Change one thing and you have to test for everything. If something breaks, you have to go back and start the process all over again.
If you don’t have the capacity to meet spikes in volume during peak times, you’ll miss out on revenue and soil your reputation. However, you may not want to carry extra infrastructure costs for the whole year to scale for a one-time annual event. So, unless you can right-size the app to meet on-demand economics and costs, you should consider modernization.
“Bit rot” is the IT equivalent of entropy: unless you act to keep order to a system, it breaks down into chaos. Aging software requires ever increasing resources to keep it functional. Most business don’t have these resources on hand, and therefore experience brittleness.
The result is they can’t move as fast as they need to meet market expectations or incorporate new technology/processes. They have to treat their legacy systems with kid gloves, or they’ll break and send the whole connected infrastructure into disarray. Further, development cycles for new market-facing products and services are longer and more complicated.
Here again, good architecture goes a long way to preventing brittleness or modernizing applications out of it. With good architecture, you can reduce the need for fenced off areas of code that can’t be touched, or areas that when touched, cause a chain reaction of breakage elsewhere. Not to mention the elevated security capabilities of newer and less complex systems.
A more nimble company will fill the void and eat away your market share and standing if you can’t:
- Quickly capitalize on opportunities
- React to external forces with the speed necessary to bring new capabilities and value to customers
- Bring product changes or enhancements to market fast enough
- Accelerate your tech velocity to match your business velocity
Speed isn’t just about new development. It includes maintenance of legacy systems and extends to the engineers who do so. Many enterprises are increasing speed in their modernizations by pivoting from proprietary to open source solutions. You can get better solutions for less money, including some freemium solutions. Because the solutions are widely used, you can spend more time on modernization rather than on recruitment. If your applications are built with an obscure or semi-obsolete language or architecture, it will take longer to find reliable replacements if a team member leaves. And, you’re paying a premium for this scarce talent.
Having 10 individual apps that don’t (or can’t) talk to each other keeps the business from functioning at peak productivity. If there are things an application does that other parts of the system can’t access or use, it’s time to consider modernization.
Information silos make your organization less secure. If everything is operating on its own, there is no single point of access. Security is fragmented and you can’t see what’s happening across your organization.
Silos also create blind spots for data curation, reporting, compliance and marketing, as there is no single source, or aggregate stream, of truth from your applications. How can your sales/marketing departments make accurate forecasts or customer insights if they are dealing with different, and potentially conflicting, data streams? How can finance or HR create compliance or shareholder reports when the information they receive isn’t standardized across applications?
Application silos create more productivity backlogs downstream. Modernizing and standardizing your applications can remove these data dams and infuse greater agility into your organization and processes.
If you feel friction in any of these four areas, it’s time to consider modernizing your applications. Any delay will only make it harder, longer and more expensive to fix the problems you already know exist. And, in the meantime, you’re losing market share to companies more willing to make the investment in their IT future.
This column originally appeared on RTInsights.com as “How to Tell If Your Data-Driven Applications Need Modernization”