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Research from the CSIRO has found that digital technologies could be worth as much as $315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028.1 That return to the economy will be driven across a number of areas, perhaps most significantly AI, but the story within the story is that organisations will need to invest in application modernisation through digital transformation to prepare their businesses for this new, digital-first way of working.
The drive behind application modernisation can’t just be because it’s the hot new trend, however. Organisations that approach application modernisation on vague promises of the benefits of the cloud and improved productivity will find themselves in a similar position to now in a few years –with a legacy environment that no longer supports the organisation’s competitive position in the market.
Gartner predicts by 2023, 40 per cent of professional workers will expect orchestrated business application experiences and capabilities like they do their music streaming experience. “The human desire to have a work environment similar to their personal environment continues to rise — one where they can assemble their own applications to meet job and personal requirements in a self-service fashion,” Gartner notes. “The consumerisation of technology and introduction of new applications have elevated the expectations of employees as to what is possible from their business applications.”2
Simply hosting applications in the cloud – which is the extent of the application modernisation strategy for many organisations – will not deliver what Gartner is predicting.
Instead, organisations need to take a deeply strategic approach to application modernisation. Many organisations struggle to build a strategy around application modernisation, and are often unsure of the approach to modernisation that they need to undertake – whether that’s refactoring, rehosting, or otherwise.
Determining the right approach to application modernisation can be an extravagant project in its own right. Depending on how databases and the environment is structured, moving an application to the cloud may result in a substantial project for a team of developers. It’s important to get it right, however. If managed poorly, the application is likely to again become be a piece of legacy software inhibiting the business from working competitively.
Into 2020 and beyond, CIOs and other business leaders will need to approach application modernisation with a mindset of reimagining it from the ground up, with a focus on better security, faster speed, and consolidated systems.
How organisations will look to app modernisation in the new year
Western Australia’s School Curriculum and Standards Authority (SCSA) is one example of an organisation that faced the urgent and pressing need to modernise its applications. Previously holding student information for grades 11 and 12, SCSA was required to start holding records from kindergarten right through to grade 12, which meant a jump from 60,000 records to 465,000. There was no way the legacy systems were going to manage the load.
SCSA found its solution with Insight, which helped SCSA move to a cloud-based environment, running on Azure, and with Kubernetes deployed to help manage the databases and applications into containers, and orchestrate the pod lifecycles.
As a result, after an engagement of just a few months including a comprehensive planning period, SCSA had a solution it could rapidly scale, and was fully digital-ready. Both the internal team and the schools working with SCSA can now reliably and rapidly access the services and applications provided by SCSA.
The cloud is now the standard approach to applications. Everything is online, and everything needs to be available from anywhere, regardless of location or device. There are meaningful productivity and efficiency gains to this approach; and significantly, there are consequences to not moving legacy applications into the cloud. These include:
The inability to enable mobility – the modern organisation needs to enable mobility for productivity and efficiency benefits. Legacy applications are not built with mobile work in mind.
Security becomes a real concern – support for legacy applications is infrequent, and the inflexibility of the environment means that critical vulnerabilities take longer to patch.
Maintenance requires greater resources – from finding the skills to manage legacy applications to the time required to dedicate to managing them, maintenance of legacy applications is more expensive and inefficient for the IT team.
Working in a connected workplace – legacy applications often have silo’d data and identity preventing integration with an organisation’s suite of applications and prevents Single-sign on.
It’s bad for team morale – IT teams would much rather be working with the business to provide their organisation with value-adding innovation, rather than just trying to keep the lights on.
Insight’s approach with each of its customers, and the reason the SCSA project was such a success, is to identify and build a foundation for all applications within a business that is extensible for future needs. There is a range of different approaches that can be taken with application modernisation, from the relatively simple process of rehosting an application on the cloud, through to a complete re-coding or replacement for an application. Within the typical environment, there will need to be a number of different approaches taken, depending on the state of each individual application. What determines the overall success of a modernisation project is whether the foundations are in place first, both in terms of technology, such as whether the organisation cloud-ready and far enough along with its digital transformation strategy to start application modernisation; and strategy, such as determining the five and 10-year goals of applications.
The cloud can be a complex environment. Some of the tools used to manage the transition to the cloud and operation within it, such as containerisation through Kubernetes, are effective but need careful planning and a change management process within the organisation first.
2020 will be a big year for application modernisation. Organisations that develop a sound foundation will find themselves set for the years ahead, with a highly scalable and flexible environment that is future proofed for the longer-term trends as they emerge. Where organisations will struggle is if they don’t approach application modernisation from a whole-of-business, foundational approach first.