If you know that your ancient platform is living on borrowed time, but you’re nervous about what the mysterious world of modernization might hold, don’t worry. Embrace the change. The modernization journey is an exciting and rewarding one if you focus on these five important milestones.

#1 Identify & Discover

Every portfolio of applications has a smorgasbord of technologies. Selecting which applications to target for modernization is complex. Which ones are the “low hanging fruit”? Which applications will provide the most savings or best cost/benefit? Which represent the most risk? How do you prioritize the investment strategy based on all the above?

A well-executed portfolio rationalization will provide answers to these questions and help you balance your mission needs, technical debt, and budgetary constraints. Keep your analysis data-driven and make sure you evaluate both the current state and target future state of the architecture. And most importantly, make sure you’re balancing both business and technical needs.

Okay, I know what to modernize, now how do I plan for it?

  • First, understand the current application technology stack and perform a code analysis with a tools-based assessment of the current state architecture. You need to understand complexity, dependencies (data, interfaces), and unused or missing code. This is a pretty critical assessment – a good step to never skip. You’ll find any technical challenges, risk, and the path to cost effectiveness.
  • Then, get an understanding of the security and performance requirements in your infrastructure and operations environments. This is where the impact to the end users will be assessed to mitigate any risks associated with implementing the change. Your internal staff will thank you for ensuring this step was part of your journey!

#2 Plan

Once you’ve done your discovery, make your roadmap. The modernization roadmap contains the technical approach, governance, estimates, risk mitigation, integration requirements, operational impacts, testing strategy and security. It outlines the path you’re taking from current to future state. Yes, it’ll be a big map. But from this map comes your project plans and the services and internal costs of agency resources that will be required, including getting staffed up for the big push.

#3 Implement

Regardless of the strategy you choose, there are key elements to any implementation. Design, build, test, deploy. Here are a couple of others we want to make sure you consider throughout implementation:

  • Agile framework is a common approach these days. If you don’t already leverage DevOps best practices in maintaining your legacy applications, this is an excellent time to start.
  • Data migration is another critical element to any modernization. Yes, we’ve designed new data structures, but we also need to make sure our existing data is transformed and cleansed when migrated.
  • We already mentioned testing, but it’s worth mentioning again. Testing requires special attention and, depending on the particular strategy, may require a baseline of the existing system for comparative reference later on. Build your test cases early! You can mitigate even more risk, and eliminate rework when all you want to be focused on in the end is going live.

#4 Go-Live

The most exciting part of the journey is when the modernized applications go live with the end users. This can either be implementing in Agile releases or all at once with a “big bang.” Plan diligently from the beginning and it will be a celebration no matter which approach you choose.

Our advice is that a smooth implementation starts with communications, especially with the user community. All too often modernization programs become a tight-knit community during the project. And while they may communicate well with each other, they often do not reach out to the larger network that uses the system. End user acceptance is one of the most critical factors for success. No matter how well the modernization team has done, if the end user is not working with you, there will not be a positive outcome. They are the ambassadors of the new system for the rest of the organization.

#5 Maintain

Now that your modernized application is in production and the celebrations are over, the journey continues in the form of questions. Who will maintain the new application? What skills are required? How long will we need support after go-live?

  • The assessments you’ve already done cover the operational impacts and included consideration of roles and skills required for the new infrastructure environment.
  • If future-state involved deploying to the cloud, you should have also already planned to ensure compliance with governance, enterprise standards, and cost effective sizing in your roadmap. Now all you have to do is put those wheels in motion.
  • Knowledge transfer to the maintenance staff takes place throughout the project – it should never be a one-time event left for last. You need to ensure that the practices leveraged during the journey were documented so they can be easily implemented going forward. It is also important for the development and testing teams to remain engaged for a period after go-live to ensure continuity in defect resolution.

Last, but not least, is the decommissioning of the legacy system. This is often where the cost savings are the most significant and planning for the complete removal of the old application and infrastructure is paramount. This can often involve historical data that was not in scope for the migration, but an appropriate archival strategy is required.

Before opening that can of worms, we’ll end the modernization journey there. Like we mention in each blog that we post, we write about what we know and all of this might seem daunting, but if you have a trusted partner by your side, you can do it. Jump in that deep end and modernize!

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