Technology modernization is a journey every business eventually takes in some form, but what does that journey actually look like, and how can you prepare for the eventual obstacles and setbacks you will face?
Keep reading to find out.
Technology Modernization vs. Digital Transformation
Technology modernization is often confused with digital transformation, but they are actually very different.
Digital transformation changes an organization’s business model, markets, or processes to increase or expand growth into other markets, revenue streams, or other larger business goals.
Technology modernization upgrades technologies, methodologies, and processes without any changes to the business model.
The choice between the two depends on business goals and how much time and resources a business has.
Why Is Technology Modernization Important for Your Business?
Unnecessary code complexity. High computational costs. Databases that struggle to scale. Legacy architecture hindering growth.
If these problems sound familiar, it may be time to consider upgrading your tech stack. Many businesses choose to modernize to increase efficiency and productivity, improve their ability to adapt to new technological changes, reduce technical debt, and save costs on hardware and software.
Examples of Technology Modernization for Businesses
Some of the ways businesses are modernizing today include:
- Migrating to the cloud
- Switching to a new programming language
- Adapting automatic or managed security packages
- Automating software delivery pipelines
- Moving to more microservices architecture
The Realistic Path
1. Set Goals
The first step in any modernization journey is to know where you want to end. What are you trying to accomplish? How will your teams, and yourself, know when the process is considered done? Define these very specifically by having a clear target to aim for.
Remember, your goals should be client-centric. Always be clear on why this change will benefit your customer now or in the future. How will it bring business value?
Some examples of goals could be to simplify your architecture, standardize code quality, move your most high-traffic application to the cloud, or create a mobile app version of your software, like Starbucks did with their loyalty program, to increase sales.
2. Prepare Your Teams
Depending on your business structure, it is often times better to keep all your teams and leadership on the same page when setting goals. This is to prevent as much confusion and conflict as possible. Knowing who to make points of contact with and who will be responsible for what is also important in this preparation period.
3. Take Inventory of Current Technologies
You will need to know what systems, tools, and/or processes you’ll want to update first before taking any technical action. Have your teams take inventory of existing applications and determine what needs to be improved and what can be decommissioned.
This will be a discussion to prioritize which applications to change first, what the scope will look like, and what resources will be needed to make it happen. Other factors to consider are cost, potential obstacles, timelines, and if this will affect any other parts of the system.
4. Create a Modernization Plan
With all discussions completed from inventory checks, you should have a big-picture idea of what needs to be done to modernize your business to the next level. This is when your teams would create a plan on how to proceed. It is best to bake in incremental phase milestones to keep to obtainable goals and allow room for experimentation and setbacks since adopting new technologies and changing company habits can take some time.
A part of this plan would include choosing which new technologies to use, what the goals are, who is responsible for what, etc. A plan can look like whatever works for the business, but an example of one would be FDA’s Technology Modernization Plan that you can check out.
5. Implement New Applications
Now it is time to implement the plan by starting small and testing changes with a proof of concept before moving on to full implementation. Taking a “one step at a time” approach will allow time and confidence to build on these new technologies and gain expertise in new tools and processes. During this phase, it is important to reward and celebrate wins to keep morale up.
6. Deploy New Applications Safely
When it is time to deploy the new changes to production, it is imperative to design the deployment so that the legacy system is still separate and operational along with the new deployment. Make sure to slowly transition traffic or use the new technologies over time to test how it works in the real world. Utilize blue/green and canary types of deployments to accomplish this.
7. Decommission Legacy or Unused Applications
The final step would be to decommission the legacy or unused systems once your business has fully transitioned to the new modern technology.
Common Obstacles and Solutions
Lack of Momentum
Adoption of new processes or tools can be slow at first, but if it continues to drag, it may be because of how the teams are organized. For example, if your teams are used to working in the waterfall approach, it may become more efficient to switch to a more agile methodology to allow room for experimentation and faster work.
This is if your teams can operate on agile.
Some teams may not be able to, like research or AI/ML teams, who tend to operate on Kanban due to the longer nature of their work. But don’t be afraid to look into different organizational structures that would fit better for your company.
Entering the unknown can lead to mistrust of the future from employees. They may not trust the new technology’s ability to support legacy requirements or how it will keep data secure without loss.
Fears like this usually come from the unknown. So make the technology “known” by shedding light on it. Allow work on an MVP to increase knowledge. Protect legacy data and systems by keeping them separate and backing up data. This way, any forward movement can be retracted or changed without any damage to the current systems
Resistance to Change
Sometimes the greatest obstacle to a technological change is not the technology but the people and culture. It is understandable that big changes will disrupt normal habits, which can lead to resistance. Employees may feel forced into something they don’t want to do or remain mistrusting, which can harm work culture.
It is important to keep workers and leadership on the same page by involving everyone in the plans for the future. The more involved everyone feels, the more likely they will buy into it because they helped create it.
Technology modernization is a long-term benefit gain, and anything long-term can be hard to believe in at first. You can ensure that everyone understands the long-term gains of this effort by hosting informational office hours and maintaining open communication.
You can also give the example of how not modernizing can lead to disastrous results when unexpected events occur. Like how COVID-19 forced many companies to scramble to digitize early, creating havoc in their systems and loss because their tech stack was not ready for the influx of traffic and remote needs. To prevent this disaster, a company must prepare and think ahead.
Highly Coupled Legacy Systems
If your legacy system is highly coupled, that probably means one change will have a domino effect on others, which can cause issues. A way to deal with this is to chuck sections of the system to update at a time, make sure to take an overlapping approach, and have both the legacy and new system operational simultaneously to test for errors before fully switching over.
Technology modernization is a long journey that will bring sustainable benefits in the future. With these steps and tips, you can begin your path with confidence. If you still have questions or want individualized help, you can book a discovery call with one of our solution experts to get you started.