INNOVATION

Continuous Modernisation: A Better Way to Digitally Transform Your Organisation

We have a macro prob­lem with IT and how or­gan­i­sa­tions de­velop, main­tain, and mod­ernise soft­ware sys­tems.

Software is get­ting more com­plex and costly to build, sup­port, and up­grade. As a re­sult, IT back­logs are get­ting longer and pro­jects fail with alarm­ing reg­u­lar­ity (CIO.com and PMI.org).

These is­sues are ex­ac­er­bated by ever in­creas­ing de­mand for soft­ware. This de­mand is fu­eled by a sky­rock­et­ing ur­gency for dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion across all in­dus­tries and in all mar­kets.

The dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion age

There are no longer any mean­ing­ful dis­tinc­tions be­tween economy’ and digital econ­o­my’. Forrester’s Nigel Fenwick says all or­gan­i­sa­tions will ei­ther be a dig­i­tal preda­tor or dig­i­tal prey by 2020.

This pre­dic­tion makes sense when we con­sider how many soft­ware so­lu­tions there are. Everything from fi­nan­cials, CRM, sched­ul­ing, brain­storm­ing and more, has an app. The av­er­age or­gan­i­sa­tion uses nearly 100 cloud ser­vices.

Digitisation is in­creas­ing rapidly, es­pe­cially in star­tups and global con­glom­er­ates.

Digitisation is less likely to yield a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage these days. Participating in the dig­i­tal econ­omy is no longer op­tional, it’s es­sen­tial. And turn­ing up is no longer enough. Modernisation needs to be a con­tin­u­ous process and high pri­or­ity.

Improving your busi­ness processes starts with digi­ti­sa­tion

Digital trans­for­ma­tion starts with digi­ti­sa­tion. This is the process of tak­ing phys­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and turn­ing it into dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion. Pen and pa­per ver­sus word proces­sor soft­ware.

Digitalisation is the name given when an or­gan­i­sa­tion suc­cess­fully lever­ages digi­ti­sa­tion to im­prove busi­ness processes, which is pretty easy if you’re com­par­ing some­thing like Google Docs with pen and pa­per.

With enough dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion (better busi­ness processes), an or­gan­i­sa­tion be­comes dig­i­tally trans­formed and never has the worry about their tech­nol­ogy again!

False!

There’s no such thing as dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion!

The prob­lem with buzz­words like dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is sim­ple: mod­erni­sa­tion is a con­tin­u­ous process.

Today’s dig­i­tally trans­formed or­gan­i­sa­tions are to­mor­row’s lag­gards.

Digital trans­for­ma­tion is never com­plete, it’s an on­go­ing process of im­prov­ing tech­nolo­gies and cul­tures.

Software is busi­ness mod­erni­sa­tion 101

Organisations need to stop think­ing in terms of pro­jects and start think­ing in terms of prod­ucts.

Project life-cy­cles are typ­i­cally fi­nite. This pro­ject is as­signed this many re­sources and should be com­pleted for this date.

Conversely, prod­uct life-cy­cles are typ­i­cally in­fi­nite. They are con­tin­u­ally as­sessed and po­ten­tial op­por­tu­ni­ties are weighed against po­ten­tial risks. This re­sults in a con­tin­u­ous cy­cle of pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, ac­tion, re­sults and back to pri­ori­ti­sa­tion.

Ultimately, ‘pro­jects’ are ethe­real. The very word it­self dis­tracts us from the tan­gi­ble prod­ucts ac­tu­ally dri­ving change and mod­erni­sa­tion.

Seventy per­cent of IT bud­gets are con­sumed main­tain­ing ex­ist­ing soft­ware (products). The re­main­ing 30% is of­ten de­pleted by up­grades and mi­gra­tions (again, prod­ucts).

Software prod­ucts can make or break all dig­i­tal mod­erni­sa­tion at­tempts, so let’s fo­cus on what re­ally mat­ters:

How can or­gan­i­sa­tions ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently mod­ernise their soft­ware?

There are sev­eral ways an or­gan­i­sa­tion can ap­proach soft­ware mod­erni­sa­tion. The main path­ways are a rewrite, a mi­gra­tion, or an up­date.

Because of the im­por­tance of get­ting mod­erni­sa­tion right, or­gan­i­sa­tions should ex­plore all op­tions.

To be­gin with, or­gan­i­sa­tions should check ex­ist­ing soft­ware stacks, dis­cover de­pen­den­cies, and iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties. Then con­sider each path­way.

Continuous mod­erni­sa­tion: 3 path­ways

The first and most ob­vi­ous op­tion for or­gan­i­sa­tions is to rewrite their ex­ist­ing soft­ware. Regular rewrites are con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion. And start­ing afresh is a fan­tas­tic way to launch your con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion jour­ney. The is­sue here is one of re­sources and cul­ture.

Some or­gan­i­sa­tions un­der­es­ti­mate how long and ex­pen­sive de­vel­op­ing soft­ware can be or over­es­ti­mate the longevity of a new ap­pli­ca­tion.

One way costs can be re­duced and longevity ex­tended is mi­gra­tion, such as mov­ing lo­cal, legacy sys­tems to the cloud.

Migration is highly favoured by many or­gan­i­sa­tions be­cause it means they can keep most of their ex­ist­ing code and func­tion­al­ity. This con­serves re­sources, which is a good thing con­sid­er­ing the length of IT back­logs and fail rate of IT pro­jects.

The prob­lem with mi­gra­tion, how­ever, is it can have di­min­ish­ing re­turns. Migrating desk­top soft­ware to the cloud should yield siz­able re­turns. But once you’re on the cloud, you’re on the cloud. This means mi­gra­tion can a part of a con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion strat­egy, but will re­quire com­ple­men­tary meth­ods of mod­erni­sa­tion soft­ware prod­ucts.

The fi­nal op­tion is aug­ment­ing your soft­ware with strate­gic up­dates. This is a clear win­ner for con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion.

This method is at its best when paired with a mi­cro ser­vices ar­chi­tec­ture in cloud en­vi­ron­ments. In such use cases, sec­tions of a wider ecosys­tem of in­ter­con­nected soft­ware can be sys­tem­at­i­cally and strate­gi­cally tar­geted and aug­mented with low risk of in­ter­fer­ence with other op­er­a­tions.

The po­ten­tial down­side of this method of soft­ware mod­erni­sa­tion is tech­ni­cal debt, which can ham­string aug­men­ta­tion ef­forts. This is be­cause ex­ist­ing is­sues with a code-base can slow down ef­forts to make changes. Remember, 70% of IT bud­gets are be­ing con­sumed main­tain­ing ex­ist­ing soft­ware (products). The re­main­ing 30% is of­ten de­pleted by up­grades and mi­gra­tions (again, prod­ucts).

The how of dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is opaque. What’s clear, how­ever, is the ur­gency for or­gan­i­sa­tions to pe­ruse dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion with a con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion mind­set. The best way to do this is by fo­cus­ing on the soft­ware prod­ucts un­der­pin­ning your pro­jects.

Here are some con­tin­u­ous mod­erni­sa­tion power tips. Rewrite soft­ware that is too out­dated to be ef­fec­tively hosted in cloud en­vi­ron­ments and mi­grate the rest. Strategically up­date spe­cific com­po­nents of your stack. When the op­por­tu­nity arises, rewrite your soft­ware as a sep­a­rate stacks con­nected via APIs.

Good luck.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Burkett

Growth en­thu­si­ast and res­i­dent pom

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