Most App Modernization Projects a Struggle, Survey Finds
August 17, 2022 Alex Woodie
If you’re having trouble getting your application modernization project off the ground, you’re not alone. In a recent survey of IT leaders who have been involved with application modernization, more than 90 percent said they have struggled with the projects. The biggest pain points probably won’t surprise you.
The survey, which was conducted on behalf of the Chicago-based IT consulting firm Asperitas Consulting, involved 150 IT leaders with titles like manager, director, VP, and CIO. The survey was restricted to individuals who have previous experience with application modernization projects, and who work at companies with at least 1,000 employees.
When the results were tallied, 93 percent of the respondents said their modernization experience was “extremely or somewhat challenging.” Three in 10 respondents said that “identifying the right tools and technologies” was the most difficult part of the process, while 20 percent cited struggles with finding the right internal staff members.
Difficulty in finding the right external partner was cited by 18 percent of the survey-takers, while 17 percent said training users on the new system was difficult. Just 11 percent identified difficulty with securing the support of management as a top roadblock to modernization success.
While neither the survey nor Asperitas target application modernization efforts on IBM i specifically, many of the findings are bound to resonate with IBM i shops, many of which are currently undertaking modernization projects or plan to in the future. Application modernization has been the number three most important concern for IBM i shops each of the past five years, according to HelpSystems annual IBM i Marketplace Survey (security and high availability have been the first and second biggest concerns, respectively).
If legacy modernization is such a pain, as Asperitas’ survey suggests, then why do companies go through with them in the first place? Another question asked by the consulting group provides some illumination on that point. In fact, there was unanimous consent on one thing: that application modernization “was very or somewhat important to their business.” Every single IT leader agreed with that statement (which is actually quite remarkable).
Nearly half (45 percent) of survey respondents said the applications they chose to modernize were “critical,” while 28 percent said the modernization had succeeded in allowing them to “innovate faster and scale more rapidly.” One quarter cited improved end-user productivity as a result of their modernization projects, while 11 percent were hopeful that the project would “make their company more attractive to employees and customers.”
Nearly four in five (78 percent) of survey-takers agreed that the number one priority in a modernization project should be “getting it right,” while 13 percent cited “getting it done on budget” as the top priority. Getting it done quickly was the number one priority for just 9 percent, the survey showed.
What should a modernization project entail? There were differences of opinion on what tools and technologies should be employed in these types of projects, the survey found.
For example, 59 percent of respondents said modernization projects should use “cloud-native services,” while a similar percent (54) said microservices should be used. Just one-third said cloud-based infrastructure should be used, and a similar percent (32) said legacy systems should be moved to the cloud.
Some modernization efforts involve running applications in a multi-cloud fashion, and for these companies, security was the biggest challenge (cited by 27 percent), followed by integration with on-prem systems and other clouds (26 percent), and ensuring portability with other clouds (20 percent).
Asperitas found are several characteristics shared by successful modernization projects. Allowing enough time to complete the project was cited by 36 percent of the respondents, while 34 percent found that finding the best tool for the job was critical. In terms of pitfalls to avoid, 36 percent cited “avoiding shortcuts, distractions, and/or partners that over-promise,” while 24 percent said that “waiting too long to modernize a system that’s clearly in need” as a big no-no.
Asperitas, which was founded six years ago, provides a range of consulting services, including assisting with cloud migrations and application modernization projects. The company, which according to a March CRN story has 12 practice leads and engineers and fewer than 50 total employees, has implemented its application modernization framework with “dozens” of Fortune 500 companies across several industries.
Scott Wheeler, a practice lead at Asperitas, says care must be taken to put together a modernization roadmap for each customer.
“Leveraging cloud-based tools and services clearly is part of the application modernization process but applying these technologies alone neither solves your application problems nor helps you attain your modernization goals,” said Wheeler said in a press release. “The goal should be to create a measurable process that looks at all key elements of modernization, and build a plan to execute against those goals.”
You can see results of the survey here.