Like organizing the garage, modernizing your applications seems daunting before you begin, but you know it will pay off in the long run.

Instead of thinking about this project as a technical challenge, put it in the wider context of the business. Just as getting rid of the old junk in your garage frees up the space you need for things you actually use, modernizing your apps will help the business run more efficiently and scale more readily.

Based on a webinar by Jimmy Chui, Director of Customer Success at ClearScale, here’s how to approach app modernization, including traits you need from your team and technology, six key ways to tackle it, and how to prioritize.

Start with a Business Assessment

Before you can make any changes to your applications, you need to lay out a plan based on your company’s needs. That means assessing every app in your portfolio, not just as individual properties, but in the way they interconnect.

When you have a technical background, it’s tempting to build a strategy around the most exciting technical opportunities. But the purpose of all the applications your company uses is to enhance the business. For example, to better serve customers and clients, to increase revenue, or to cut costs.

Prioritize apps based on business value. Large modernization projects can get complicated, so you won’t necessarily be able to complete this process for every app.

“When we start getting into large-scale, really complex applications, the effort to modernize every single bit is pretty heavy,” Chui said. “So we’ve got to decide what’s the highest value, and that’s where we plan our modernization efforts.”

He recommends asking business-focused questions, such as:

  • What are the business needs now and in the future?
  • Which problems are we trying to solve as an organization and as a department?
  • What capabilities does the business need to add in order to grow? What does the business need to do to better support customers?

Smaller organizations may be able to modernize every app and component. But if you’re in a large business, you will have to choose the apps and components that are most critical to the business goals.

“I can’t stress how important this kind of assessment and planning process is for that ultimate alignment, and getting the business the most value in the shortest duration of time,” Chui said.

How to Choose Your App Modernization Program

Different applications require different modernization approaches, some more labor-intensive than others. Here are six ways to modernize an app and how to assess which one is right in each case:

  • Retain: If an app is working as well as it possibly can in its current environment, leave it alone. This is rare, but it does happen.
  • Rehost: In the case of apps that already work well, you’re more likely to move them to a new platform than leave them completely untouched.
  • Retire: If an app no longer serves a useful purpose, is outdated, or runs on technology that no longer exists, retire it.
  • Repurchase: Switching apps from perpetual licenses to software as a service (SaaS) subscription-style models means less hardware maintenance, easier access to updates, and cloud storage for all users.
  • Replatform: Transfer an app from a hardware-based option to the cloud, with a few small changes.
  • Refactor: The most work-intensive option — and the most interesting! The coding equivalent of a movie makeover, in which you update the code to improve performance, availability, and more.
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Best Practices for App Modernization

The effectiveness of your modernization efforts comes down to two key components: Your team and your tech. Here’s what you need from both for a successful mission.

Deploy the most advanced technology

The underlying purpose of application modernization is to bring your apps up to date with the latest cloud technology. For the best results, you need to use the best available tech. Make sure you incorporate these factors into your process:

  • Serverless: Make changes in real-time at a large scale, without having to maintain servers.
  • Data management: Use purpose-built databases that best suit different types of data, for faster and more efficient processes.
  • Autoscaling: Factor in the need to scale from the start, to avoid bottlenecks further down the line.

Hire an agile team

The most advanced tools in the world are useless if the people using them aren’t sufficiently trained or skilled. When hiring a team, look for:

  • Agility: App modernization processes are a lot of work. You need a team that moves quickly in order to hit your deadlines.
  • Ownership: A demanding work environment requires open communication, and people who will take responsibility for their part in the system.
  • Consistency: Involve the people who will be responsible for managing the apps from the start of the modernization process. This makes it easier for them to continue the work once the app is ready.

Real-World Example: Leveraging Machine Learning and Serverless AWS Solutions

Medical business service provider Creative Practice Solutions wanted to make the process of translating medical procedures to insurance codes less labor-intensive.

ClearScale leveraged machine learning and serverless solutions from AWS to create a system that does all the hard work on the backend, while giving doctors and other medical professionals an easy UI experience.

“We’ve taken something that was a large development effort in the past, without AWS serverless solutions and AI services, and built something that can translate Spanish to English; figure out medical terms; do some processing with fuzzy logic to map them to billing codes; and create resulting sets,” Chui said.

Find out more about ClearScale’s work with Creative Practice Solutions: Machine Learning Saves Time & Reduces Errors for Medical Coding with 1 App for 4 OSs

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