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Key Building Blocks for Any Application Modernization Initiative

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By Ananth Subramanya, Senior Vice President , D&A, HCL Technologies

We live in a digital-first world, where forward-thinking businesses and enterprises are increasingly abandoning growth-inhibiting traditional methods to build modern apps and accelerate toward new platforms through digital innovation. This innovation relies not only on emerging forms of technologies but also on new customer experience journeys.

Today, the right customer experience is the product that drives speed and scale, and enterprises are rapidly coming to terms with this new reality. In fact, 61% of the business decision makers and leaders surveyed for HCL’s Digital Acceleration for Business Resilience report agreed that their organization is using digital to improve customer experiences, and 40% said that they are utilizing analytics to better understand customer and market insights

In a world where they are spoiled for choice, customer expectations have also changed. This necessitates a further change in customer experience through the introduction of algorithms and modern functionalities that drive the current ecosystem. The growing need for improved customer experience and the high ROIs that can result from a customer-first perspective has also caused businesses to rethink and restructure their current platforms and move towards modern, cloud-based platforms and technologies.

As per the Digital Acceleration report, 44% IT decision makers and 31% business decision makers surveyed identified outdated legacy technology as a major impediment to digital acceleration and transformation. In a dynamic business landscape with unsteady volumes, smart enterprises are increasingly looking to derive new value out of existing legacy applications by introducing functionalities that align with the current business needs.

Development of modern applications and platforms by re-coding, re-architecting, or shifting to the cloud is crucial to help enterprises align themselves to the current digital trends and create new ways to engage with the customers. There is a need for quick to change platforms that are always functional and can be scaled on demand. While it’s difficult to bring invasive changes to the architecture of the application quickly, enterprises should focus on changing the complete architecture of the application so that it aligns with the A-B-C strategy and creates better customer experiences.

Modernization should also allow the development of new capabilities on top of legacy assets, balanced with a strategy that focuses on reducing legacy debts and long-term improvement of the modernized application. Architecture driven modernization usually involves re-platforming to a modular architectural platform such as cloud, which also enables software transformation and code analysis.

Platform-based legacy application modernization can be an invasive process as it sometimes involves not just re-platforming but also re-coding the original software to present modern functionalities and features. It can be achieved by several methods such as linking the application via a cloud service, micro-services, and development of new features or DevOps.

A successful application modernization initiative takes advantage of cloud, scale, performance, and other factors that can improve the overall customer experience. While changing the architecture is a complex process, enterprises should focus on creating a prioritization scheme that allows them to bring changes to the underlying architecture, prioritizing the change they wish to bring to the customer experience. It is important to make sure that capabilities are available with a good set of APIs, so a specific customer experience can be built.

The most common approach to architecture modernization involves breaking down and re-factoring monolithic applications to self-contained units with the help of techniques such as domain-driven design, which involves breaking an application on the basis of capabilities. Not every capability is required equally, so application modernization should allow the enterprises to make smaller changes to the capabilities and scale them independently as per the needs of the customer, thereby creating a better customer experience.

The Abstract-Build-Change Strategy to Application Modernization

HCL uses the A-B-C approach as the key building block for platform-based application modernization, which depends on the three interrelated processes of creating a layer of abstraction, building new capabilities using APIs, and consolidating applications using an enhanced architecture.

– Creating a layer of abstraction
Creating a platform layer to abstract information from legacy assets allows enterprises to look at available information in a consistent manner. It not only enables the abstraction of various enterprise applications such as Customer Relationship Management, Product Lifestyle Management, and Manufacturing Execution Systems through well defined APIs, but also reduces the timeframe involved in consolidating and modernizing individual layers of the stack.

– Building new capabilities
Once the platform layer is enabled, enterprises should leverage the APIs to build new capabilities to service the channel and create better customer experiences. Leveraging the APIs would allow companies to break down capabilities into microservices, which can help ensure efficient maintenance of applications and create better customer experiences.
Modern applications also rely on a neuro-linguistic programming approach to influence the actions of their customers, increase engagement, and provide personalized interactions.

– Changing the legacy system
Changing the architecture of an application is a crucial aspect of transforming digital experience. Consolidating or updating applications based on the prioritization of customer experience to an enhanced architecture could help optimize the customer experience.

Application Modernization as the way forward:
There is an urgent need to transform digital platforms and modernize applications as enterprises need rapid innovation to optimize their current business processes and come up with new, enhanced business models.

Application modernization not only helps improve the overall customer experience by enabling processes and services with a user-friendly interface but also helps eliminate capital costs through scalable solutions and reduces downtime risk. Even from an enterprise employee perspective, modern applications allow resources to focus on core business and strategy tasks, rather than spending time maintaining legacy apps.

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