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The ABC of application modernisation: Abstract – Build – Change

You’d be hard-pressed to find a major enterprise that is not currently focusing on digital innovation, with many of them currently abandoning legacy technology to keep pace with consumers’ rapidly soaring expectations, writes Ananth Subramanya, Senior VP Digital Platform Solutions, HCL Technologies. Customers are a big motivation for digital projects, with 65% of the business decision makers and leaders surveyed for HCL’s Digital Acceleration report stating that their organisation needs a digital shift so it can improve customer experiences.

Businesses know they need to restructure and rethink their current platforms, and are thinking about how to move towards modern, cloud-based platforms and technologies so they can move with the speed and agility their customers are now demanding. It’s not just a case of ripping up existing investments and starting again, however, as legacy applications also need to be modernised to become fit for purpose in the new ecosystem.

Ingredients for application modernisation success

From the outset, it looks like enterprises have a big task on their hands if they want to successfully modernise applications, as they need to re-code, re-architect and in many cases, shift to the cloud. It’s not just about continuing what you have been doing to date: modernisation should also allow the development of new capabilities on top of legacy assets, balancing a strategy that focuses on reducing legacy debts and long-term improvement of the modernised applications.

There are two types of modernisation. First, there is an architecture-driven approach to modernisation, which usually involves re-platforming to a modular platform such as cloud, enabling software transformation and code analysis. This typically involves breaking down and re-factoring monolithic applications to self-contained units based on distinct capabilities, with the help of techniques such as domain-driven design. Platform-based legacy application modernisation, meanwhile, can be an invasive process as it sometimes involves not just re-platforming but also re-coding the original software to create modern functionalities and features. This can be done by linking the application via cloud or microservices, development of new features or DevOps.

See also: Dr Michael Gorriz, Group CIO, Standard Chartered, on going all-in on the cloud in 2021

Regardless of the approach they take, at a top level, a successful application modernisation initiative improves the overall customer or end user experience. For the process to run smoothly, they must prioritise, starting with the underlying architecture first, and ensuring that everything remains connected by using APIs from the outset. Crucially, they must keep the customer front of mind: some functions are more important than others in the eyes of customers, so they must be comfortable making smaller changes to specific capabilities and scaling them independently in line with the needs of the customer, giving them the experience they want.

ABC: The Abstract-Build-Change Strategy for Application Modernisation

In order to effectively navigate the changes and create better experiences for customers, enterprises should follow an ABC strategy, which provides the key building blocks for platform-based application modernisation. This is built on the three interrelated processes of creating a layer of abstraction, building new capabilities using APIs, and consolidating applications using an enhanced architecture.

A: 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 timeframes involved in consolidating and modernising individual layers of the stack.

B: Building new capabilities

Once the platform layer is enabled, enterprises should use the APIs to build new capabilities to service the channel and create better customer experiences. The APIs allow businesses 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 personalised interactions.

C: 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 prioritisation of customer experience to an enhanced architecture could help optimise the customer experience.

Three steps to digital success

There is an urgent need to transform digital platforms and modernise applications to give customers the experiences they want, with the pandemic driving a much faster swing towards digital than many were expecting. Application modernisation helps improve the overall customer experience by enabling processes and services with a user-friendly interface. It also eliminates capital costs through scalable solutions and reducing downtime risks. By following the ABC strategy to successfully transform legacy models, enterprises will be able to remain firmly-focussed on driving better customer experiences, which for many of them was the catalyst for application modernisation to begin in the first place.

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Ananth Subramanya

Ananth Subramanya is Senior Vice President, Digital Platform Solutions, Digital & Analytics, HCL Technologies

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