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Application modernization survey finds critical need, conflicting goals, and a drop in confidence from the planning to execution phases


At EvolveWare, we wanted to learn more about how IT teams strategize and prepare for enterprise application modernization projects, so we commissioned an independent survey of 200 senior IT decision-makers from healthcare, financial services, and insurance organizations in the US with more than 1,000 employees. All had either started an application modernization project or planned to within 12 months.   

Key findings from our The State of Application Modernization 2023: Insights into IT Teams’ Strategies and Preparedness includes some surprising contradictions to organizations’ assumptions about modernization priorities and goals.  

Organizations need modernization help now 

Legacy applications modernization is critical and has become a top priority for many organizations. Application modernization helps organizations reduce costs, integrate with client and vendor systems, and increase productivity. Yet modernizing a legacy application can be daunting because of the complexity and an ever-growing shortage of people who understand and can support legacy technologies and their programming languages—and failing to modernize can mean falling behind. 

The report found that 51% of IT leaders either already have or anticipate critical issues that need to be addressed by modernizing their applications. Despite this substantial need, we found that organizations primarily focus only on modernizing the most essential applications and those with few or no dependencies. That suggests that many are likely working with restricted budgets or are worried about previous failures and therefore are not taking on unnecessary risk during this time of economic uncertainty. 

There are tools that can help, particularly by using automation to mitigate risk and that allows for a phased approach. Still, only 31% believe they have access to such advanced modernization capabilities, such as automated business rules extraction and code transformation. This is where EvolveWare’s Intellisys platform can help. Intellisys automates the processes of maintaining and modernizing applications, including those of documentation, business rules extraction (BRE), and code optimization and migration. 

It also allows a step-by-step approach to any modernization initiative. For example, you can start by assessing and documenting your applications and keep that data updated as you plan your modernization project. This can help spread project budgets across time instead of requiring a significant up-front investment.   

Confidence drops once modernization projects start

About 41% of survey respondents in the planning stages reported they feel “very confident” in their knowledge of their legacy apps in preparation for starting modernization efforts—but, interestingly, once respondents begin their modernization projects, that number drops significantly to 28%. This suggests that participants discover how much they don’t know about their applications once a modernization project begins and find unexpected challenges. 

About 70% of organizations lack current documentation on a single application in their software portfolio. Meanwhile, there’s a growing shortage of IT talent with legacy programming expertise, and the survey backs this up. While 61% of survey respondents say the confidence in their knowledge of their applications comes from employees familiar with the legacy applications, our report found that this may be misplaced confidence: a surprising 81% report they are challenged in hiring and keeping that sort of legacy programming talent. This indicates how important application documentation is now and how it will only continue to grow. 

Intellisys can deliver the information required to navigate this talent shortage.  It automatically extracts knowledge embedded into a program’s source code (supports 20+ source languages) and creates a set of documentation artifacts that provide a detailed assessment of the application. The automation helps ensure completeness of information about the application, such as finding missing files, in a fraction of the time it would take with manual methods.  

The generated documentation is also presented in formats and a neutral language that both analysts and programmers can leverage, enabling advanced analysis to determine the consequences of change requests and bug fixes, and supporting methodologies like DevOps. And it does so in a manner where the documentation can continue to be updated when changes are made, ensuring that it is always current. 

Most requested feature in application modernization: No code freeze

The most requested capability is being able to modernize without freezing code (59%). Sixty-four percent say that freezing code would have significant business and financial consequences, probably because freezing code would mean putting policy changes on hold since application logic couldn’t be updated.  

Yet only 31% believe they have access to such advanced modernization capabilities. 

Intellisys’ Agile Business Rules Extraction (BRE) solution lets you modernize without freezing code. It does so by allowing continuous updates to the source application during the BRE process while keeping track of the changes. Using Agile BRE to modernize lets you satisfy audit requirements, ensure compliance, consolidate your application portfolio, and much more, all without having to freeze code—a capability the majority say they are looking for. 

Goals and measures of success don’t line up

The survey also found that organizations’ top motivations for modernization are different from how they measure success for these projects, likely because IT teams and C-suite goals don’t align. Organizations say boosting employee productivity is the primary reason they want to modernize their applications. However, they also say their top measures of success are improving customer service and increasing readiness to migrate to the cloud, which fall at the bottom of their list of motivations. This disconnect suggests that IT teams and other business leaders may have different ways of thinking about the benefits of modernization, as the business helps to define success measures. Aligning on goals is the first step in EvolveWare’s recommended phased approach to a successful application modernization strategy.  

Download the full report and infographic to learn more and contact us to learn how we can help your organization with its application modernization journey. 

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