January 10, 2023

8 Imperatives for Your Platform Modernization Project to Succeed

The process for enterprises to modernize application platforms is a gradual process, usually taking at least a year to fully complete and sometimes up to two years. Considering the length of this timeline—and given the impact on the business should the project fail or never even begin—it’s a must to develop a detailed plan that covers all the key considerations.

Just to cite one recent example of the harm that can be inflicted on a company if they don’t modernize their platforms, take the case of Southwest Airlines. After being hailed for decades as an innovative, low-cost carrier that prided itself on knowing its customers and doing more with less, the company’s reputation was left in tatters following a huge spate of flight cancellations during the 2022 holiday season.

The culprit? An out-of-date software system called SkySolver that couldn’t handle the complex task of re-assigning flight crews in the midst of a winter storm, according to the Wall Street Journal. The huge hit to the brand’s reputation was surely enough to make Southwest’s executives long for the days of this 2011 blog post, which touts the innovation of their scheduling product and the company having recently landed at #4 on the Fortune World’s Most Admired Companies list.

Where to Start with Your Platform Modernization Efforts

You may not have all the answers up front, but if you at least know all the questions to ask, you can guide the project to eventually make sure you find all the answers you need. To help you consider all the major aspects, here’s a rundown of the 8 top imperatives for your application platform modernization project to succeed:

#1 Align to Prioritized Business Capabilities

First, prioritize your operational capabilities based on their alignment with your overall business strategy. In addition to existing capabilities, also consider the new capabilities the organization will gain through a modern application platform, which will enable you to deploy customer-centric and user-centric digital solutions. This alignment helps accelerate how quickly the modernization effort delivers business value.

#2 Balance Business and Technology Factors

As part of the modernization process, you will need to rationalize your application portfolio, which involves categorizing applications and determining which ones to contain, maintain, or enhance. <Contain> applications require minimal support and updates. <Maintain> applications require continuous support and major enhancements. <Enhance> applications are strategic and revenue-generating, resulting in tangible benefits. Factors to consider for categorizing applications include the user count, operational criticality, support costs, and the backlog of bugs to fix. Depending on how you categorize, you may need to refactor, rewrite, or retire each application.

#3 Modify the Engineering Culture

The engineering culture is critical to the success of your platform modernization effort and requires a focus on business value streams rather than addressing specific applications. Software mastery requires investing in developer capabilities and proactively managing the mindset among project teams—reacting to their feedback and making changes where necessary. To help drive a positive culture, provide employees an environment where they’re allowed to experiment (and fail!), conduct blameless postmortems, and encourage growth.

#4 Implement New Processes for Your Software Teams

Platform modernization also requires the use of new technologies and techniques such as microservices, Agile principles, DevOps, test-driven development, and continuous delivery. Your development team will be able to adopt new ways of working that allow them to produce frequent and short application releases. This approach, along with cultural change, improves software team productivity.

#5 Identify Performance Baselines and Target KPIs

Measure the outcomes of your modernization platform by establishing the performance baselines of your legacy systems. From there, align modernization performance indicators with business goals. These can include the number of active users tapping into a new service or how many business units rely on a new service. You can also measure the impact on revenue and user satisfaction as well as IT improvements, such as the ability to support demand elasticity and optimizing the time users require to perform and complete operations.

#6 Integrate, Integrate, Integrate

Eliminate silos of information by integrating applications, data, and devices. This will create more efficient business workflows for end-users. To achieve this, consider architectures that enable interaction between different applications and summarize information from different sources..

#7 Eliminate Redundancy and Invest in New Features

Platform modernization also requires eliminating redundancies, which will drive help efficiencies, as well as investing in meaningful new features. Following this principle results in optimizing user experiences and increases the long-term value of your applications.

#8 Don’t Forget About Your Data

Modernizing your data is one of the most important facets of platform modernization. This includes updating the data architecture, certifying the security posture, and redesigning the schema. By modernizing your data, you create a foundation for analysis that leads to valuable business insights.

Read More Insights on Platform Modernization

This growing series of posts gives business leaders an excellent view of the modernization process from beginning to end.

Now Look to the Future

Although your plan will define the ultimate objectives of your modernized application platform, you also want to think beyond. Create a path for future application initiatives and determine how enhancement can further help the business.

For example, your modernization program may begin by expanding the feature set of an application and then evolve to solve problems specific to business units or that permeate across the entire organization. You might also enable the company to seize on new opportunities, such as entering new markets or launching new products.

As you start, early tangible wins that provide value to customers and end-users are key. It shows your organization that it’s worth being patient while waiting for the rest of the project to unfold.

If your company is looking for help with modernizing your application platform, we would be glad to help. Contact 3Pillar today to begin the discussion.

Special thanks to these members of FORCE, 3Pillar’s expert network, for their contributions to this article.

FORCE is 3Pillar Global’s Thought Leadership Team comprised of technologists and industry experts offering their knowledge on important trends and topics in digital product development.