May 4, 2023

4 Questions Data Companies Should Ask When Choosing a Platform Modernization Partner

So you’re ready to start your platform modernization journey, but are unsure where to start?

You’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll walk through the process of choosing a platform modernization partner, how they can help, and four key questions to ask during the selection process.

The goal of the process should be to find a partner that has the expertise, capabilities, and mindset to help you build new data products, enhance the products you have, and increase the value you offer to your end users.

The biggest challenges to platform modernization & how an expert partner can help

Platform modernization isn’t just about onboarding new technology. It requires a change in mindset across not only the IT team, but all stakeholders within your data company. So there are, let’s say, some challenges.

Before you start looking for a platform modernization partner, it’s important to get crystal clear on why you need one in the first place. Here are three major challenges that your partner can help you overcome.

Resistance to change

In legacy data and information services companies, there’s an idea that “the way we’ve always done it” is sufficient. After all, it’s worked up to this point, right?

But there’s a problem. Staying with your legacy tech isn’t a risk-averse option. In fact, it poses some pretty serious risks of its own:

  • Difficulty updating systems with bug fixes, requiring workarounds and costly maintenance
  • Increased security risks since legacy platforms don’t receive timely updates and security patches
  • Lack of ability or slowness to react to changing market needs—including launching new products to monetize your data

Clearly, change is necessary. But even the smallest, most incremental movement can lead to organizational disruption.

Ideally, your partner will recommend a modernization strategy that mirrors the Agile development process. It’s iterative, collaborative, and minimizes time to value through incremental improvements. That way, stakeholders can see the positive impact on the organization in real time, increasing their buy-in.

Lack of qualified resources

Platform modernization requires specific skill sets. If you don’t have those on your team internally, you either have to:

  • Hire for them, which can be costly and time consuming
  • Get by with the skills you have, which will result in mistakes and errors down the line
  • Partner with a software development company who has these skills in-house, can help you develop your platforms, and leaves the final product in your hands once the process is complete

When looking for your platform modernization partner, ask them about their expertise in analyzing the resources you have compared with those you need. A diligent development partner will understand how to create a strategy to bridge the gap.

Tunnel vision & fixed mindset

When your IT team spends all day, every day with your legacy tech infrastructure, it’s hard to objectively analyze what’s working and what isn’t.

Each feature and function represents months, if not years, of hard work. It’s hard to take a step back and make tough calls as to what to keep—and what to lose.

What’s more, many legacy IT teams have a fixed mindset in how they approach technology. As David DeWolf, Founder of 3Pillar Global, states in The Product Mindset, “You cannot succeed in the digital economy with a fixed mindset. Only those companies with the growth mindset—those that embrace challenges, push through barriers, and learn from criticism—will thrive.”

A third-party software development partner can help in both these areas: providing much-needed perspective, and guiding your team to adapt to a growth mindset while managing the real and perceived risks of change.

4 questions to ask when looking for a platform modernization partner

While there are any number of questions you could ask a prospective software development partner, make sure you verify their competence in these four critical areas.

1. What is their technical expertise?

As you are vetting a software development partner, be sure that their expertise aligns with your strategy and goals.

With any modern data product, there are two types of technical expertise you need to consider: technology and data. While there will almost certainly be overlap between these two areas, you’ll need to ask about expertise in both.

In terms of technology expertise, it’s not enough to just be familiar with coding and development. There are other areas to keep in mind:

  • Object-oriented programming (OOP) languages
  • Integrated development environments (IDEs)
  • Cloud computing
  • Web development
  • Containers, microservices, and other cloud native infrastructure elements
  • Text editors
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

Additionally, if you’re building a data product, your development partner should be familiar with data structures, algorithms, SQL, and the like.

Best case scenario, you’ll find someone familiar with a datum-level store to simplify how you access, organize, maintain, and draw insights from your data. A datum store provides a simple API that allows for the storage and retrieval of these items.

This enables incredible flexibility in how the data is leveraged, and can be adapted to any type of technological architecture:

  • Replacement of traditional database backups
  • Support for full audit trails
  • Recreation of point-in-time views of enterprise data environment creation after a disaster or as part of a normal release process
  • Seeding of test data
  • Replacement for certain ETL use cases and as a data bus that allows pub/sub models for whole business entities

In addition to accessing the data, data modernization allows artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions to improve how you analyze data. In turn, it can help uncover the specific data needed for each request and improve the way you segment and serve your audience.

In the modern digital economy, these capabilities aren’t just “nice to haves.” They’re absolutely essential to build a competitive, user-friendly platform that generates revenue from the outset.

2. Which brands & industries have they worked with before?

Take some time to ask your prospective partner about their record of success with similar products. Are there testimonials, case studies, or examples they can share with you?

The goal here isn’t to have a strict checklist full of deal-breakers. You should simply try to get an idea of who they’ve worked with in the past, and whether they have the expertise to build platforms centered around the delivery and contextualization of data.

If possible, don’t just look at their case studies or testimonials—check out the platforms directly. Many consumer-facing data products have a free or freemium option. Go check it out, and see if you find the UX intuitive and easy to use. Chances are, the product they build for you will be much the same.

3. Do our goals align?

This question is one that many companies often overlook. It’s not enough for your platform modernization partner to have the right expertise or case studies. If your approaches are completely opposed to each other, you’re not going to get anywhere fast.

One area where companies go wrong is mismanaging the relationship between new platforms and legacy tech. At its core, this issue isn’t so much a tech problem as a problem in aligning goals and objectives. You can’t afford for your legacy tech to be down for months while you wait to roll out a “new” system that basically does the same thing.

Instead, you should be able to communicate your need for uptime to your development partner, and they can find a solution that results in the best of both worlds.

Prioritizing your success isn’t solely about listening to what you say and executing on it. By hiring experts who see their team as an extension of your own, you can be confident that they’re looking out for your best interests.

The result? Minimized time to value that solves real problems.

4. Do they have a modern product mindset?

Just because a platform modernization partner has the right technical expertise doesn’t mean they’ll help you achieve your goals.

That’s because platform modernization is about more than achieving feature parity with your legacy tech, or adding bells and whistles to your current capabilities. It’s about shifting the focus of your entire development team from output to outcomes.

If your development partner is focused on building features quickly just to say “we did it”, you’re likely going to be disappointed.

If, on the other hand, they tie platform modernization to your product strategy, and help you clearly define customer and business value, odds are you’ll be solid partners for the long haul.

Don’t wait to start your product modernization process

Platform modernization is a process that focuses on productizing your data incrementally, so you can start opening new revenue streams as quickly as possible.

Finding a platform modernization partner is about more than outsourcing. It’s about truly gaining a strategic partner that ensures your investment of time and resources gives your company a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Ready to get started? Talk to the 3Pillar Global team today.