Application Modernization: Steps for a Successful Journey

Application Modernization: Steps for a Successful Journey

Mattias Minati
Mattias Minati,

Modernizing the application portfolio is a critical step in any cloud migration. Building agility, reliability and scalability into enterprise software will position organizations to respond more effectively to continuous change. And application modernization efforts don’t need to stop because of Covid-19; they just need to be re-imagined.

In an IDG/Cognizant study from 2019, still relevant though, about half of responding companies (51%) said they’re in the midst of modernizing their applications as part of their cloud migration efforts. In addition, 17% cited application modernization as the top priority for cloud adoption.

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Organizations are looking to application modernization to streamline IT architectures and improve their ability to respond to the accelerated pace of change – now a hallmark in the era of digital business. Specifically, respondents see application modernization as a way to do the following:

  • 89%: Reduce the number of systems that don’t talk to each other.
  • 83%: Streamline the number of applications to promote continuity.
  • 83%: Strategically position IT so it can respond to change.


Larger organizations are also bullish on cloud-based application modernization as a way to move beyond the traditional data center environment, according to the study.

Ensuring a smooth migration
Overall, companies are having success with their application modernization efforts, with 83% claiming to be on-track or ahead of schedule with deployment. Some challenges remain, however, including finding talent skilled in cloud migration, navigating change management issues and overcoming hurdles associated with legacy migration efforts.

We advise companies to take the following steps to pave the way for successful cloud migration:

  • Prioritize what you know. You can’t modernize everything at once, so it’s critical to begin with a discovery phase to evaluate your existing application portfolio and prioritize cloud migration candidates. Do a deep dive on the portfolio from both a technical and business perspective, classifying applications based on where they are today and their projected role in the future. This process will help you gain a better understanding of the interdependencies between applications while also aiding in compliance as you proceed with a controlled migration strategy.
  • Think big, and execute small. Identify quick wins for application modernization to foster buy-in and help circumvent change management issues. For example, applications developed in the last few years might be easily migrated using a simple lift-and-shift approach, showcasing early success. 
  • Consider modernizing your core on the cloud. Historically, enterprise modernization programs have been start-stop affairs that encounter challenges such as competing demands from users for adding new features, re-architecting and re-factoring application code, and choosing the right products from a crowded marketplace. Cloud providers offer the latest technologies like purpose-built databases, serverless computing capabilities, containerization and microservices architecture that can provide an effective on-ramp for modernizing an application portfolio.
  • Engage the business. IT can’t be the sole voice in modernization. You need a huge collaborative effort that includes design, engineering and agile methods before you reach your first milestone. Working with all stakeholders – employees, customers, partners, and vendors – to prioritize and coordinate an application modernization strategy will lead to much better outcomes. Equally important is a robust governance and change management program to effectively manage stakeholder expectations and ensure successful completion of modernization initiatives.


Application modernization is a critical part of the cloud migration journey. With a long-term strategy punctuated with short-term wins, organizations have the best chance of success. What do we do when a crisis like Covid-19 hits then? Application modernization efforts don’t need to stop; they need to be re-imagined and made more flexible. Work can be accomplished remotely. Processes can ensure continuity and progress. New technologies and tools are empowering remote work like never before, and teams can deliver regardless of their location. 

Learn more about application modernization by visiting our Core Modernization section of the web.

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