Jan 30th, 2020

6 Key Strategies For Application Modernization

Author - Arun Subramanian
5 Key Strategies For Application Modernization
Jan 30th, 2020

6 Key Strategies For Application Modernization

Want to make your IT processes agile? Then you must modernize your legacy applications and other home-grown systems. Here are five key strategies to scale your business growth with application modernization.

Digital transformation has snowballed in recent years, especially since the pandemic. The acceleration has led to an undeniable need for enterprises to deploy flexible and agile processes that upgrade their legacy systems and help them respond to dynamic IT and business changes.

Thankfully, your organization can leverage the constantly-changing market to your advantage by adopting an application modernization strategy.

Application Modernization: What Is it and the Benefits to Your Business?

Application modernization (AppMod) is an iterative process of updating legacy software to newer applications to improve product functionality and business value. There are different forms of legacy application modernization, such as reviewing and rewriting legacy code, data modernization, cloud migration, extending functionalities, and UX redesign.

Upgrading legacy systems has many more crucial benefits that can have major positive impacts on your business including making it more competitive and profitable.

Why You Should Modernize Legacy Applications

As a business leader, you already know how vital efficient software is to your business operations. But legacy applications use outdated technologies, making them underperform in the current market expectations. Obsolete systems will slow down software delivery and block processes, meaning your products cannot compete or deliver the best customer experiences.

On the other hand, implementing application modernization solutions can align your software offerings with modern IT, business, and end-user requirements. This will ensure business agility, promote continuity and growth, and cut accruing technical expenditure.

Application modernization opens your business to more opportunities and benefits. Here are some:

  • Relevance and competitive edge
  • Improved end-user satisfaction
  • Higher performance
  • More compatibility and efficiencies
  • Improved security and compliance
  • Up to 74% lower costs on application maintenance, hardware, software, and staff.
When Should You Modernize Legacy Systems?

The simple answer is now. However, here are some common challenges that show when you need to rewrite legacy applications:

  • When you experience code bloat in monolithic apps, some undocumented code elements become tougher for new IT recruits.
  • Your applications no longer support third-party elements and can’t interact with newer systems.
  • When your product is not agile to evolving customer expectations.
  • When you need to lower maintenance and operational costs.

Code bloat is detrimental to your software. It’s important to rewrite legacy code to protect applications against potential security risks, hacked integrations, performance issues, and inability to update or grow.

Core Strategies for Application Modernization

Application modernization is a complex and continuous process that must be planned carefully. Here are five key application modernization strategies for your business:

Migrate Application Infrastructure to Cloud

As one of the least risky strategies, this AppMod strategy involves redeploying the application into a modern cloud infrastructure without modifying the original code, features, or functions. Migration to cloud enables the latest infrastructure benefits such as virtualization, virtual access and remote management of the application infrastructure while reducing the effort and costs of on-premise servers. While there are definite benefits to this approach, the essential problems of legacy application will still remain.

Retain Core Application and Modernize Interfaces

In this approach the back end infrastructure is retained and an API wrapper is developed to expose the existing core functionalities. This allows for the modernization of front-end/UI parts of the application giving it a modern look and feel but without having to rewrite the core business logic code or redesign the proven data structures.

The benefit of this approach is that it has much lower risk at the same time providing better customer experience and will extend the life of the application. The down side of this approach is that it just postpones the problem in that the code-debt and the infrastructure costs still remain and will have to be addressed at some point in the future.

Refactor and Restructure Legacy Code

Refactoring is an AppMod strategy that focuses on rewriting and restructuring parts of the code to remove inefficiencies, security flaws and making the code more reusable and more easily maintainable. The external behaviour of the application essentially remains the same, so there is no need for retraining of users. Other benefits of this approach include improved performance of the application and slightly improved user experience while allowing easier onboarding and training of new developers in maintaining the software. As in the previous approaches the problem of technical debt will continue and would need to be addressed in the future.

Modernize Tech Stack; Retain Functionality

This is one of the most comprehensive application modernization strategies, but is a very risky and complex undertaking. It involves re-architecting the application using the latest technology elements such as languages, databases etc. and rewriting the application components from scratch but preserving the functional aspects of the application.

The risk of this approach is very high depending on the availability of documentation on all the intricacies of the functionality, so it is very easy to miss functional items leading to a long and complex acceptance process. Benefits of upgrading the technology stack are several including much better performance, user experience and ease of maintenance. Modern Devops processes can be used to make the maintenance and deployment process more streamlined. While major objectives of app modernization can be achieved with this approach, the opportunity to update the functionality will be missed.

Replace the Entire Application

This approach will involve upgrading the tech stack, infrastructure and re-designing the functionality of the application. While this is the most risky approach to modernizing your application, it can also be the most rewarding. The key aspect would be to review all the functional use cases, revalidate the need from the users and evaluate ways to automate and introduce efficiencies in the process flows. The opportunity to introduce modern technologies of Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Machine Learning (ML) can be leveraged.

Needless to say this is the most risky approach in retiring the entire legacy system application and replacing it with a modern and comprehensive one.


All legacy applications require periodic evaluation to see if all are parts of the application needs modernization. Updating your legacy applications ensures operational efficiency, capacity and adaptability. The market is dynamic, and there are new security threats daily. Besides the need to migrate, refactor, re-architect or rewrite legacy software, application modernization allows your organization to be more competitive in the market and ensure the investments in major applications perform as needed.