Oct 09, 2018

Application Modernization: Overcoming Objections to Modernization

Dustin Talk
Brian Hargrove

Dustin Talk and Brian Hargrove

Application Modernization: Overcoming Objections to Modernization

The Earth is flat, Lotus Notes is fine, and you only need 640K of RAM.

What seems true at one point in time—whether it is the shape of the earth, the amount of RAM a computer needs, or the state of your workplace systems—may at some point change. It’s not always easy to recognize the need for change, and it’s common to struggle through that issue.

We’ve previously reviewed why application modernization is a driving part of digital transformation and discussed how Credera approaches application modernization by applying the 5 R’s. In this article, we will look at some of the objections to modernization we commonly hear and key characteristics and symptoms of organizations that exemplify these objections. These are often the reasons why inefficient legacy applications survive and modernization is delayed.

Our hope is that if you believe there are outdated and inefficient tools limiting your productivity, systems that don’t fit the business processes, or technology that exposes your organization to risk, then you will become properly armed to remediate common barriers to change.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Key characteristics and symptoms:

  • Business doesn’t operate efficiently as it could.

  • There is room for improvement and innovation.

  • Missed opportunity cost.

The “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality is prevalent when we speak to clients about application modernization. Often, we are confronted with a somewhat narrow perspective of an application and its potential. Having a growth mindset of an application is important so opportunities are realized, not missed.

Many applications we come across have room for improvement, innovation, and optimization, which could result in significant operational efficiencies or potential increased revenue. When faced with an application that is functional, even if it’s not optimal, people generally don’t find the need to invest in changing it because they fail to see the opportunities that might exist. Instead, they commonly focus on what they will miss. Not all applications are candidates for modernization but a good majority can be enhanced.

“No system or tool does what we do.”

Key characteristics and symptoms:

  • False constraints and incorrect assumptions about available solutions.

  • Doing something because that’s how it’s been done for a while.

  • Blindly missing business objectives and goals along with opportunity to change.

This somewhat omniscient reaction is quite common when we ask about replacing a custom or in-house solution with an active market product. Admittedly, it’s easy to fall into this trap as technology changes faster than we can absorb the rate of change. As an example, look at the state of martech (covering the marketing technology landscape), which in 2011 covered around 150 products, but as of 2017 covers over 5,000 companies and their offerings.

Opening the door to explore potential solutions also provides a healthy reevaluation of existing practices that can expose false constraints and provide opportunity for change. If we have tunnel vision focused solely on ensuring the systems work and maintenance is minimized, then we lose focus on the business objectives and processes. Revisiting current business objectives and processes might just expose options that would better suit what you do and fulfill business goals.

“Our IT systems are a well-oiled machine and our team knows it well.”

Key characteristics and symptoms:

  • False assumption that tribal knowledge will not leave the company.

  • False assumption that costs of replacement always exceed cost of maintenance.

  • Aging workforce and knowledge attrition along with turnover.

We are cautiously optimistic when we hear that an organization is running well. Not because we want to rain on the parade but because we know from experience that current state is not a guarantee of future state. We have already discussed the rate of change with technology, and it is important to ask if the “well-oiled machine” has plans for upgrades as the gears age.

Additionally, the people factor involved cannot be overlooked. To get to the state of running systems well, you probably have staff with volumes of tribal knowledge. And they may eventually leave, thus increasing the cost for maintenance and change. This turnover, while it may seem distinct from technology, is well connected. People will seek to change along with the industry, growing in skills and capabilities. If legacy systems don’t change with the industry, attrition of staff is to be expected over time, leaving nobody to keep greasing the wheel. Over time, this negligence leads to more expensive staffing costs on the once well-oiled machine.

“Ignorance breeds fear.”

Key characteristics and symptoms:

  • A desire to cling to what is familiar and avoid risk.

  • No inventory of functionality or application systems.

  • Many things appear to operate behind the scenes.

  • Knowledge of systems has been lost over time.

“No one ever got fired for buying IBM” is a risk-averse mindset. Back in the day, this tagline originally stood as a sense of pride for IBM in the technical industry as they would do whatever it took to get the job done. Over time their monolithic and legacy products really drove this tagline to represent an investment in the stable past where tech functioned well and risk was avoided.

A tagline that is more appropriate today is, “Nobody ever gets fired for doing something game-changing, through innovation with emerging technology, at speed and low-cost.” The trick in application modernization is to understand how you get to the game-changing or innovative solution without the seemingly overwhelming risks.

This is exactly where Credera’s three-step model modernization strategy can help. In particular, we begin with an inventory to understand the current state of all system usage and processes around those systems. Once completed, even if you choose IBM, you will have a reduced risk of change, knowing what operates where and how. Investing in up-to-date information can make decisions easier and allows executives to avoid risks and move forward with a comfortable plan. Knowledge mitigates fear.

“We can’t afford the change.”

Key characteristics and symptoms:

  • False assumption that change is the most expensive option.

  • Business fails to reach its full potential.

  • Not changing can actually cost more in operating expenses and opportunity in the long term.

This could quite possibly be the case, but are you factoring in the whole system cost, the costs associated with legacy risks, or the opportunity costs? When first exposed to the opportunity of paying a home mortgage as opposed to rent it seems like a no-brainer. A mortgage can be less than rent for a similar sized living space, but when you factor in insurance costs, taxes, maintenance, and unexpected events, that rental price doesn’t look so overwhelming.

When evaluating a budget, be sure to include all operating expenses related to a system including the people costs, downtime costs, overtime costs, maintenance costs, and infrastructure costs. How would your budget be affected by a quick $3.62 million hit? This was the average cost of a data breach in 2017. While that’s down from the previous year, it’s still important to ensure that systems are secure and are not a risk before writing them out of the budget.

As mentioned in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” above, there are also opportunity costs in not meeting the business’s full potential. Ask yourself this simple question, regardless of the budget, is the technology we have helping or hindering our growth?

Help Overcoming Objections

Despite the many challenges to modernization that we have heard over time, we often find organizations and teams who are looking to improve and change. This is where Credera can help. We take a holistic approach to evaluating and determining the real value for change to operations and technology and help justify the change to stakeholders. Please feel free to reach out to us at if you would like help overcoming objections to modernizing as part of digital transformation.

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