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September 9, 2022 | Adam Lawson

7 Application Modernization Strategy Best Practices

Is it time to apply modernization best practices to your applications?

Digital transformation can be a long-term process. It doesn’t happen overnight, and some pieces are easier to update than others. Modernization is also a non-stop process. To stay competitive, you need to continue to improve your systems. Application modernization can be a path of entry for major digital business initiatives at your organization. We’ll review seven application modernization strategy best practices to consider here. But first, let’s talk strategy.

What does an application modernization strategy entail?

You may also be familiar with application modernization by other terms, such as modernizing legacy systems. Essentially, a company takes its legacy software and updates it using new infrastructure, frameworks, and computing languages. There are a few ways to approach application modernization.

A “lift and shift” involves “lifting” a critical application from its current environment and “shifting” it to another. For example, from an on-premises environment to the public cloud, without changing it much. While this might be the path of least resistance to get your application up quickly, it doesn’t mean you are solving any problems that existed with the legacy setup.

Refactoring is more mindful of what changes applications should undergo to help them operate more effectively in a new environment. That can be especially helpful for larger applications that may require examination and rewrites. The goals of refactoring applications are:

  • to minimize technical debt
  • to remove code that may not work best in the new environment

Replatforming lies somewhere in between lift and shift and refactoring. While you aren’t rewriting large pieces of code or reconfiguring application architecture, you may need to make updates to a few things to have your software perform as it should.

After you plan what type of modernization you do, you may also need to figure out how to implement them, whether via continuous integration or continuous delivery (CI/CD). Continuous integration involves making updates in smaller batches more frequently. Continuous delivery requires the application to pass at one stage of software development before moving on to the next. Your application build and preferred workflow will help determine your ideal implementation.

No matter the extent of your updates, you should consider making the modernization process as beneficial for you as possible. Here are seven benefits of modernizing applications and best practices.

Also read: 9 Steps to Avoid Cloud Migration Pitfalls with Legacy Apps

Application modernization best practices and benefits

Customer experience

Almost 90 percent of companies agree that customer experience drives customer loyalty. Businesses can’t afford to skip creating a memorable and positive experience for them. Accessibility and ease of use are two driving forces in technology as brands compete to make the customer journey and experience as frictionless as possible. People are used to being able to fast-track the ordering process, book appointments online, and conduct ample research before ever having to talk with a person.

Find your ideal customer experience by doing your research. That can look like observing behavior to see where people get stuck, having one-on-one interviews with key customers, or sending out surveys to help inform a better build. The more you understand how your application uses, the more you can prioritize new features and services (more on that below).


In an application modernization project, it can be a lot easier to get caught up in the update costs vs. the savings that come from updates. Improving ease of use on administrative tasks can save time, which means your team can focus on other revenue-building projects.

Also, updating current systems (instead of starting from scratch) is generally more affordable. That is especially true if the applications are ready and optimized to be cloud-native. Cloud-native applications reduce the cost of physical equipment and infrastructure ownership.

If you are operating within a budget, create a priority list. What needs to be updated first? What can wait until a little later down the road? The more you can outline what different modernization approaches will bring in terms of time and cost, the better you can project and budget for future projects.

Also read: Six Tips for Controlling Cloud Spend in a Migration

Creating new features and services

This piece should go together with customer experience. New features and services can improve your application experience, saving time and money. It also shows that you are actively updating, staying modern and competitive, and are more proactive than other companies in your space.

Working on new features and services (just say you have more) is counterproductive. Your application modernization roadmap should build upon lessons learned from surveys and interviews. You can also look at competitors. Read review sites to see areas where you may be able to improve based on feedback provided by your company and your competitors.

Improving productivity

As modern technological advances continue to develop, there is always a smarter and easier way to build things. Intuitive updates to application processes mean:

  • employees can be more productive and focused on business goals
  • less of a need to manage simple navigation and administrative tasks.

For the best way to improve productivity company-wide, assess how current departments use your applications currently and what they would like to see change. That is the time to streamline your business processes, make updates based on common denominators, and train to help improve efficiencies after launching updates to keep productivity moving forward.

Accelerating innovation

Making these changes helps speed up the innovation process. The more you don’t have to worry about navigating aging infrastructure and legacy systems, the less resistance there will be to future innovation.

Adapting to change

Let’s face it, most people don’t like change, even if they say they do. It can be especially hard to adapt to change in a business setting once you become accustomed to the same way of doing things. However, encouraging staff to adjust to application modernization and walking them through any growing pains that may occur does help set them up to better handle other updates down the road. Getting people used to making changes in small ways can help get everyone prepared.

How the public cloud comes in

When you undergo an application modernization project, you’ll be modernizing your legacy applications by migrating them from an on-premises environment to a public, private, or hybrid cloud. You can have a public cloud provider monitor your application and perform necessary maintenance, updates, and security protocols. That saves your staff time managing your day-to-day tasks for your application. Learn more about the benefits of the public cloud.

If you’ve been considering making a move to the cloud but aren’t sure of a first step, work on modernizing and migrating applications to the cloud first. That can provide an opening to further digital transformation down the line. You can also work with a specialist who can help make the migration painless. They can also help you choose the modernization strategy that will work best for your software and your organization.

Learn more about migrating to the cloud, modernization options, deployment, and management, and how using the public cloud with other cloud types can help your business outperform your competitors. Download our ‘How to Sell the Cloud to Your Leadership Team’ eBook to address common pain points organizations face when adopting the cloud.

How to sell the cloud to your leadership team - an ebook from TierPoint

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