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July 1, 2022 | Matt Pacheco

How to Build Your IT Modernization Strategy

Building an IT modernization strategy

When was the last time you looked at your legacy systems and on-premises hardware? Are your applications performing as well as they used to? To compete in a new digital landscape, every business will need to think about how they can build an IT modernization strategy for their systems and develop a solid plan around it.

The process of developing an IT modernization strategy includes a need for buy-in from leadership, as well as a solid game plan so that no disparate pieces get lost along the way. Legacy dependencies, time constraints from internal IT staff, and conflicting ideas on what should take priority can impede your progress.

We’ll talk about why you should take on an IT modernization strategy in the first place, and what to consider when putting the pieces together.

Why engage in IT modernization?

Demands on technology are moving at such a pace that what worked 5 years ago may no longer serve your internal staff or end-users. Lightning-fast processes may now move at a snail’s pace. For your business to be as reliable, nimble, and secure as possible, you need to adapt to a new IT approach. That’s where modernization comes in.

It can be hard to make a case for the upfront and ongoing costs of digital transformation; however, the costs can be greater for businesses that don’t invest in these modernization strategies. To get full executive approval, you’ll likely need to go through the cost benefits and return on investment in making these adaptations. You will also need to effectively communicate the drawbacks of not making an investment in a digital transformation project.

Most businesses engage in IT modernization strategies to address one or all the following pain points:

On-premises data centers are expensive

The costs to purchase, maintain, and update an on-premises data center can creep up quickly. Not only do you need a physical location to house your data center, but you also need to be thinking about the costs of power, storage, IT staffing, security, cabling, networking, and more. If your business grows quickly, you may outgrow your on-premises data center, calling for the need for more equipment, a bigger facility, and more upfront investments.

For businesses that may experience seasonal fluctuations in demand, or grow unexpectedly, only to hit a lull, they may end up paying for more than they need on average. Engaging in an IT modernization strategy that involves working with an off-premises, third-party data center, including public, private, or hybrid cloud technology, can allow you to have more flexibility with your infrastructure and data centers while incurring fewer upfront costs.

Application performance is lagging

What used to run smoothly on your legacy systems may not be as responsive and efficient as they once were. Applications built on legacy systems may struggle to keep up with increased technological demand, especially on personal devices. Any dip in performance can mean your application becomes less useful. Fewer people will use it as intended, you may end up with a frustrated, unproductive workforce, and it could create a vulnerability for competitors to swoop in and attract your clients or customers.

If you feel like your application isn’t firing on all cylinders, addressing that in a modernization strategy can get you headed in a more productive direction.

The pandemic is changing the way we do business

A greater demand on systems is not just coming from changing technology and the changing expectations of the end-users, but also the increase in remote work environments. Businesses are expected to accommodate these workers while having the capacity to weather disruptions as they arise. The old ways of doing things won’t cut it.

Customer buying habits have changed

Interactive customer experiences that will be enabled by 5G networks will also place a greater load on your infrastructure and applications, requiring IT modernization to keep up.

What’s included in an IT modernization strategy?

Creating a modernization strategy can involve several moving parts, some of which you may want to do together, and some that you may want to tackle in phases. IT modernization could include:

  • Migrating your data center
  • Upgrading your infrastructure
  • Modernizing your applications, network, security, or devices.

When looking at data center modernization efforts, for example, businesses need to consider their legacy equipment, business goals, staffing model, and budget to determine how to best update or move to a new data center. Application modernization may include moving an on-premises application to a cloud-based platform that’s built to be more scalable and agile, ensuring easier updating and maintenance in the future. An initial investment in application modernization means you can make minor tweaks without the worry of major overhauls by building on a more flexible framework.

Challenges to IT modernization

Developing an IT modernization strategy can be a huge undertaking, and it isn’t hard to hit some snags.

One snag is budget and costs related to IT modernization. Existing investments mean sunk costs. Add those costs (and that existing infrastructure that needs to be managed) to the costs associated with cloud migration and it may stop businesses in their tracks.

Progress can also be impeded if your staff is tied up doing other things. Asking your internal staff to split their attention between a modernization project and the day-to-day activities that normally claim their time can mean:

  • your project gets dragged out
  • your staff gets burned out
  • or important things get missed

It can also be hard to know where to start, especially if you’re working with legacy systems that have a lot of dependencies. For example, if working to modernize one piece of your infrastructure means that you’ll also need to consider 5 other things that are connected, forgetting one or two of these pieces could spell disaster.

Different departments may also have different ideas about what pieces are most important to modernize first, based on what they use regularly. If these pieces are not as critical to your business or as important for driving revenue, they might not be the best to start with.

Steps in an IT modernization strategy

Now that you’re aware of the potential obstacles, let’s talk about the steps you can take toward forming a strong IT modernization strategy:

Determine critical systems

As we mentioned, one potential difficulty when forming a strategy is determining critical systems when different departments have conflicting ideas about what’s most important. A strategy helps you decide this by looking at what will truly benefit from modernization first. This can be based on revenue and productivity and should consider factors such as:

  • Dependencies
  • Which legacy systems are most expensive to maintain
  • What could use outside help the most based on your internal skill sets

Set milestones/phases in the process

To ensure everyone is on the same page, create milestones so there is no confusion over what it looks like to get to the next step, or what success in one phase looks like. Sticking to a sequence and a deadline will ensure that the project isn’t dragged out for too long.

Projects that involve internal improvement can easily fall to the back burner in favor of short-term revenue-builders. But it’s important to remember that investing in your own systems can be an even bigger investment in future revenue.

Focus on your strengths

What is it that your team does well? When forming your strategy, make sure to involve key members in the activities that they do best. To avoid the obstacle listed above, anyone involved in the project should have dedicated time to complete it, without other needs pulling at their attention.

Call on resources for the rest

Especially with the cybersecurity workforce gap, companies may struggle to have enough qualified staff to perform an IT modernization project without missing a beat. Instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, call in reinforcements. Bringing in a third-party resource can help offload less familiar work and free up your staff to continue to work on what they enjoy and are best at doing.

If you’re still not sure whether an IT modernization strategy makes sense for your business, or you’re worried about leadership buy-in, think about it as taking one step toward an ongoing digital transformation process. It’s a process you and every other business will inevitably go through to survive in a new technological landscape. The more you can be proactive in your work, the more competitive you’ll be, and the more projects you can continue to take on.

Are you ready to get buy-in for your IT modernization project, and would you like a few more points to bolster your pitch? Download our eBook “How to Sell the Cloud to Your Leadership Team”.

Is your IT infrastructure already modernized and you’re looking to accelerate your digital transformation? Read our guide on how you can use the cloud to innovate your business.

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