Crafting your own map, knowing (and preparing for) the perils you’ll encounter is important, but you also need to define where you want to go. So set your modernization goals wisely!
Now that you’re probably preparing to set sail in your modernization adventure, it’s time to figure out where you want to go and make sure that everybody is on board with you. The last few articles hopefully helped you to evaluate if your application is worth modernizing, and if so, what the benefits are and typical pains of the process. Now let’s focus on a different, but equally important, aspect of the modernization process: setting appropriate goals that, on one hand, reflect your modernization initiative direction and ultimate objective and, on the other, keep everyone “in the loop” and focused on the tasks at hand.
You might recall from earlier in this subseries that there are three modernization areas:
- Code modernization
- User interface modernization
- Database modernization
A modernization process can include any combination of work in these three areas, which means that you need to plan it carefully. The first step is analyzing the current application in an unbiased assessment, with the help of its users and your top management.
One Destination, Many Paths
Depending on where the real problems are, you can have different approaches to the modernization goals:
- Performance issues can be tackled with either code modernization, database modernization, or even both, depending on the situation.
- Lack of agility issues are usually caused by an inadequate application and/or database design, so the same recipe applies.
- New business demands, such as ensuring all or part of the application is available online with a web or mobile front-end, may be addressed with a mix of user interface and code modernization.
Keep in mind that these are just examples, and each modernization process is unique. Bringing in external expertise at this point is a great idea. An experienced modernization consultant will be able to help you discover quick wins that can provide some traction to the process and will share invaluable insights regarding the challenges ahead. Always remember to start small, with simple and realistic goals:
- Don’t try to modernize the whole application at once.
- Don’t try to change everything (code, database, and UI) at once.
- Try not to underestimate the effort. Remember that there are multiple learning curves involved and an incredible amount of testing to perform.
- Try to set goals that the whole company can relate to, not just the IT department.
Keep One Eye on the Road…and the Other on the Map
Even if you choose a single application module to modernize, it might not be a good idea to act on all three modernization areas at the same time. Go over them one at a time, but always keep an eye on the big picture so that all the work in code modernization is compatible with the UI changes you’ll want to perform next.
There are a few more things you’ll need to keep an eye on. For one thing, programmers are creatures of habit, so they’ll take a while to get used to new tools and new habits. On the other hand, using new technology (or even current technology, for that matter) in a project of this nature will require a particular focus on quality assurance. IT and business people will need to test everything thoroughly, not only because it’s new, but also because it has to fit with the parts that are not being changed. Make sure you take all this into account when you draft the effort estimates.
Finally, it’s of paramount importance to keep everyone on board. Your goals must be something to which the whole company (IT, business, and management) can relate. It might seem logical to set a goal along the lines of “re-do program X in three service programs,” but the business and management areas won’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about. Carefully word your goals, so that everyone can understand them. You can leave the details and technical lingo for the implementation plan.
The next TechTip will present a few concrete examples of what your modernization goals might include, with the help of a little-known IBM Redbook. Curious? Sorry, you’ll have to wait for the next article of the series.