Let’s face it, Chief Information Officers know they need to modernize their legacy systems. It’s a problem. According to Gartner, compounded technical debt will consume more than 40% of current IT budgets by 2025. CIOs are keenly aware of the ways in which they both need the mainframe and would love to push it over a bridge.

Why Most Modernization Projects Fail

We’re the first ones to admit that mainframe modernization is no small endeavor. Projects of this size affect entire organizations.

Try to imagine all of the ways the applications and databases intertwine during a workflow at your organization. Every year the problem gets more complex. For example, compare the software landscape pre-1980. It consisted of 132 applications. By 2017, that number jumped to 2,269. Every year, the problem grows.

When modernizing, enterprises who bite off more than they can chew end up with a bitter taste. For many, attempting a comprehensive inventory is too cost prohibitive. That’s why modernization projects often fail before they meet their first planned outcome. They’re too big and the scope is unknown.

However, there is a better approach. For CIOs who are tired of kicking the can down the road, let’s talk about continuous modernization.

What Is Continuous Modernization?

According to Gartner, continuous modernization is a gradual approach that focuses on providing digital business support and value in a timely manner. It’s a conscious effort to manage technical debt before it becomes a business pain. This way you avoid the disruption of much riskier, periodic binges of modernization.

In fact, continuous modernization is just the normal cost of doing business. IT modernization is never done. Technology evolves. You may retire, but the firm will always need to catch up. Today’s new technology will become yesterday’s legacy tech.

Need more executive buy-in? Here’s why Chief Risk Officers want to modernize legacy tech.

How Do You Modernize Continuously?

According to Gartner, business processes should drive modernization. When looking at legacy applications, determined which have either low business fit, value, agility, or high cost, complexity, or risk. Instead of replacing the whole application, you can:

  • Focus on modernizing parts of the application to improve support
  • Create services and APIs to make particular functions and data accessible
  • Replace parts of the application or extend it with new functionality using more appropriate technology

Additionally, avoid focusing on the wrong thing. When IT modernization is the sole responsibility of your IT departments, the driver is typically cost versus the business value. A modernization project looks a lot different when you focus on the value it drives to the organization, versus the immediate cost. The wrong kind of planning leads to small, quick fixes that further exacerbate mounting technical debt.

According to Gartner, the process of continuous modernization is as follows:

  1. Identify business capabilities supported by legacy applications.
  2. Identify which components or parts are supporting each business capability.
  3. Asses the support for each business capability and identify modernization drivers such as, low business fit, value or agility, or high complexity, risk or cost.
  4. Identify and prioritize friction points and discuss with business stakeholders to create a backlog of modernization activities.
  5. For each modernization activity, analyze the cause behind the problem.
  6. Select the appropriate modernization approach.
  7. Execute the modernization.
  8. Re-evaluate the backlog to include any new or changed priorities.
  9. Select the next activity from the backlog and repeat at Step 4.

Once there’s a prioritized road map of smaller chunks of modernization work for individual business capabilities, keep it that way. Resist the urge to turn this into a large project. Following these steps will help keep your modernization process flexible and iterative.

How Mainframe Integration Supports Continuous Modernization

Even though executives joke about getting rid of the mainframe, they know that legacy applications contain valuable core functions and data that are essential for digital business initiatives. The problem is the way we access these applications.

Typically, legacy applications and their ecosystems are not ready to support a continuous delivery cadence. However, mainframe modernization tools like Open Banking SmartBridge provide a protective integration layer that allows for agile delivery. This way you can exploit and extend the value of your legacy applications without the costly, risky, and time consuming rip-and-replace approach.

According to Gartner, enterprises that should opt for continuous modernization are those that cannot afford the cost, risk, and impact of a huge rip and replace. Nor can they afford to wait years for execution or predict what their future business initiatives will require.

In the end, continuous modernization along with mainframe integration gradually transforms legacy applications into a platform for providing services via APIs that can be consumed by other applications. It relieves the burden from legacy applications instead of asking it to do something it was never designed to do.