When radical innovations were rare, businesses could afford to treat application modernization as a sporadic reaction to change. A decade ago, most organizations modernized only when they were compelled to.
However, in the era of open-source and continuous innovation, modernization can’t be an isolated, one-off project. Businesses need to embrace a culture that celebrates change to thrive in the digital age. According to our latest research on digital transformation and product development trends, an overwhelming 69% of organizations have implemented or overhauled a customer-facing product or application, and another 44% will be investing in the launch of new customer-facing applications or features in 2024.
That’s not to say that legacy technology isn’t a relevant factor anymore. Multiple industries employ outdated software in their core operations and only consider modernization when a critical technology in their stack becomes unsupported (for example, an older version of Java or PHP is sunsetted). Security concerns from unsupported versions are always a powerful driver to act fast.
But today’s organizations are increasingly modernizing their applications in a more proactive way. They are not just modernizing because they have to, but because they want to. And there are plenty of good reasons behind it:
1. Paying off technical debt
Technical debt is expensive because it impacts several critical areas of business at the same time:
- Higher churn rate due to increased bugs and performance issues
- Potential MRR loss due to delay in feature release
- Loss of engineering time and resources
According to Stripe’s The Developer Coefficient, engineers spend 33% of their time dealing with technical debt. By modernizing their application, organizations can reduce technical debt and put measures in place to acquire less of it in the future.
For example, a popular way to reduce technical debt is using micro frontends, which divide the application front-end into autonomous groups (micro-apps) to streamline development. This affords developers more room for innovation and shortens deployment time. Similarly, breaking down app functionality into API-accessible microservices can help you pay your technical debt more incrementally.
Another popular example of modernizing applications is by decoupling front-end and back-end codebases. This is especially useful for web and mobile apps that release frequent updates. When front-end and backend developers have less dependency on each other, it encourages faster rollout, reducing project lead time.
2. Better user experience
Recent technologies have made it easier than ever for businesses to create applications. The barrier for entry in IT has never been so low.
But this is a double-edged sword.
This also means that customers are spoiled for choices and are not as forgiving as they once were. According to PWC, 32% of customers leave a brand after just one bad experience. And most of the time, they won’t even tell you about the problem. 91% of unsatisfied customers who don’t complain simply leave.
User experience is as good as any reason for organizations to modernize their applications.
User sensibilities and expectations evolve at a rapid speed. What might have been considered intuitive UX even three years ago might look dated today. Therefore, modernizing your app for better UX isn’t a one-time project. It involves creating an architecture that allows for rapid UX iterations.
That’s where projects such as decoupling front-end and back-end architecture can help. When front-end engineers have greater autonomy to make changes in the user interface without fiddling with backend databases, they can give you a massive edge over your competitors.
According to a Forrester report, every $1 invested in UI/UX design generates $100. Therefore, a better user experience is also a great reason to justify application modernization to stakeholders.
3. Building cross-platform capabilities
Traditionally, if you had to create a web, an iOS, and an Android app, the only way to do so was with three separate codebases and development processes. As a result, it was expensive to establish and maintain a presence on multiple platforms, especially for cash-strapped startups.
However, organizations can create applications for multiple platforms using a single codebase with the rise of cross-platform frameworks such as Ionic, React Native, Flutter, and Cordova. This has enabled even emerging startups to reach a wider audience than ever before.
According to a recent survey, Flutter is the fastest-growing SDK for cross-platform development.
Flutter not only allows for cross-platform mobile development, it also lets teams build for Linux, Mac, Windows, Google Fuchsia, and the web from a single codebase.
Building cross-platform capabilities is a popular reason to modernize applications as it significantly reduces future development costs. Namely, the cost and complexity of maintaining the app.
4. Omnichannel customer experience
Omnichannel customer experience goes beyond exceptional user experiences or simply being available on multiple platforms/channels. Instead, it’s a holistic approach that allows organizations to offer a seamless experience to their customers across all platforms, including offline channels.
For example, the Starbucks Rewards app gives coffee drinkers free rewards to use whenever they are making a purchase. You can make changes to the card using any channel (phone, website, app, in-store), and it will get updated in real-time. Its user experience transcends traditional channel boundaries.
Creating such omnichannel experiences requires a sophisticated framework that lets you create workflows using data from CMS, CRM, different ad channels, etc. This can often spark an application modernization project in organizations.
5. Faster development with CI/CD
In a 2020 GitLab survey, the percentage of respondents who had largely or even completely automated their SDLC was 8%. In the 2021 edition of the report, this has jumped to over 50%, largely due to the widespread adoption of CI/CD.
CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) refers to a set of practices to automate several critical stages of software development. CI automates testing and merging changes to the application code into a shared repository. CD broadly focuses on automating bug testing and deploying app changes to the production environment.
Many organizations are modernizing their applications and infrastructure to automate testing and adopt CI/CD practices. Together, they can reduce application development time by up to 20%, leading to significant cost savings. For example, by introducing CI/CD practices along with AWS migration and API restructuring, we helped make Spargo’s application 50X faster.
6. Talent acquisition and retention
There is a common thread in all the reasons we have discussed so far. Their execution hinges on hiring and retaining skilled engineers.
It’s hard to hire engineers for obsolete frameworks. It’s even harder to retain skilled engineers if they don’t get an opportunity to explore new technologies.
Great developers are artists, and exploring new technologies helps with their overall job satisfaction. According to Hired’s State of Software Engineers report, most software engineers’ primary motivation for learning a new programming language or framework is simply because they enjoy it.
Stack Overflow conducted a comprehensive survey of 65,000 software developers from 186 countries to answer one question: What do software developers want? They found out that the chance to experiment with new technologies topped the list with a 51% response.
Application modernization allows you to attract technical talent that further accelerates the entire modernization process.
Key to successful application modernization
A short-term project to move away from an unsupported PHP version is a sound move. However, that’s not modernization. Leaders need to be aware of how application modernization fits in with broader transformation.
How will your application look in the next five years? How can you iterate fast enough to outpace competitors? Application modernization calls for clarity on such strategic questions. It requires a mid-to-long-term roadmap.
Simply adopting new technology isn’t the solution. Sooner or later, they are bound to get outdated. However, what will always persist is a growth-oriented mindset that welcomes change.
Interested in learning more about application modernization? Get in touch with us. As an official AWS, Atlassian, and GitHub partner, we have helped some of the world’s leading organizations modernize their software.
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