10 lessons from 10 years of application modernisation

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Desynit is celebrating its 10th birthday! To mark this milestone, we have given some thought to the most important factors influencing the way we do business. 10 years of application modernisation later, and this is what we know to be true…

1. Evolution not revolution – Take small steps to change an existing system incrementally for a robust, cost effective end result.

However attractive a clean break may appear, it’s a high risk / high failure option. Instead, break down the existing situation into smaller steps and make your changes as part of a rational and sequenced process.

2. People are the key, not the technology.

People don’t hold documentation for each of their business processes. Many of the quirky IT workarounds and fixes needed to keep things ticking day to day, exist in the heads of the IT team. Programming is not just coding, its problem solving. That’s why people who know about the business are just as important as people who know new technology.

3. Get up to speed on integration technologies, in particular Java.

In order to move legacy applications on and benefit from the latest technology, it’s time to embrace modern programming languages. Between Java and C#, it’s Java that comes up trumps as it is supported by multiple operating systems. Java offers much greater integration capabilities than legacy languages such as RPG or COBOL. What’s more, Java skills are readily available in the marketplace, so it makes financial sense to buy in additional resources when required.

4. Make sure that IT, Finance and the business are talking to each other.

Communication between departments is the key to the success of a project. If people are not talking to each other and understanding what is going on, then you have to find a way of bridging that gap for the project to succeed.

5. It pays to stay current on your software maintenance.

And this may mean staying in touch with your vendor. Even if you are not planning to change anything right now, when the time comes you will know what enhancements, fixes and features are available to you and you will be in the enviable position of being aware of your options.

6. Use testing tools and try out new ideas.

With the right testing tools and test automation you can start making changes without fear of any horrible repercussions. If you can’t measure a known baseline against which you can test any software change, you are taking a high risk with your existing set up. Manual testing is not going to cut it – it’s inaccurate, labour intensive and therefore expensive.

7. A system that has been around for 20 years cannot be replaced in two years.

A system that has been around for 20 years, represents 20 years of work, not just the original 2 years that it took develop. Fixes, features and refinements will have been introduced over the years until the system operating today maybe considerably different to the original.

8. There is no room in modern software for Waterfall project management techniques.

Waterfall project management techniques are characterised by long periods of non-delivery. Instead, opt for Agile practices. The result will be full involvement of the technical and business teams in a process of continual development and delivery. Not only does this make for better risk control, you can more effectively manage the project scope.

9. The ground-up IT replacement project only succeeds at the point that business processes are made to fit in with the new software.

We are yet to see a brand new system that is truly tailored to the business. The management of a project of this scope is fraught with difficulties, the main issue being the number of parties with differing requirements all competing for limited resources. The big re-write typically ends in an IT compromise, bending existing business processes to work around the new system.

10. Modern and legacy applications can happily co-exist.

Legacy and new applications, living together in perfect harmony, happily ever after.

By Matthew Morris
22 December 2010
BusinessThe Good Systems Blog

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