Five ways to support digital transformation with your existing applications
by Richard Edwin, Head of Digital Services Delivery Practice, Civica
In today’s digital world, the needs of organisations are always evolving and technology leaders have to ensure the applications that support their business and users keep pace with the changes. But with a finite budget to spend on the task and an increasing number of new tools and technologies to consider, you need to make wise choices about how to best allocate your resources and effort.
According to Forrester Research, 64% of software decision-makers see updating or modernising their legacy applications as a critical or high priority*, a view we agree with. We believe it's not always a question of building new applications: in many cases you can avoid the cost, risk and disruption of full re-development by updating or modernising the applications you already have.
So how can you get more from your existing IT estate and start seeing value in only a matter of months? Here are five ways to get started.
1. Understand what’s possible
Before making any decisions, it’s important to recognise what’s realistic and achievable to avoid wasting effort and money. So take a step back from your application estate and look at it objectively.
Are there any obvious candidates for modernisation? For example, could you move your applications to a lower-cost hosting solution? To deliver the most value, you need to identify the applications that can be updated fairly quickly and easily, and decide which of them to tackle first.
You’ll also need to consider the technology stack. For instance, if any of your applications are modular, you may be able to modernise key components to realise value sooner. But equally, you need to recognise where it might be too difficult to implement meaningful change in the short term: for example, if there are multiple product dependencies.
The key is to understand that you don’t need to tackle everything at the same time. It’s about identifying and prioritising what delivers the most value for your organisation and users and moves you forward on your digital transformation path.
2. Improve the user experience
Even if an application still provides the right functionality, an interface that hasn’t kept up with today’s devices and browsers, and importantly user expectations, can give users the impression your application or service is no longer fit for purpose.
Refreshing the user interface and delivering a contemporary user experience can be an efficient way to extend the life of your applications — with no need to touch the complexity of the back-end.
And if the business process the application supports has moved on since it was developed, you could consider making a few other changes at the same time, such as optimising key user experience journeys.
Ensuring that user needs and goals continue to be met is key to the ongoing success of all digital services.
3. Open up the data
Does your estate include siloed applications and services that handle related data, but don't talk to each other? Could the capability and value of your services be increased if related data was combined and surfaced to users within a single service?
One way to get more value from those applications is to expose the data between them — by building an API, for example — and enabling and automating data integration. Having all the information in once place enables more informed decision-making. And when users no longer have to export or rekey data, they'll save time and reduce the risk of human error.
4. Migrate to the cloud
Moving an application to a cloud platform can help extend its life and deliver other benefits, including increased performance, reliability and scalability. Some older or more specialised applications may require too much development rework for a move to the cloud to be viable in the short term. But for suitable candidates, there are several ways to take advantage of cloud-based services. For example, you could:
- Package up an application and deploy it to the cloud to benefit from elastic cloud hosting pricing efficiencies
- Re-implement as a cloud-native application and gain additional benefits, such as modularity, flexible container-based deployment and cloud services
- Do away with your own application or services and plug into an equivalent platform or software as a service from a cloud service provider. As well as hosting efficiencies and easy scalability, you'll benefit from a reduced maintenance overhead
- Deciding on where to introduce cloud-based services will depend on factors such as application complexity and data security requirements.
5. Repurpose and reuse
Optimising an application isn't always about the technology itself; sometimes it's about changing or extending how the application is used. That's why, before building a new application to support a new business process (or transforming a manual process to digital), it's worth assessing whether an existing application could meet the need.
For instance, if you need to capture information to issue a licence, is an existing application already doing a similar job? Adapting it to meet the new requirement will extend its life and be faster and cheaper than building something new.
Plan for success
The approach, or combination of approaches, you take to driving more value from your application estate will depend on your organisation's priorities and the budget available to you. Establishing a clear understanding of what's possible and a realistic plan of what and where value can be delivered will help drive the success of your programme and move your organisation further along its digital transformation journey.
Find out more about how Civica can help you get more from your existing applications.