As a technology company, you will experience loss of competitive edge when your offerings enter the declining phase in the product life cycle. Newer architectural styles like Microservices and frameworks that accelerate migrations to the cloud have widened the scope and frequency of product modernization. Revamping the technology stack and forgetting about it for the next 10 years can lead to deep technical debts that are difficult to solve. On top of this, you will lose your market position. Organizations that evaluate the maturity levels of their technology stack every 3-5 years usually achieve their business goals easily and gain market share. User interface, database, frameworks etc. are the most common components that organizations revamp to handle new features and high volumes of transactions. Aiming to achieve the highest modernization maturity level in a single phase is counterproductive. A phase-by-phase spending on product re-engineering and modernization by an incremental software development method on the other hand has been proven to yield amazing results.

Benefits of Product Modernization

  • Increased scalability to support the growing business
  • Modular and flexible architecture compatible with your organization
  • Supports modern resources like browsers, plug-ins, mobile devices etc.
  • Better customer experience through state-of-the-art UI/UX modernization

Guide to Modernization

The first and foremost step is to conduct an analysis of the organization’s capabilities, business goals and the technologies available. You should consider these factors to devise a modernization plan that can guide the modernization process. Incremental modernization goes hand in hand with the agile software development and helps organizations to see output delivered at regular intervals. This allows you to manage your customer expectations better. The philosophy of incremental modernization warrants modifications only in required areas.

Incremental modernization approach at the technology stack level is the most appropriate approach to both product and enterprise organizations. At the beginning, legacy systems are made up of legacy code. Each increment adds a percentage of modernized code which in turn decreases the percentage of legacy code. Eventually, the legacy system is completely modernized. An incremental modernization effort strives to keep the system fully operational at all times while reducing the amount of rework and technical risk during the process. Modernization efforts have to be carefully planned in any of the following ways.

Horizontal – Layer by Layer Approach

When you have an integrated architecture and multiple features bundled together in the same package, you can opt for the layer-by-layer approach. Based on this approach, in a multi-layered application, you modernize only one layer at a time either starting from UI layer or moving to the service layer, finally ending with the ORM and DB layers. This can be vice versa. If a layer needs no rewrite, the modernized code will be easily integrated with the rest of the application.

You should always modernize your application across multiple layers in one direction. But like the name of the approach indicates, it is important to modernize only one layer while the other layers are untouched.

Vertical- Feature by Feature Approach

Applications with highly modular architecture that require fewer modules or features to rewritten have to be modernized using the vertical approach where you modernize one feature at a time. An authentication module or a payment module is rewritten using the best practices in REST in one release and subsequent features are modified thereafter. All the layers affecting the feature are migrated to the new design.

Advantages

  • Huge investment costs upfront can be avoided
  • Faster time to market – end customers can see the output early and give their feedback
  • By opting to modernize one feature or one layer at a time, organizations can respond to changes in technology, competitor responses etc. easily

Limitations

  • With incremental modernization, a part of your code is modernized while another part is still legacy. This might sometimes give rise to maintenance issues

As you can see, the advantages of incremental product modernization far outweigh its limitations. It increases planning accuracy, as each increment provides historical data that can be used in cost estimation models. Organizations can constantly evaluate their architecture and technology stack and choose the best frameworks and tools to keep their offering competitive and react well to the changing business demands.

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Sriram Sundaresan