Guest Column | May 2, 2022

3 Initial Steps In Your Application Modernization Journey

By Jimmy Chui, ClearScale

3 steps

Like organizing your garage, modernizing your applications can seem daunting before you start, but you know it will pay off once done. So, instead of thinking about this project as a technical challenge, put it in the wider context of the business. Just as getting rid of old junk in your garage frees up the space you need for things you actually use, modernizing your apps helps your business run more efficiently and scale more easily.

Based on my experience with many app modernization projects, here’s how to approach app modernization, including traits you need from your team and technology, six key ways to tackle the task, and how to prioritize.

Start With A Business Assessment

Before you can make any changes to your applications, you need to lay out a plan based on your company’s needs. That means assessing every app in your portfolio, not just as individual properties, but in the way they interconnect.

When you have a technical background, it’s tempting to build a strategy around the most exciting technical opportunities. But the purpose of all the applications your company uses is to enhance the business. For example, to better serve customers and clients, to increase revenue, or to cut costs.

Prioritize apps based on business value. Large modernization projects can get complicated, so you won’t necessarily be able to complete this process for every app.

When it comes to large-scale, complex applications, the effort to modernize every piece is heavy. So, it’s important to decide what’s the highest value, and plan your modernization efforts there.

There are several business-focused questions to consider, such as:

  • What are the business needs now and in the future?
  • Which problems are we trying to solve as an organization and as a department?
  • What capabilities does the business need to add to grow?
  • What does the business need to do to better support customers?

Smaller organizations may be able to modernize every app and component. But if you’re in a large business, you will have to choose the apps and components that are most critical to the business goals.

It’s important to stress how important this kind of assessment and planning process is for that ultimate alignment, and for getting the most value for your business in the shortest duration of time.

Choose Your App Modernization Program

Different applications require different modernization approaches, some more labor-intensive than others. Here are six ways to modernize an app and how to assess which one is right in each case:

  • Retain: If an app is working as well as it possibly can in its current environment, leave it alone. This is rare, but it does happen.
  • Rehost: In the case of apps that already work well, you’re more likely to move them to a new platform than leave them completely untouched.
  • Retire: If an app no longer serves a useful purpose, is outdated, or runs on technology that no longer exists, retire it.
  • Repurchase: Switching apps from perpetual licenses to software as a service (SaaS) subscription-style models means less hardware maintenance, easier access to updates, and cloud storage for all users.
  • Replatform: Transfer an app from a hardware-based option to the cloud, with a few small changes.
  • Refactor: The most work-intensive option — and the most interesting! The coding equivalent of a movie makeover, in which you update the code to improve performance, availability, and more.

Follow The App Modernization Best Practices

The effectiveness of your modernization efforts comes down to two key components: Your team and your tech. Here’s what you need from both for a successful mission.

Deploy The Most Advanced Technology

The underlying purpose of application modernization is to bring your apps up to date with the latest cloud technology. For the best results, you need to use the best available tech.

There are a few elements of modern cloud technology you should consider. Serverless infrastructure is one. With serverless, you can make changes in real-time at large scale, without having to maintain servers.

Data management is another. You can use purpose-built databases that best suit different types of data, for faster and more efficient processes.

Autoscaling is also a key benefit of moving to the cloud. Be sure to factor in the need to scale from the start of your modernization project to avoid bottlenecks further down the line.

Hire An Agile Team

The most advanced tools in the world are useless if the people using them aren’t sufficiently trained or skilled. When hiring a team, look for agility. App modernization processes are a lot of work. You need a team that moves quickly to hit your deadlines.

Ownership is also important. A demanding work environment requires open communication, and people who will take responsibility for their part in the system. Consistency is another crucial factor. Involve the people who will be responsible for managing the apps from the start of the modernization process. This makes it easier for them to continue the work once the app is ready.


Getting the most out of your app modernization project requires the right tools, personnel, and services. And while taking your first steps into the cloud can seem intimidating, by following tried and true best practices you can stay on the right path toward a big payoff in the cloud.

About The Author

Jimmy Chui is the Director of Customer Success at ClearScale.