Accelerate IT Modernization: Drivers and Challenges for 2019

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Why is it imperative to accelerate IT modernization today? After all, hasn’t this been a focus of IT for decades already? In order to understand why IT modernization should still be a top priority, we must separate the hype from reality.

While progress has been made in maturing IT modernization efforts, much of this work has added layers of software complexity on top of existing systems, making them less stable and even more difficult to change and modernize in the future.

There are signs that point to complexity-related issues, even after modernization work has been done:

“My gut feeling as a system engineer tells me the system is running well. We have some issues from time to time, but in the end, we get it back on track and continue on.”

“IT sucks,” says a user. “It’s instable, and they’re always late in delivering.”

“Developers claim the requirements from users are always incomplete and constantly changing.”

Sound familiar?

To see beyond these “gut feeling” answers, we must factualize the situation and use tangible measures of software quality, health and complexity to anticipate performance results, while also setting up IT for long-term success in additional modernizations over time. Typical software measures include:

  • System stability and number of outages.
  • Average duration of projects.
  • Number of projects delivered on time and on budget.
  • Average age of code within IT systems.
  • Critical mass of technical debt.
  • User satisfaction rate and how it’s evolved over time.
  • Team productivity.

Its not unusual for the above measures to signal the need for IT modernization to be accelerated. Metrics often show that the amount of legacy code has grown too large, the number of incidents is too high, the percentage of projects on time and on budget is appallingly low, and that overall, systems are not under control. The main reason for these results is a prevalence of software complexity across the system – poor governance, bad usage of existing environments, lack of prioritization and other factors. The result is high IT operation cost, negative perception across a high percentage of users and more roadblocks to transform at speed. If you are a CIO, this spells bad news for you.

Three Primary Drivers of Accelerated IT Modernization

  1. Digital Revolution. Because of digital transformation, customer expectations have tectonically shifted. They no longer want to work with complicated products and processes – simplicity and speed are key.
  2. IT Talent Shortage. There is a clear war for talent that has grown in recent years and will continue in 2019. New, young developer talent entering the market expects to work on new systems while bringing new ways of thinking and working to the table. Not only are they not interested in working on old systems, but they don’t know the techniques for dealing with legacy code. This problem is magnified by a new generation of long-time talent who are fast reaching retirement – taking with them their knowledge of legacy systems.
  3. Application Security. Application security has emerged as the new hot topic in the tech sector, with many new techniques and methods (like DevSecOps and Software Composition Analysis) coming to the forefront to help companies combat the growing number of threats. AppSec topics have become popular not only with new talent but also of keen interest to users, who are concerned that their information and work remains safe.

How CIOs Can Gain Business Support for IT Modernization Investment

In my experience, CIOs will be the most successful if they use the factual elements gathered through the measures mentioned above to build a strong case for change. This, however, should be bundled and presented in a way that brings value to the business and makes the correlation to investment clear.

Here are my six tips for CIOs to make these presentations more powerful:

  1. Present your IT pains in a very visual manner. Prepare a presentation in which you show examples of the issues, but make sure you take this opportunity to tackle the way of working of the organization and not only IT. The idea is to make sure that you are trying to show that some of the issues can only be resolved if eveyone in the company is part of it.
  2. Show a plan that identifies quick fixes. Demonstrate your commitment to ensuring that systems are stable in the short term and how you can make that stability better.
  3. Adopt modern development methodologies. Agile is often the way to go, and it offers the big advantage of bringing business and IT counterparts much closer together. Beware that shifting to Agile can be very disruptive at first. In my experience, it takes a few sprints to get the team aligned properly before real productivity is delivered.
  4. Map out As-Is and To-Be architectures. Have a look at your architecture and find ways to decouple legacy and new applications while defining projects to keep complexity low.
  5. Flag critical security findings. Produce statistics from a quick scan of your IT systems to find out where you are at risk in terms of stability, security and define which investments must be made in the immediate future to protect the company and your users.
  6. Evaluate a move from in-house systems to cloud-based environments. This will enable you to increase your usage of existing capacity with a pay-per-use approach. Suggesting this approach will also demonstrate that you’re a creative problem solver when it comes to allocating budget to make the biggest impact.

Take these six findings and bundle them into a larger strategic plan that outlines the complete story of how you’ll effectively move from your current situation towards a modern IT environment. Once the plan (or some version of it) has been approved, the next challenge is to align Dev, Ops and Agile teams around common goals and this new digitally-minded way of working.

Leveraging Software Intelligence through the transition from old to new processes and technologies is recommended here. Getting everyone on the same page and working from the same, synthesized data (like application blueprints, system-level understanding of capabilities, etc.) is essential to minimize disruption and keep confusion low.

Software Intelligence also enables the effective use of standard, selected measures that tracks the evolution and progress towards IT modernization while enforcing clear governance and sponsorship (with business and IT together) of the modernization effort.

Filed in: IT Leadership
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Paul Thysens
Paul Thysens Freelance IT Consultant
Experienced quadrilingual IT Executive with a demonstrated history of working in large financial institutions in different countries with leadership positions held at Management committee level in Belgium and in Italy. Skilled in Banking, Strategic Planning, IT Strategy, impact of Digitalisation on organisations, Managing transformation of large entities , alignment of Business and IT. Strong community and social services professional graduated from CEDEP - Executive Development – Fontainebleau
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