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Application Modernization and Toolsets

March 11, 2019

This is the third post in this series on application modernization. The focus here is on toolsets to support modernization activities at all levels, from strategy work through implementation projects like indexed files to database migration, or support for outputs to mobile devices. How big is the role of toolsets in the overall effort?
Toolsets Play a Large Role
Toolsets in support of modernization have a surprisingly large role to play in any organization’s modernization project or program. In general, toolsets contain programs to support tasks from analysis and planning to source-code conversion. But examined more closely, many toolsets contain procedures, data and skilled human support to help them take on an even broader and important role. 
Toolsets Supporting Strategy Work
When consultants help an organization formulate a modernization strategy, they typically call on the work that they have done for other customers. 
The most effective consultants maintain a database for their past engagements that contains artifacts like proposals, contracts, project plans, status reports, project reports and metrics like start and end dates, project risk and remediation reports. When you collect this kind of data, you can use it in so many ways, from improving your estimates to sharing information about your project success and reusing materials that are common to all modernization projects. 
Templates Derived From the Best Examples
For consulting organizations that purposely resist reuse of materials created for previous customers, templates are the answer. Templates, with the purpose of creating a certain level of consistency and content quality, are used to provide a starting point of materials for every project. Busy consultants appreciate getting this kind of help. They can be provided with:
  • Proposal templates that included problems to be addressed, as well as typical costs and benefits of the project
  • Project plan templates that list major milestones for the project, as well as details necessary to effectively manage the implementation of the strategy work and other types of projects
  • Project report templates that contain sections, heading and subheadings likely to appear in the typical customer’s report
Toolsets Supporting Methods Work
Toolsets play an even bigger role when it comes to the method used to carry out the project. All the toolset examples for strategy work, like proposals and project plans, apply to methods, but many other tools apply as well. Additionally, the method used for the modernization will likely employ tools to help with the goal of automating many routine tasks when possible. Obeo, on their application modernization tools web page, lists circumstances when tools are useful like automated migration, redesign, reverse specification, quality analysis, migration checklist, mapping and refactoring. These tools help to analyze and transform. 
Harvesting Intellectual Capital
Many teams who perform application modernization work at the method-level (such as changing the UI of the application or reworking it for DevOps) invent tools and procedures. Once they are invented, they’re often refined over many different customer over many projects and years. These practitioners create tools because they are close to what’s needed, so they fill the gap. It can be both fun and effective.
How do we identify and gather these artifacts for use? The simplest way is to establish a knowledge network where members of the community can self identify and contribute materials. This is the minimum requirement. 
A Better Knowledge Network
When a bunch of unedited contributions are made to a network, you quickly see that a more balanced solution is needed. For a more useful knowledge network, a knowledge engineer should be hired to perform specialized tasks, for example:
  • Participate in the implementation, rollout and adoption of an innovative knowledge management solution  
  • Drive availability and adoption of knowledge from associates for use with customers
  • Collect, synthesize and publish knowledge content onto the knowledge management system for use by the community
  • Assist in automation of knowledge management to ensure knowledge is always up to date 
You can see from this short list of examples why a knowledge network leader is desired. Their job is to maximize the usefulness of the material collected and reject material that doesn’t meet minimum standards. Knowledge network leaders can usually connect a junior contributor with a mentor to get the work to an acceptable level. 
What’s Next?
In the next post, I’ll focus on a comparison of traditional and nontraditional approaches and techniques for application modernization. 

Posted March 11, 2019| Permalink

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