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How IBM Can Help: Useful Methods for Application Development

IBM is one of many IT companies that have application support, transformation and modernization services.

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Last week, I continued this series on the development and rapid change in systems, networks and applications as I moved from networking to applications by discussing application strategies and how they’re changing and growing. This week, I move from strategies to methods. In this part of the series, I’m writing about applications in general and modernization specifically by following this three-topic flow: strategies, methods and toolsets.
All three topics not only relate to application modernization, but they match the flow of many kinds of modernization efforts. First, the general idea is to figure out what you want do (strategy), how you will go about doing it (method) and what you want to use to complete the work (toolset). There are exceptions to this simple flow. For example, toolsets can be useful during strategy and method work, as well as for development, migration and deployment activities. 

Methods Vary Depending on the Modernization Task

The starting point for any methods discussion is “Why am I developing or using this method?” This is because the method used will vary depending on the modernization task to be accomplished. Is the effort a programming enhancement or something much bigger like a new release of the application? The change to the application might rely on the addition of middleware or an upgrade to an existing piece of supporting software. The variability in the inputs, transformation and outputs is something that I have written about in 2019 in an article called “Modernization Is an Ongoing Strategic Activity.” What I developed and explained in this article is a structured way of approaching method use. The article describes a framework for an in-house driven approach independent of services or software suppliers. Think of it as a tool to help think through both small- and medium-sized efforts.

Method Often Reflect Diverse Approaches

Different companies (such as research, software or professional services) have diverse approaches to the question of how to go about modernizing an application. Since methods are the bridge between the strategy and project plan for the work, the potential exists for a lot of variability. A software and services company might simplify the methods question by getting right to the modernization tasks. This would include tasks you read about on their website, like GUIs/webification, switching to relational databases, rearchitecting and automated test case construction, and execution. Their idea is to pick one or more of these tasks and put together a plan leveraging their software and services. This approach does give a company the opportunity to take advantage of a supplier’s software, skills and experience.

Checklists and Frameworks Can Help

Software engineering companies like Altexsoft have “how to” whitepapers like “Legacy System Modernization: How to Transform the Enterprise for Digital Future” that contain checklists and frameworks that are part of their method of doing the work.
For example, this list of seven activities for successful modernization could be used as a method to help ensure the success of a modernization project just as a quality or system assurance checklist is used today.
1. Assess the current state of legacy systems
2. Select the modernization approach that would be the fastest to deliver value
3. Rethink the architecture and prioritize for simplicity
4. Choose the technology stack to deliver optimal performance and UX
5. Document for future system growth
6. Create a separate support and retirement schedule for your legacy system
7. Budget for training and system updates

IBM Services for Application Modernization

IBM is one of many IT companies that have application support, transformation and modernization services. The readily available material from IBM lists modernization topics that others don’t always list, such as AI, automation and blockchain. IBM also focuses on Agile, DevOps, microservices and APIs, so their emphasis is to help you make leading-edge change.
The services IBM provides contain the methods they use. IBM’s approach examines which applications can be upgraded, sunset or moved to the cloud. That service uses a consulting method. IBM also provides a variety of application services like custom application development and management, as well as application automation services.
When you hire an IT company to help you, they bring their people and methods to the project. The hiring company benefits from exposure to the methods as they are involved in key activities.

Proposal-Led Modernization

Some companies hire consultants to guide and handle their modernization challenge. These consultants organize and carry out the activity from conceptualization to getting bids and evaluating the responses. This approach is just like hiring a company to help you manage and evaluate a request for proposal for a major project. In “Modernization: Clearing a Path to Success,” the authors explain the process they followed for a client. The steps include:
1. Identify the modernization problem to solve and the opportunities solving it would bring
2. Categorize the approaches. For example, options include rewriting the application, buying a commercial off the shelf (COTS) solution and modernizing what’s already available.
3. Get bids from suppliers for the different modernization approaches
4. Make an informed choice based on the success rates of different projects by type
In general, the authors wrote favorably about the approach to “modernization what you have” versus rewrite the application or the COTS solution approach.

Next Post

Next post, I’ll continue with this series on applications with a focus on application modernization toolsets.
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