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Application modernization: When is it time to make the leap?

5 minutes read - Technology
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Remember the good ol’ days when your legacy software was the new kid on the block? It was revolutionary, saving you time and getting the job done. Fast forward a few years (or decades!), and now, the struggle is real. Your software simply can’t keep up. It’s impacting your team’s efficiency. It’s causing your customers grief. You’re losing sleep over the bottlenecks and errors it is causing to your operations.

It may be time to start considering application modernization—a strategic update of a specific software solution or an entire software ecosystem. The idea is not merely to retrofit old applications but to reimagine them in the context of today’s business environment. But what does application modernization really entail, and how can your organization benefit from it?

What is application modernization?

Application modernization is the multi-pronged approach to updating older software technologies and management methodologies. Unlike a simple update, it involves changes that may encompass moving from a traditional data center to a cloud environment, migrating from monolithic architectures to microservices, or redesigning legacy user interfaces to improve the user experience. The ultimate objective goes beyond mere system improvement. It transforms legacy systems to align them more closely with current business strategies and needs.

The benefits of application modernization

When executed properly, application modernization can be a game-changer for a business, as it can address multiple challenges that organizations face in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. Revitalizing legacy systems equips businesses with cutting-edge tools and capabilities to improve operational efficiency, boost scalability, and offer superior user experiences, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Moreover, application modernization allows businesses to adapt to market changes swiftly and respond to emerging opportunities.

However, failure to modernize could render it obsolete versus the competition and cause irreversible customer churn. In extreme cases, a lack of application modernization could result in bankruptcy.

Initial planning: A precursor to modernization success

Embarking on an application modernization journey requires a well-defined strategy. Start by assessing your current technological assets and ecosystem. Understand your existing IT infrastructure and the challenges your team is dealing with. You may need to perform a thorough inventory, document existing shortcomings, and clearly define the workflow and business objectives that your existing system cannot meet. These analyses will become the foundation for building your application modernization plan.

The Five Rs: Which application modernization strategy is best?

To achieve a successful application modernization, one size doesn’t fit all. Your initial assessment sets the stage for choosing from various modernization strategies, often called the “Five Rs.” The Five Rs are: Rehost, Refactor, Revise, Rebuild, and Replace.


Also commonly referred to as “lift-and-shift,” rehosting takes an existing application and migrates from a physical data centre to a cloud-based environment without completely altering its architecture. The benefit of rehosting is that it is the easiest strategy to implement. It can reduce your capital expenditures, free up data centre space, and ensure a quick ROI. However, the application—and its issues—remain the same. In addition, your organization will not be able to take advantage of essential cloud-native features.


When you refactor an application, you make code-level improvements without changing its external behaviour. It’s essentially an optimization of existing code to improve performance or usability. Refactoring, also known as code portability, allows you to tap into cloud capabilities, including cloud-based storage and computing as well as network resources, without changing the underlying architecture of the application. Unfortunately, it may be expensive and complex if the application is heavily integrated with your other third-party systems.


Revise means modifying an existing application to make it more modern, such as changes to its architecture, features, or functionalities to better align with current business needs. Rather than a complete overhaul, the Revise approach focuses on significant adjustments to improve usability or simplify integration capabilities, for example. While this method avoids starting from scratch, it often requires work, which can be expensive or time-consuming. Furthermore, there’s a risk that, despite the updates, some performance and scalability limitations of the original system may persist.


Rebuilding means throwing out the old software and starting anew with a cloud-native application. You are basically adopting modern technologies to rebuild the application from the ground up to innovate and unlock value faster. By entirely remodelling the application, you can design the features you want and, oftentimes, in a way that will truly support your business as it stands today. While rebuilding may take time and come with a higher price tag, it may even end up being less of a burden on your bottom line than continuing with a legacy application.


Finally, you may decide to replace the existing application altogether with a hosted application (software-as-a-service/SaaS) that meets all your current requirements and works better with contemporary operating systems. With the SaaS mode, you eliminate licensing fees and infrastructure by choosing pay-as-you-go subscriptions, which may allow you to save money.

You also benefit from frequent updates, robust security measures, and ongoing support from the vendor. A few caveats with the Replace strategy. For one, you may lose unique features and specialized functionalities that were in the original application. Data migration can also be risky, leading to data loss or corruption. Finally, staff training will be critical for fast onboarding and adoption.

Each application modernization strategy comes with its pros and cons, influenced by various factors like your current IT infrastructure, organizational objectives, available skill sets, and budget constraints. The choice among these approaches is not a minor one; it can have long-term implications for your business.

We recommend reaching out to Nexus Innovations. We can help you evaluate which strategy is right for you and an actionable roadmap to successfully achieve your next application modernization project. Contact us today for an initial assessment.

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