time15 min read

Application Modernization Roadmap: Plan Each Step and Achieve Best Efficiency

time15 min read

Application modernization is the perfect and only solution for addressing legacy applications that hinder business development and cause more problems than bring benefits. Investing in it is necessary to eliminate technical debt, catch up with new technologies, and, most importantly, increase revenue generation.

The question is: how do you do that effectively, getting the maximum value from available resources? The answer is by developing a high-quality, well-planned, and detailed application modernization roadmap.

In this article, we’ll show you how to write a legacy application modernization roadmap, taking into account every detail so that your organization can receive the best possible value-for-money outcome.

What Is an Application Modernization Roadmap?

According to the report, 77% of businesses started but failed to complete at least one SMB or enterprise app modernization program, and 38% of enterprises blamed a lack of planning for their failures. A detailed roadmap is a solution to this problem. It provides you with a clear framework that helps you significantly reduce the risk of unsuccessful modernization.

The app modernization roadmap typically includes a timeline, project stages, an overview of scope and objectives, roles, a list of required resources, milestones, and other important details. To ensure that everyone involved understands the process and the anticipated outcomes, it should be collaboratively developed with both the software development team and stakeholders.

Why Do You Need an Application Modernization Roadmap?

Change is inevitable, and as time passes, more and more companies find themselves in need of updating their legacy software. According to a recent study conducted by Wakefield Research, 92% of the responding companies are either currently modernizing their legacy apps or actively planning to do so.

application modernization strategies

However, modernization poses many challenges. Without proper planning, it can be difficult to effectively address these challenges and keep track of progress, potentially losing sight of where you are headed. An application modernization roadmap can help you establish realistic goals, manage your workflow, and remain flexible in case changes need to be made along the way.

How A Roadmap Can Improve Your Application Modernization

Consistent product vision

During the work process, developers might lose sight of the main goals and objectives. By creating a roadmap template, you can set a unified and consistent product vision, which makes the workflow coherent and keeps everyone on the same page from the beginning.

However, this does not mean that your plan cannot change. A roadmap helps keep your focus, but you can stay flexible and change the project timeline or objectives when needed.

Clear goals and priorities

Mapping your business objectives in detail enables you to prioritize and work more effectively. Being guided by a well-thought-out plan increases productivity and motivation, keeps you informed on the current progress, and on track with what you want to achieve.

Effective communication

While working on application modernization, it is more important than ever to stay on the same page with everyone involved in the process. Any misunderstandings between team members will hold you back and result in harmful consequences for the project.

A roadmap containing information on team roles and responsibilities, as well as the overall process will help set realistic expectations when assigning duties. It will also help stakeholders understand the scope of work and the timeline needed to complete it.

Adequate expectations

Setting ambitious goals impossible to achieve within a given timeframe is a recipe for constant delays and diminished team motivation. Rushing to complete too much work too quickly can lead to mistakes, ultimately requiring additional budget and time to fix them. This, in turn, can cause stress and dissatisfaction among all parties involved.

To ensure that team members complete their tasks on time and to reduce schedule delays, it’s important to set realistic expectations and take a phased approach. One effective way to establish appropriate expectations is by conducting a Cost-Benefit Analysis using Gartner’s Business Value Model.

How to Build an Application Modernization Roadmap

Planning is essential before making any changes, especially regarding application modernization. As the saying goes, score twice before you cut once. To make the roadmap work for you, spend sufficient time preparing it. Here is what we recommend you do to maximize the advantages of the process:

Form a Team

Firstly, you should understand how, who, and how much will be working on your business case and the modernization process overall. If your company does not have in-house specialists with enough expertise to take on a legacy app modernization project, you might need an external development team to help you.

Select a vendor who will be responsible for your modernization, identify the stakeholders involved, designate an in-house specialist accountable for collaborating with the external partner, and so on. Conduct market research to explore available IT solutions and services and select the one that best suits your needs.

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Define the Problem

Clearly define what problem you want to solve and which parts of the process hinder your company. Analyze an Application Inventory to identify the core applications and their owners.

According to Gartner, the most common combination of modernization goals are:

  • To increase business fit, value, and agility
  • To reduce complexity, risk, and cost

Use the Value Сhain Сoncept and Order-to-Cash Process to translate technical issues into business terms.

Describe the Process of Technology Migration

To determine the optimal modernization strategy for your legacy technology and achieve maximum efficiency in your modernization plan, conduct an audit of the current state of your applications and define the desired end state of your technology ecosystem migration. This will help you identify what is functioning correctly and what requires repair, enabling you to align your business and technical requirements.

Therefore, start by listing all the applications in your existing applications portfolio. Look into the hardware, software, infrastructure, and outdated properties. Instead of focusing on the financial aspect, conduct an assessment of the business value of each application assessment.

Make an in-depth analysis of the revenues you get from the applications, how customers and team members use it, and how they affect your operations. Analyze your value chain – how it looks now, what pieces you want to change, and how it should affect value delivery.

Describe the Requirements of the Project

To gain an understanding of the complexity of modernization that is directly correlated with business value, it is necessary to explore the scope of modernization and develop a shared project vision with the team to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Negotiate with your service provider regarding the manner in which the project will be executed, and create a Project Charter – the main document of the project that includes all essential information such as roles, scope, needs, main requirements, and more.

Next, elaborate on the requirements and identify which legacy assets require significant changes immediately. Prioritize working on those assets by using Gartner’s TIME analysis model. This technique involves categorizing applications into four categories – tolerate, invest in, migrate, and eliminate – based on their technical debt.

application modernization roadmap

Another option is to conduct an Application Fitness Assessment, which involves quantifying both the value and technology fit of an application. This enables this exact application to be measured and compared against others.

Develop a test strategy to ensure that the built app works predictably in every case possible and a quality product is developed. You do not want to make your customers the testers of application modernization solutions.

Develop a Strategy

With all the data you have, assess the technical fitness and define the original needs and goals of the company. Concentrate on the cause rather than fixing a consequence. Align with Enterprise Direction and establish a shared vision. Everyone needs to be on the same page and have a document outlining how the solution will function to achieve the goals.

To transform your needs and goals into technical architecture, collaborate with the application modernization team to establish the framework that will be employed in the project. Choose one of the strategies for each piece of your application. Then, determine whether it is necessary to migrate to a cloud-based or on-premises environment.

Examine your technical debt from both IT and business perspectives, and establish practical project goals that line up with your strategy. Develop a comprehensive project schedule that includes start and end dates, milestones and deliverables, and a list of tasks and assignments that must be completed.

Your schedule can align with the various phases of the project lifecycle, the entire time frame, or any other relevant time frame. While the dates may be flexible and subject to change during the project, it is critical to monitor the actual progress and prioritize the delivery of high-quality results.

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Tip: When considering potential strategies, remember to take into account the “Do Nothing” option. This alternative strategy involves not constructing any facilities to address the identified problem or opportunity, leaving the problem or opportunity to persist within the system. It is essential to evaluate the potential outcome of this option and determine whether it would be more beneficial than pursuing other strategies.


Read more: Amazon Web Services vs Google Cloud vs Azure: How to Choose the Right Cloud Platform

Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Make sure that you establish clear goals and appropriate expectations, particularly concerning the budget. Consider the resources required for modernization, what you may need to sacrifice to attain them, the costs involved, anticipated future savings, the time and expertise required for the transformation effort, and whether backup systems are necessary.

Clearly represent metrics that will determine the success of application modernization, such as revenue growth, impact on cash flow, and increased processing capability per unit of time. These metrics should be precise and quantifiable.

The main goal is to understand the workflow and the connection points where it gets disrupted. By doing that, you can determine what parts of applications consume too much money and time to later reduce costs and risks of application modernization efforts and only work on the technology that actually requires updating, not wasting your resources.

Depending on the case, you could also use the Business Value Model proposed by Gartner instead of a Cost-Benefit Analysis.

Plan Out Change Management

Change management is the process of incorporating modernized technologies into the final business processes, which may involve training employees, changing operational activities, reorganizing workflows, and so on.

To ensure a smooth transition and facilitate the integration of new technologies, collaborate with your service provider to establish an appropriate technological foundation. Develop end-user documentation, support center guides, helpdesks, video tutorials, training materials, and other resources to help with the adoption of the novelties.

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Prepare an Executive Summary

The executive summary, which should be written last, is typically positioned near the beginning of the plan. It addresses the questions of why, what, when, who, and how in relation to the proposed modernization initiative. The summary should provide a concise overview of the company’s current situation, the proposed modernization initiative, and the anticipated benefits, as well as the steps required to achieve them.

Consequently, you will have a well-organized and cost-effective IT modernization roadmap, which reduces the likelihood of risks, uncertainties, and potential failures. Get it approved one final time by all the parties involved, and it is time to develop.

Difficulties You May Face During Application Modernization and How to Avoid Them

application modernization strategies

Application modernization is challenging. According to vFunction, 79% of application modernization projects fail, averaging a cost of $1.5 million and a 16-month timeline. Deciding to entirely go for the process, you not only modernize legacy technology but change the way your business operates.

There are many challenges you may face before or during modernization. From determining where to start, what method to choose, and which vendor to partner with to finally facing the development processes and making it work. Let’s take a look at a few common ones:

Skills deficit

It is common for existing staff to lack the necessary qualifications to execute an application modernization project. In the best-case scenario, the in-house developers might be well familiar with the existing legacy application, but this knowledge alone is insufficient if they lack experience in modernizing applications.

There are two solutions to this problem. First, you might train your existing employees by investing in their education and collaborating with educational institutions or experienced knowledge holders. Bear in mind that training initiatives will take a lot of time and have to be combined with planning the modernization and working on day-to-day duties.

Sometimes, education and training are insufficient, and you might have to restructure your team. This adds the challenge of dealing with reluctance from employees, as new implementations can be too hard to adjust to.

The second solution is to recruit new, already qualified staff or partner with an external vendor team specifically for the application modernization project. The challenge will only be finding the perfect match for your organization and allocating the budget.

Remember that modernized technology will need support and maintenance afterward, so choose an option that will enable you to have proper change management in the future.

Read more: How to Outsource Software Development Right. 12 Reliable Tips from a 12-Year-Old Provider

Complex legacy ecosystem

Applications consist of multiple databases, protocols, languages, and architectural specifications, among others. All these technologies are interconnected in one large-scale ecosystem, and changing them all at once is an imprudent strategy that may only result in new issues and severe consequences for the company.

To avoid a big bang disaster, it is important to take the following steps:

  • Choose to perform a digital decoupling of legacy applications, chunking them into logical parts to modernize applications step -by-step.
  • Prioritize working on the most important “chunks” first, meaning those that are most critical for the organization and expected to generate enough profit to pay for themselves.
  • Be prepared for unexpected discoveries to prevent a hold-up in daily company operations.

Data migration

Migrating data from legacy systems to new ones involves processing terabytes or petabytes of information and dealing with different encoding systems, making it an overwhelming process. This often results in issues such as data loss or missing parts of it.

To deal with this problem, you can use solutions and specific ETL plugins that assist with legacy system data migration. This also highlights the importance of choosing the right modernization strategy for each of your legacy components.

Lack of time spent on strategic planning

A few years ago, Geneca discovered that 78% of IT professionals believed their businesses were frequently or always out of sync with project requirements. One of the reasons for this was stakeholders not being involved and engaged in the process enough.

Projects can go off the rails pretty quickly when you spend an insufficient amount of time and effort on strategic planning. A computer or mobile app roadmap is a perfect solution to help teams avoid pushback. Creating a well-developed specific project plan mitigates the risk. The roadmap we described previously gives you the list of steps to follow not to become a part of misfortune statistics.

How Can You, as a CEO and Business Owner, Impact Application Modernization?

Digital transformation is no longer an option. If you want your organization to thrive and stay competitive long-term, it is a necessity. As the person leading the company, you must set the vision for the importance of application modernization in the future of your organization, including all the transformations that come with it.

To achieve the most efficient outcome possible on your modernization journey, you should revise your entire strategy, IT systems, customer experience techniques, and organizational approaches. Fully commit to promoting changes within your internal ecosystem and staying up-to-date with innovations to later translate positive changes externally.

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Keep your focus on conducting a cost-benefit analysis to secure a clear budget. A data-driven assessment will help you choose the best approaches for bringing higher ROI to the company in the future. You could also need to calculate TCO for software. Be prepared to adapt to market changes along the way, and create a business case for application modernization.

An important tip is to approach budget allocation with the OpEx (operational expenditures) approach instead of CapEx (capital expenditures). Distributing the budget monthly, for example, instead of spending a fixed amount of money once and forgetting about it afterward, is less overwhelming and much more productive. This way, your service provider can make the most of the given resources while staying flexible to adjustments and choosing what works better regarding budget and workflow during a particular period of time.


Application modernization is a crucial step for your company’s transformation. To make the most out of it, you must analyze your business needs, competitors, digital assets, goals, industry, and other factors on the deepest level possible. Creating an application modernization road map helps you communicate effectively, maintain a consistent product vision, prioritize and invest in what delivers more considerable revenues, prevent issues that lose your budget, and much more.

With more than 13 years of experience in the market, we at Maven Solutions have developed our unique business case for application modernization. It serves as a guiding roadmap through the detailed stages of planning modernization, ensuring maximum efficiency for minimum resources spent on delivering high-quality results. Contact us to discuss your organization and come up with the most beneficial solution for it.


What are the app modernization patterns?

There are several app modernization patterns that organizations can use when modernizing their applications. These include: rehosting, encapsulation, refactoring, replatforming, rebuilding, replacing, rearchitecting

How long does it take to create an effective application modernization roadmap?

Creating an effective application modernization roadmap can take a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the legacy systems and the organization’s goals. The time can be reduced if you cooperate with service providers. For example, we at Maven have our own tool that helps execute application modernization 2x faster than other companies do.

Is it a good idea to hire consultants to create an application modernization roadmap?

Yes! Cooperating with external professionals gives you valuable expertise not available in-house and an objective perspective on the current state of the legacy systems, which will help you avoid common pitfalls and complete the modernization more efficiently.

What should be included in the application modernization strategy?

Your app modernization strategy should include roles and responsibilities, goals and objectives, a description of the current state and desired end state of technology, a timeline and schedule, a cost-benefit analysis, and an executive summary.

What is a modernization plan?

A modernization plan is a strategy of technology updates and improvements you need to meet current and future standards, eliminate technical debt, and benefit from application modernization advantages.

Who might be in charge of application modernization in the enterprise?

Modernization plans are typically developed through a collaborative process involving stakeholders from various departments and levels of an organization.

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