Application Modernization vs. Migration : When Apples to Apples doesn’t make sense

April 4 2013

As the second calendar quota of 2013 has begun, I wanted to start a series of blog entries to talk about my day to day efforts and where I am having success and failures. I think the idea of application modernization is appealing to many, but there is not enough discussion for people to know what it means. Hopefully through this discussion that can change.

As I talk with customers about projects, there is a lot of discussion around 'modernizing our applications.' For those of you that know me and have heard me speak, this is a topic right up my alley. Almost every customer has applications that are years old. How many years varies, but let's call them from 5 to 20 years old. These applications still run. They still perform the business function they were built for. They get tweaked here and there, but for the most part, they are left alone. IT organizations focus on new OS, ERP, CRM, and HR systems. Line of business applications are left to run as they are.

As organizations begin to think about taking these applications and modernizing them, an organization needs to approach the project correctly. Many times, this is looked as an application migration. Let's get the application to a new platform that is our current focus. Let's migrate the business process, data, and whatever else is part of it. There are many cases that this is the best option. But there are other cases where modernization will produce the best outcome. Every platform has a modernization vs. migration story. For the IBM Collaboration Solution folks reading this, this is the XPages story. There are different stories for the Visual Basic 6, AS/400, and many other platforms out there. But let's talk about the XPages story here.

When you are looking at taking an existing Notes application and you want to create an XPages version, treat it as an application modernization. Tear the application down. Go through the process, the design, the logic, the integration points, and the user stories. Look at what can be improved. What is not being used. What new business requirements are in the organization. Build a new XPages application, using the schema of the core forms and views, and create a new experience. Do not treat this as a migration of moving every bit and byte from one version to the next. The costs of porting everything from the Notes app to a new XPages version will outweigh the shiny new application

Application Modernization is more than a new user interface. It is more than writing Java and JavaScirpt vs. LotusScript. This is the time to create a new user experience. To streamline the business process. Cut out steps not needed. Detach the application from a rich client model and make it work in a browser or on a mobile device. Inject new ideas such as social, analytics, and other current trends. Reinvent the way the application is used and the outcome it shapes. Apples to Apples does not make sense here. Make apple pie out of the apples and change the story. The effect this will have on the users and things like ROI is huge.

2 Responses to “Application Modernization vs. Migration : When Apples to Apples doesn’t make sense”

  1. 1) Don Mottolo says:

    Trying to duplicate the entire Notes app U.I. in XPages is the wrong approach in most cases. So many developers are trying to pull all their old Notes views into XPages, when we really need to change our mindset and use simpler search mechanisms for users to get to the data more easily.

    Plus, end users that are brought into the discussion about conversion tend to naturally think "oh, I have 100 views in this Notes app. So, I want to also see every one of them in the new XPages version."

    Instead of a complete conversion, it may be better to expose a small portion of the Notes app in XPages. For example, for one of my customers we gave sales people a mobile XPages front end to do a quick search of customers info from a CRM database. So easy, yet they find it very useful - they can see a small amount of important info, and can click on links to directly email or call on the phone. It's faster and more convenient for them than having to fire up their laptop and wait while Notes launches.

  2. 2) John Lindsay says:

    Good post John and Don. Tim Tripcony posted something yesterday which had a similar theme and also struck a chord.

    It kind of reminds me of the old punchline "If you want to go there, I wouldn't start from here." :-)

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