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Modernization survey: Barriers, drivers and conclusions

Survey results from a study on modernization strategies from IT leaders were released April 26th, 2010, in a special report, “Clearing Your Path to Modern Applications and Business Agility.”  The survey and report were put out by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Hewlett Packard in January, 2010. Targeted organizations included over 200 companies in North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific. The targeted companies were noted as “significant IT shops” with 61% having budgets of over $50 million, spanning a wide range of industries, stated Phil Murphy of Forrester in a pre-announcement press release on April 23, 2010.

The report was aimed at finding out what was driving folks to modernization and exploring the barriers they were encountering.

 Barriers to application modernization
Primary challenges impacting application development productivity were complexity, cumbersome end-to-end application development processes and difficulty in changing legacy applications.
The three top reasons applications were being considered for retirement or replacement were obsolete technology, the application no longer met business needs and the application was difficult to maintain.
However, the biggest barriers against modernization were the business user’s insistence that they needed the legacy applications and that the development teams were too busy doing other work.
A significant 91% of respondents agreed that they would benefit from an application consolidation/rationalization effort.

How are firms approaching modernization?
Initiatives to improve application productivity included improved SDLC processes, reducing reliance on legacy applications and platforms, formal application portfolio rationalization and improved SDLC Tools including software testing tools.

Primary drivers behind modernization were increased agility, innovation and cost reduction.
Regarding methodology adoption, iterative methodologies such as RUP and agile methodologies such as Scrum showed primary adoption.  The survey also showed a 26% adoption of waterfall, which Murphy explained was due to  “some of the smaller firms that had zero methodology are adopting a methodology and waterfall is the one that they’re choosing.”

What results have been achieved?

For those firms that have adopted an agile approach, the most significant improvements noted were in productivity, quality and time to market. “Clearly the adoption of agile has had an effect on success rates and ways we normally measure success,” said Murphy.
When asked about the effectiveness of initiatives to improve development productivity, 74% responded improved SDLC tools, including testing tools as contributors. Improved SDLC processes, including software testing processes were also listed by 70% of respondents as contributing to the improvements.


Murphy compared the barriers of modernization to a three-headed beast, listing bloated portfolios,  obsolete tools and practices and excessive “lights-on” costs as the three heads that all needed to be conquered.  Fighting one head leaves you vulnerable to the other two.  Though 91% of respondents agreed that they would benefit from a formal retirement program, business users are reluctant to let go of legacy applications. However, modernization efforts that have taken place are showing productivity gains from SDLC tooling, SDLC processes and application rationalization.
Murphy concluded, “You have to clean out that portfolio so the overall lights-on IT costs come down.”

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