The Risks and Rewards of App Modernization

January 24, 2022

The process of app modernization involves taking older, legacy applications that are desperately in need of updates—so are at the end of their useful lifecycle—and updating their platform architecture to take advantage of modern systems and features. Although outdated software might still work and serve a purpose, such software is usually unable to deliver on the demands of today’s digital world. App modernization can bring new life to old software by adding new functionality and, thus, extending an app’s capabilities.

In this article, I’ll discuss the need for app modernization, as well as its risks and rewards. Then I’ll outline a five-step, app-modernization process that can enable your software to generate new revenue streams—whether through embedding analytics, providing new services that add value, or selling data back to your customers. Take these steps now to ensure that your software remains relevant, is agile and efficient, and takes full advantage of data analytics.

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Modernization: Making Your Apps Memorable

Your applications should help your users to understand their data more quickly, easily, and in more meaningful ways. Data visualizations can make your users’ data more consumable, helping them to make better decisions and enabling them to tell more compelling stories. After all, as humans, we are programmed to think visually.

For example, think about task switching and the time you could save your users. When you provide in-context analytics on the same screen on which the user is currently working, you enable your users to make immediate decisions that are based on that information, increasing their satisfaction tremendously. Just a few of the benefits you can obtain through app modernization include the following:

  • a better customer experience
  • new revenue streams
  • agile application software

The Human Attention Span and Data Visualizations

Although people are programmed to think visually, legacy apps often look so dated that they don’t hold our attention. According to research from Microsoft, the average human attention span was twelve seconds in 2000, but has fallen to just eight seconds today. In contrast, the attention span of a goldfish is a solid nine seconds.

MIT neuroscientists have found that the human brain can identify images that a person has seen for as little as thirteen milliseconds. Clearly, your apps need to help the people who are using them to understand their data better—faster, easier, and in more meaningful ways. When you’re providing data visualizations to an app’s users, put a heavy emphasis on the customer experience. Visual explanations matter. Consider the following facts:

  • Sixty-five percent of people are visual learners.
  • People process images 60,000 times faster than text.
  • Recognizing an image takes only thirteen milliseconds.

Risks and Rewards of App Modernization

To manage your app portfolio effectively, you must consider the cost of modernizing, the skillset of your development team, customers’ expectations, and the predicted lifetime of the platform on which you’ll be building your app. Answer the following questions:

  • Can you maintain the app over the long term, without making further changes?
  • Is your IT (Information Technology) organization moving to a cloud strategy?
  • Is the app’s architecture service based, or does it employ a client-server model?
  • Is there high risk in refactoring or revising your codebase?
  • Should you stick with the status quo, rip and replace, or modernize?

In most cases, app modernization is less risky and less costly, can drive higher revenues, and results in greater customer satisfaction in the short to middle term.

5 Steps to App Modernization

There are five main steps to achieving app modernization. Start by clearly defining your desired business outcomes, and document each of these areas of focus to ensure a smooth app-modernization plan. These app-modernization steps are as follows:

  1. Know your goals.
  2. Know your audience.
  3. Know your UX strategy.
  4. Know your data.
  5. Know your services.

1. Know your goals.

Start your journey by establishing a well-defined business outcome. Answer the following questions:

  • Would app modernization add value for your customers?
  • Would it provide new revenue streams?
  • Are you trying to save customers from fleeing to new, more modern competitors?
  • Are you trying to push a data-first / data-democratization culture change?
  • Do you want to promote self-service or simply the sharing of data?

2. Know your audience.

Who is the target audience for your app modernization?

  • existing users of an existing app
  • new users of an existing app
  • new and existing users of an offshoot of your existing app

The answers to these questions make a difference in your UX design choices and how you should approach modernization.

3. Know your UX strategy.

When the analytics data you’re providing within an application do not look like they belong there, users find it disruptive. It seems like the data were slapped together, without caring how they look. To avoid this, you should do the following:

  • Deliver a built-in experience, not a bolt-on experience.
  • Make sure that all UX elements match your brand experience, including themes, styles—for example, roundness versus squareness—and dialogues with your users.

4. Know your data.

Having a full understanding of the data you require for your dashboards can make the app-modernization process much smoother. Be sure that you have done an inventory of data sources and have planned what users can access. Answer the following questions:

  • Are you creating on-premise or cloud-based solutions?
  • Do you need to access data from SaaS products?
  • Does your data need orchestration or transformation?

5. Know your services.

If you’ve already begun a modernization program, you may have started down the path of transforming your app to a service-based approach. If not, you’ll need to architect the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), security, and data access to expose what you’ll need in terms of RESTful APIs and services. ‚ÄčAnswer these questions:

  • Do you have a REST (Representational State Transfer) API that enables interactions with RESTful Web services?
  • Are your services secure?
  • Is your architecture loosely coupled?
  • Does accessing internal data require a virtual private network (VPN)?

Through your app-modernization journey, you’ll not only update your existing applications and software to meet today’s high-tech standards but can also offer easier access to information and a better user experience.


By following these app-modernization steps, you can enable your software to generate new revenue streams—for example, by embedding data analytics, offering value-added services, or selling your existing data back to your customers. App modernization can enable your software to remain relevant, make your solutions more agile and efficient, and take advantage of new experiences with desktop, Web, and mobile analytics. 

SVP of Developer Tools at Infragistics

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Jason BeresAt Infragistics, Jason leads the development of the Reveal embedded-analytics platform. His expertise in development focuses on displaying data and analytics in innovative, customer-driven ways, using Windows Forms, ASP.NET, Silverlight, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), and Java products. Jason is an expert on technology issues such as the software-testing process, data-driven teams, customer input in product design, open source, and the evolution of data analytics and business intelligence over the past 30 years. He has written technical articles for various publications, spoken at national conferences, and authored or coauthored ten books on software development.  Read More

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