Digital transformation and modernization: Overcoming the challenges
Blog //21-10-2022

Digital transformation and modernization: Overcoming the challenges

by Tim Jones, Managing Director - Application Modernization

Based on our latest findings, mainframe modernization is no longer a a matter of ‘if’ - it’s a matter of ‘when’.

In the 2022 Mainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report, which summarizes findings from a recent survey of global mainframe users we conducted with Coleman Parkes research, 47 percent of participants said ‘digital transformation’ is their top strategic initiative for 2022 and beyond.

Driven by average annual mainframe spends topping $65 million, growing integration issues, a perceived lack of scalability and a shrinking talent pool of capable legacy skills, companies across the globe are seeking to migrate away from legacy systems and embrace digitalization and cloud infrastructure.

However, there are a number of challenges one might face when developing a strategy for migrating mainframe workloads, and we’ve highlighted a few of the more common ones here:


Getting the board onboard

Your board of directors will be very aware of the rising necessity of innovative, agile technology in the business, they might even have some vision around how they want to present the brand digitally. However, there is often a disconnect between vision and execution, especially when it comes to enterprise class software and bespoke systems. Your leadership team may not fully grasp the steps necessary to modernize or the investment required to do so successfully. In fact, 38 percent of respondents in our 2022 Mainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report said that the lack of IT understanding amongst members of the board was a key reason for failing to get funding for modernization projects. To get the board on board, you need to communicate the strategic value of liberating legacy systems and going digital.


Panicking about transformation

The growing pressure to achieve a utopia of agile innovation at your company doesn’t make the task of developing a strategy to do so any easier. If anything, panic may be why many strategies fail. Rushing through the initial planning and design process can have fatal implications. Modernization initiatives tend to be larger in breadth and depth than most companies realize, so an in-depth assessment carried out under the watchful eye of modernization experts is key to understanding what you’re up against and how to adequately plan for it. Ultimately, cutting corners in the early stages will be costly when unforeseen circumstances you didn’t account for inevitably arise.


Understanding your organization

To develop an effective digital transformation strategy, you must seek to understand every element of your organization. The decisions you make will end up affecting every person and every function on some level, and those effects must be positive to be transformative. Therefore, if you don’t understand where you are, then you cannot possibly get to where you want to be. With technology at the center of digital transformation, you need to understand your existing IT estate to begin. What applications do you have? Where are they hosted? What are their dependencies? You also need to know how prepared for change your people are. If employees are resistant to change, they could render digital transformation efforts ineffective. Looking at other organizations in your sector to support this understanding can be helpful, and that is certainly advisable. However, there is a sector-agnostic element to digital transformation, so don’t be afraid to look to companies that have found themselves in similar circumstances to yours but may not be directly related to what you do.


Defining digital transformation (continuously)

Your definition of digital transformation should reflect your goals. It doesn’t consist of a single moment or a process change after replacing a piece of software. Your customer’s demands will evolve with the technology they’re exposed to and the innovative avenues to doing business it seeds. Where is the most effective area to focus initial efforts? How can that focus address the problems of today while enabling the problem solving of tomorrow? And how does what you do in the short-term help ease the inevitable iterative process of change you’re going to face down the road?


Transform to minimize disruption

In the aforementioned modernization report, 41 percent of participants indicated that increased risk associated with system failure or downtime is a secondary consequence to not modernizing legacy systems. This correlation is likely a result of highly publicized legacy systems failures in the wake of the onset of the pandemic in conjunction with fears around the potential impact of disruption on their own systems.  As these stories show, the potential cost of maintaining the status quo can be high, and “all things being equal” is no longer a reasonable assumption for the potential of disruption in the future.

A calm and considered approach to digital transformation, backed by careful planning and assessment builds the best foundation for success. Challenges can be eased by working with experienced partners with proven track records of success, particularly in areas of change that revolve around bespoke legacy systems. Our team of modernization experts has an unmatched history of project success, backed by the best tools available. If you would like to find out more about how we can help, please get in touch.


Our 2022 Mainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report summarizes key findings from a survey of organizations around the globe that utilize mainframes and generate annual revenues of more than US $1 billion. Download it here.
Blog Application Modernization ABM Application Analyzer Application Modernization and Migration Application Understanding Assessment COBOL Gen Lang IB-Arm OpenVMS VME Application Modernization Application Modernization and Migration Application Modernization Strategy Application Re-architected and Reintegration Application Understanding
Tim Jones

Tim Jones


Managing Director - Application Modernization

Tim has a track record of success in mission-critical Application Modernization projects. He is renowned for helping organizations maximise their investment in critical legacy applications.

Read published articles