5 Checks to help you Decide if you should Modernize your Product

11 Jan, 2022
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Consumers and the market always demand innovative products. Older products are either replaced with newer ones that are more innovative and purposeful or modernized with upgraded features. But deciding if we should modernize or replace or use it as it is as long as it’s working is not easy.

You should evaluate our legacy systems and modernization options. Some options like rebuilding are good but are costly, whereas others like rearchitecting give you lesser benefits but at moderate costs. You may choose to upgrade only the tech part, or the functional part, or both. You may modernize to compete better, to correct issues, or improve security, or just to move along with the world. It has to be thought carefully, and a flippant decision might bring losses to the company that can be simply avoided by seeking expert advice.

Products that are continuously upgraded, in other words systematically modernized, are built by knowledgeable makers who understand why they should modernize, and when and how to modernize. They put consistent efforts to innovate constantly. By doing so, they help their products and businesses stay relevant and tackle disruption effectively. But they don’t do it all by themselves. We were approached by many such wise makers to modernize their products. Here are some of the common questions we ask to help them decide if they should modernize their products.

1. Is your old product outdated compared to that of your competitors?

The sooner and the faster you work on keeping up with changes in the digital ecosystem and hardware, communications, and electronics, the better are your chances of adding new features to the product, continuing your customer engagement, and growing steadily.

With digitalization spreading and changing fast, the products and applications should break down barriers and help your business participate in the digital ecosystem along with other competitors. Some of the competitors may be Startups that carry the advantage of new products built on newer and more advanced technologies. Despite fewer features in their products and limited-service offerings, the newer products make them more attractive to potential customers. On the other hand, older businesses using newer, modernized or more responsive products stay ahead in digitalization. Unless your products are competent with theirs’s they become a burden.

2. Huge Technology Debt?

Appropriate modern technologies build a functional product whereas old technologies obstruct modernization. Modernizing the technical part of a product makes it scalable, agile, and fault-tolerant. It is difficult to deploy an old product on the cloud or a new runtime platform or incorporate emerging and more efficient technologies to scale up and add business value. And past a tipping point, in some unfortunate cases, even the business becomes unsustainable.

Rebuilding some or all modules in newer technologies or replacing the product is a common solution to shrink the technology debt. Some choose to modernize only the technical parts without any changes to features. Some others use the opportunity to extend the solution like to migrate to the cloud or implement microservices or add automated back-ups. Either way, modernization keeps the product in line with technological advancements in the ecosystem.

Evolving industry standards change the way we architect our products. At the start of the millennium, anyone who wanted to host a website had to manage their own servers to ensure reliability. However, in the past two decades, with advances in cloud computing, containers, container orchestration, and more recently in serverless architectures, our products, websites, and applications have become more maintainable, reliable, and scalable.

Additionally, new technologies open previously impossible possibilities. For example, Pixar’s Renderman paved the way for 3D animations as a standard and pushed the industry forward from the sprite based 2D animations.

A more recent example is the way new features like Lumen and Nanite in the game development software, Unreal Engine 5, created more immersive and real visuals in the latest Matrix Resurrections movie. It is a huge leap from the graphics used in the original trilogy that now almost looks comical in comparison.

Modernizing the technology part of products starts with a comparative analysis of various technologies and studying the developer effort required. A careful cost-benefit analysis and estimating time to modernize are essential for a successful modernization providing the business a competitive advantage.

3. Are there any problems with the foundation?

The Foundation of a product includes both foundational features and the tech foundation. It determines how secure and reliable a product or application is. And if the foundation is not strong, the product cannot grow, and its reach shrinks. The foundations of any product in today’s digital ecosystem should be modern and strong enough to support the principles of Agile, DevOps, and plans of scaling up or down. It should also effectively resolve issues and security threats.

A good way to measure the foundational strength of digital products is by measuring and interpreting user analytics. Advancements in application environments like newer versions of browsers and operating systems may make some foundational features unavailable or bug-ridden, or they may have become slower. Imagine watching a current YouTube video of 1080 pixel clarity on a 2G mobile! Indicators like bug growth and higher frame rate in user experience tell us that our products are not meeting their expectations.

In the tech part, architecture and code make a good foundation for any software product. Problems in the foundation, like spaghetti code or tightly coupled Development and Delivery, are very costly and difficult to correct. They moreover lead to siloed teams, responsibilities, and modules. A good modernization strategy is to break the siloes and incorporate newer technologies like microservices.

To add to the possibilities, a product can also be modernized by bundling its foundations, data, and functions, into an API to leverage advantages like better reach and possibilities of called and extended by several services.  The foundation or core product then becomes secure, usable, and scalable.

4. Is the product secure and its maintenance manageable?

The main problem with older technologies is that they make the products more bug-ridden, forcing developers to spend more time and energy. Hackers have more knowledge of loopholes in older systems, and hence they’re more prone to security attacks.

If maintaining the product and resolving security issues uses more resources like money, memory, energy, or unreasonable effort, we should realize that the product is becoming unsustainable and needs to be modernized, or else it would soon turn archaic and useless. 

From a developer’s perspective, modernizing an application helps them revise and stay in touch with the code and hence with the product.

Mobile apps that were made for 2G smartphones are outdated and slow in the current 4G ones. Similarly, we all gradually get used to faster and more efficient products. Modernizing helps in satisfying evolving customer expectations of higher speed, better responsiveness, and performance.

5. Is your team culture modern?

Team organization doesn’t only depend on business visions and product/project goals, it also depends on technologies used and methodologies followed by the team. Modernizing products have a valuable side-effect, it incorporates Agile and DevOps principles in the teams. Along with reduced costs, there are additional benefits like a better employee and customer satisfaction, better achievement of business goals.

All the products that support a business should align with the business’ vision. The current ecosystem demands greater agility. Our systems, legacy or modern, should support the demands. If products and applications don’t help the businesses stay Agile, they become dispensable liabilities. In other words, if the current condition of the application is unsuitable for extension or scaling up or downsizing as per changes in the demand, then it must be modernized.

The only constant in any ecosystem, natural or digital, is change. Changes can be brought by new technologies, customer preferences, economic conditions, or changes in the natural environment like the changes brought by the pandemic.

If the domain the product serves is fast-changing, the product also needs frequent updates. This is more evident when COVID-19 suddenly forced many changes in the ecosystem. Only those products that could incorporate the necessities like remote working conditions could survive the seemingly unending pandemic.

So… it is imperative to define a modernization strategy. To find the most suitable one for your company, please visit our website.

Divya Prathima
The author was a java Developer at coMakeIT before turning into a stay-at-home-mom. She slowed down to make art, tell stories, read books on fiction, philosophy, science, art-history, write about science, parenting, and observe technology trends. She loves to write and aspires to write simple and understandable articles someday like Yuval Noah Harari. We are very happy to have her back at coMakeIT and contribute to our relevant and thought provoking content.

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