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IT Priorities 2020: Digitisation drives IT modernisation growth

IT decision-makers realise that old applications restrict agility. As organisations digitise processes, application modernisation is key

The Computer Weekly/TechTarget UK IT Priorities 2020 survey has found that organisations are driving forward application modernisation initiatives and using software as a service (SaaS) for user computing.

The survey reported that 40% of the 210 UK IT professionals asked said they would be doing application modernisation in 2020. This represents a big jump from the 15% of IT professionals planning application modernisation initiatives in the Computer Weekly/TechTarget UK IT priorities 2019 survey.

Looking deeper into the figures, 28% of the 2020 respondents said they were running web application development projects, while more than half (58%) said they have application programming interface (API) management projects running in 2020.

Application modernisation is set to become increasingly important, given that more and more systems are being built and more are becoming “legacy”. Last year, Gartner reported that by 2025, 90% of current applications would still be in use, and most would continue to receive insufficient modernisation investment.

The Computer Weekly/TechTarget UK IT priorities 2020 survey found that three-quarters of IT professionals were at the early-to-mid-stage of digital transformation. It’s likely that application modernisation is being driven by a need to join up business processes as part of wider digital transformation initiatives, with 38% of the IT professionals who took part in the survey saying they were investing in application modernisation as part of their digitisation strategies. This figure is similar to the proportion in 2019 who said they were modernising applications to support digitisation initiatives (37%).

Over half (53%) of the 2020 survey respondents said they were also prioritising business process automation. Nearly a third (30%) said they would be deploying enterprise resource planning (ERP) in 2020, while 27% were deploying customer relationship management (CRM).

The fairly large proportion of IT professionals who plan to run application programming interface (API) management initiatives in 2020 (58%) is interesting given recent data from API management firm MuleSoft, which found that the majority of organisations integrate only a small percentage of applications. Mulesoft reported that the average organisation has 900 applications, and only 28% are currently integrated.

API management

Opening up APIs, with access controlled via an API management platform, is one of the ways IT departments can minimise the effort needed to modernise applications.

The survey reported that 47% of IT professionals said they planned to increase the use of cloud infrastructure to support digital transformation initiatives in 2020. Applications can be replatformed from on-premise servers to public cloud-hosted infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms.

In fact, 38% of the respondents said they would increase their cloud budgets in 2020. This potentially shifts spending from a capital expenditure model for on-premise datacentre hardware to pay-as-you-go in the public cloud.

Many of the legacy applications that are migrated to the cloud can only run in virtual machines (VMs). VMs in the public cloud replace physical servers or on-premise VMs. But as organisations move along their journey to become cloud-native, in some instances, IT professionals are looking at splitting legacy code into functional building blocks. Each of these run in their own containers and communicate via managed APIs.

According to Gartner, where applications provide platform services exposed via APIs, this pattern enables teams to isolate other parts of the system from the areas being modernised, via the API. Once the new or rehosted implementations of those services are available, the old services can be turned off. The cutover can also be staged and gradual, said Gartner. For instance a subset of users can be exposed to the new service at first, then more can be added later.

Read more about application modernisation

For some organisations, using low-coding tools enables tech-savvy users and people who are not full-time software engineers to add new functionality without the need to embark on full-scale application development or modernisation initiatives that require a team of highly skilled software developers. The Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities 2020 survey reported that 23% of IT professionals have plans to deploy low-code tools in 2020.

One organisation taking the low-code route is Cambridge & Counties Bank, which has used Outsystems to support its digital transformation process.

With its current front-end system for its business savings division scheduled to go end-of-life in May 2020, the bank selected the OutSystems low-code platform to develop the new system. Cambridge & Counties Bank also intends to use OutSystems for future digital transformation projects in 2020 which centre on workflow and CRM systems.

Gartner recommends IT professionals adopt a continuous approach to application modernisation. Rather than waiting until products reach end of life, the analyst firm recommends that senior IT decision-makers assess how to provide greater value to the business, and modernise those applications that will enable the organisation to achieve these goals.

For instance, the 2020 survey found that in spite of Windows 10 end of support, 35% of IT professionals said their organisations would be upgrading to Windows 10 this year. In the 2019 survey, 53% of the IT professionals surveyed said they had plans to deploy Windows 10.

Interestingly, many who took part in the 2020 survey said they were using the upgrade to modernise user computing. The survey also found that over a quarter of IT professionals were deploying SaaS applications.

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