Our three biggest learnings about IT modernization and how to do it better

Amee Mungo Profile picture for user Amee Mungo July 5, 2023
Summary:
It's surprisingly difficult to succeed at IT modernization. Terazo's Amee Mungo shares key lessons learned from its many projects across a wide range of industries.

Scrum methodology process in three dimensions © Juan Ramon Roballo - Canva.com
(© Juan Ramon Roballo - Canva.com)

Technology leaders want to modernize without interrupting business operations or breaking the bank.

But most companies today face important IT modernization projects at a moment when budgets are tight, and management’s patience is thin.  Plus, wave after wave of digital disruptions, such as AI-powered communications, keep arriving regularly.

With IT already overburdened with tech debt, it’s tempting to bring in a scrum team, point them at the problem, and hope for the best. Thomas Klinect, senior research director with advisory firm Gartner, said:

 When it comes to modernization, CIOs must do it with the right reasons. You can’t just say, ‘I’ve got old stuff to replace'.

The risk? Teams can start a project, but “three or four years later, they haven’t moved an inch.

Having led countless modernization efforts across a wide range of industries, here’s what we’ve learned about how to do it better:

1. Reimagine, don’t just rebuild, an existing process

According to a study by PwC, 80-90% of tasks in typical business processes don’t add any value for the customer. Replicating an inefficient task with new software doesn’t make sense. As Peter Drucker said, 

There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.

We recommend starting with a simple Value Stream Mapping exercise, which maps existing processes and reimagines them so they create the maximum value for customers while minimizing the steps involved. It also maps the needs of the customers versus the level of effort, which helps highlight which systems should be prioritized for modernization.

Recently, we worked on a project for one of America’s largest financial services companies. A merger resulted in a deluge of voicemails, with no way to easily categorize and escalate them in real-time.

The end result was the decision to deploy Twilio Voice with custom-built workflows to route voicemails to the right person who could resolve the issue. Terazo built custom APIs on Amazon Web Services that enabled the client’s larger platform cloud migration.

The resulting platform allowed greater oversight, the ability to transfer voicemails, and set out-of-office options and retention policies that fit the needs of the now-larger organization. The new platform also provided improved security through an added layer of bank-grade encryption. Ultimately, the success realized by the cloud migration for email routing triggered further investment that modernized client communications more rapidly.

2. Don't try to eat the whole elephant in one bite

We often make the mistake of starting a project without clearly identifying customer and business pain points. Pain points must be identified and agreed upon early to benchmark success and improvements along the modernization journey.

User story mapping is an ideal approach for identifying opportunities in the customer journey that are ripe for short-term, mid-term, and long-term innovation and improvement solving for pain points in an iterative fashion aligned with the business’ level of investment and velocity.

User story mapping requires whiteboarding tasks and sub-tasks the user needs to accomplish and evaluating how well an individual feature will help.

With a story map in place, you’ll have a better idea of how you can build alongside — or in parallel with — the technologies you already have.

In doing so, we apply efforts to the appropriate areas, driving measurable results along our modernization path.

3. Earn support and confidence as you go

Agile principles can help developers incrementally build toward a pre-defined end state while letting your organization start using capabilities without waiting for the project to be finished. This enables faster feedback and makes it easier to test new ideas.

When you sequence and scope the work to prioritize quick, visible wins, it helps encourage management to fund the next steps.

Recently we worked with a major shipping and logistics company that needed to modernize its backend application and create a more efficient, unified system of shipping records and SMS-based customer updates. After a thorough assessment of the business’s existing systems, Terazo modernized the backend architecture to create a unified system of record and a robust SMS communications delivery system.

Central to this solution is high performing and flexible configuration, which reduced the amount of back-end computing resources needed and allowed data to be gradually offloaded from their costly legacy system.

Choose the right team

As you consider your modernization journey, be mindful that the right partner can augment and accelerate your existing teams. An external team with fresh eyes on your business environment can assist you in prioritizing areas of focus. A strong solutions partner will aim to build solutions needed to support your unique business needs.

Building solutions requires a clear understanding of the customer journey and the value of incrementally adding capabilities and features to empower the customer journey and solve problems along the way.

From day one of an engagement, the right team will bring resources forward to both vision and pursue your modernization journey. Starting with process & functional engineering, moving through platform & data modernization, and taking into account data and customer engagement, a strong modernization partner can build a future that is sustainable and flexible – not fragile.

If you want to learn more about Terazo’s approach to data modernization, join us for Twilio Signal on August 23rd.  Our 30-minute session will feature detailed customer stories of modernization wins and missteps.

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