IT Modernization: Best Practices & Overcoming Challenges

IT-modernization-strategy

Before work messaging applications (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams, Mattermost) went mainstream, distributed teams relied on a combination of email, phone, instant messaging platforms (like Skype), and project management tools such as Basecamp and Asana.

Now, whether you’re a team of <10 or a global enterprise with thousands of employees, you can chat, video conference, and share voice clips, videos, and multiple file formats with co-workers (and even partners across organizations), group conversations by dedicated channels, integrate thousands of third-party applications inside Slack, and automate routine tasks with a visual if-then workflow builder, etc.

Likewise, before SaaS cloud computing solutions like AWS, DigitalOcean, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, companies had to:

  • Physically procure and set up servers, routers, networking equipment (e.g., routers and switches), etc.
  • Install an operating system and the required software they’d be running on-premise.
  • Configure networking and security components, including firewalls and VPNs.
  • Set up a DevOps function to monitor server performance and resource utilization and conduct ongoing maintenance, etc.

Now, enterprises have modernized legacy applications and their overall IT infrastructure. Modern companies rely on cloud-based SaaS applications that are more efficient, powerful, and scalable, enabling organizations to grow, improve operational efficiency, and empower employees to be more productive.

IT modernization keeps organizations updated with the latest technological advances and drives digital transformation, empowering companies to move faster, remain competitive, reduce IT costs, and respond better to changes in their industry.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of enterprise IT modernization, share technologies that are driving IT modernization in different areas of your business, and detail best practices for organizations navigating cloud transformation and the challenges that come with it.

What Is IT Modernization?

IT modernization is an umbrella term that is the sum of efforts organizations invest in upgrading their technology stack to keep pace with innovation and digital transformation. IT modernization is the foundation on which organizations build their digital transformation projects and is critical to achieving their digitalization goals. IT modernization identifies areas of technology opportunity and risks, helping companies to improve business processes, improve operational efficiency, drive employee productivity, provide a more robust customer experience, and innovate their products and solutions – all powered by emerging IT technologies.

4 Types of IT Modernization

While the big-picture goal of IT modernization is to adopt newer, better technology solutions, there are several areas of IT that modernization efforts work on, including:

1. Application modernization

Application modernization deals mainly with transforming the frontend applications an organization’s end-users employees interact with daily. This includes:

  • Switching between organizational-critical enterprise applications (e.g., legacy CRM to Salesforce, legacy HCM to Workday, Google Meet to Zoom, etc.)
  • Making changes to your infrastructure model (e.g., from on-premise desktop applications to cloud-based ERPs, CRMs, HCMs, etc.).
  • Upgrading to a more powerful version of the same product (e.g., from Windows XP to Windows 10) to gain more functionality.
  • Forking an open-source application and developing and customizing it to fit your organization’s use cases.
  • Introducing entirely new application suites and concepts like robotic process automation (RPA) and business process management (BPM) to automate repetitive processes and workflows.

2. IT infrastructure modernization

While application modernization is focused on improving the visible layer through which end-users interact with their organization’s technology stack, IT infrastructure modernization deals with updating and improving the core technological components that run in the backend to make the former possible, including:

  • Switching from on-premise hardware to cloud-based infrastructure like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.
  • Implementing automation tools and orchestration platforms to streamline workflows, reduce manual intervention, and improve operational efficiency. This includes utilizing DevOps practices for continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD).
  • Adopting containerization technologies like Docker and Kubernetes to package and deploy applications in isolated environments.
  • Embracing server, storage, and network virtualization to optimize resource utilization, increase scalability, and reduce hardware dependency.

3. Network modernization

Network modernization refers to the process of upgrading and optimizing a company’s networking infrastructure to improve performance, security, scalability, and efficiency. This involves updating or replacing outdated hardware, software, and protocols to align with current technological trends and business needs. Modernizing a network typically encompasses several key aspects:

  • Replacing older networking devices such as routers, switches, firewalls, and access points with newer, more efficient models that offer enhanced performance.
  • Implementing SDN, which separates the control plane from the data plane, allows for centralized management, automation, and programmability of network infrastructure.
  • Leveraging virtualized networking components and integrating with cloud services to create a more flexible and scalable network infrastructure.
  • Strengthening network security by integrating modern security protocols, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), encryption mechanisms, and access control measures to protect against hackers, ransomware attacks, etc.
  • Deploying SD-WAN technology solutions (e.g., VMware SD-WAN, Fortinet Secure SD-WAN, etc.) to optimize multiple network connections (such as MPLS, broadband, and cellular) by dynamically routing traffic based on application requirements and network conditions.

The essence of network modernization is to create a more agile, secure, and adaptable network infrastructure that can efficiently support the organization’s evolving needs, accommodate emerging technologies like IoT and edge computing, and provide a robust foundation for digital transformation initiatives.

4. Device modernization

Device modernization focuses on ensuring an organization’s staff are empowered with the best hardware (desktop and portable computers, IoT devices, etc.). It also entails:

  • Upgrading existing devices to newer operating system versions.
  • Implementing modern security mechanisms with SSOs and active directory tools.
  • Using Mobile Device Management (MDM) to enforce corporate policies and control computer access remotely.
  • Training users to maximize the full functionality of their devices.
  • Equipping devices with technologies and tools that facilitate remote work and collaboration, such as VPNs, video conferencing software, cloud-based productivity suites, and secure communication platforms.

Best Practices for IT Modernization

While every IT modernization initiative will have contextual, unique challenges, there are overarching themes and best practices that will empower CIOs and IT teams to achieve their legacy application and IT modernization goals.

1. Utilize the People, Process, and Technology framework

The People, Process, and Technology framework is a digital transformation philosophy that’s based on the idea that your end-users need intelligently designed processes to maximize the impact of technology. The framework includes:

  • Assembling the right team and giving them enough autonomy to oversee a digital transformation to the finish line. 
  • Breaking down the processes you need in detail and specifying how every milestone will be achieved right at the planning stage.
  • Engaging with stakeholders (including external implementation partners, if necessary) to choose the appropriate solution for your needs, involving your organization’s end-users during the implementation process, and investing in product education to encourage adoption among your end-users.

2. Enable modernization with a change strategy

A change management strategy is a plan for overcoming internal resistance and making a smooth transition to new technology. Your change strategy needs to account for:

  • Securing buy-in with senior leadership.
  • Communicating with end-users to secure compliance, understand their concerns, and factor them into your modernization efforts.
  • Investing deliberately into multiple formats of training, onboarding, and digital adoption resources (videos, courses, 1:1 coaching, instructor-led classes, in-app guidance, etc.) to enable a smooth transition, and.
  • Setting performance goals and KPIs for measuring the success of your efforts.

3. Partner with internal stakeholders, IT partners, and consultants

Include all major department heads and team managers from business units that will be impacted. Also include individual end-user employees most impacted by a change in the modernization planning and release.

Third-party consultants and implementation partners are also indispensable for IT modernization projects, even if you have a strong internal engineering function. They can advise on technical issues, create a game plan for your transition, help mitigate unforeseen challenges and design your training and onboarding program.

4. Invest in a digital adoption platform for guided end-user onboarding and real-time support

A digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix enables organizations with a no-code platform to analyze end-user behavior and create in-app guidance and support that overcomes areas of technology and digital workflow friction.

With Whatfix’s DAP, analyze your end-user behavior across different types of end-users to map user journeys and identify areas of friction. Use Whatfix’s Visual Editor to create contextual in-app guidance and end-user support, at the moment of friction, to drive technology adoption.

Popup-guided-tour

With Whatfix, you can create in-app guidance and support experiences such as:

  • Guided tours and new user checklists (Product Tour and Task List) for onboarding new users.
  • Interactive walkthroughs (Flows) that walk end-users step-by-step through complex workflows.
  • UI tooltips, UX hotspots, Smart Tips, and Beacons that can be used to highlight parts of the product UI, signal errors or exceptions, provide a nudge at a key moment, provide additional information at critical junctions, and more.
  • Pop-Ups to make company announcements, highlight workflow changes, and drive awareness of new resources or regulations.
  • Embedded resource center (Self Help) where users can search your help library, training resources, SOPs, and more within the product UI.
  • Field Validations provide end-users with data entry errors and alerts, ensure that data is entered in the right format, and ensure the right processes are used for different types of deals, processes, and flows.

Software clicks better with Whatfix's digital adoption platform

Enable your employees with in-app guidance, self-help support, process changes alerts, pop-ups for department announcements, and field validations to improve data accuracy.

5. Have beta launches and roll-out iterations in small test cycles

Test your new setup in a sandbox with a limited beta group of users for user testing before you roll it out to your end-users at large. The goal here is to get unfiltered feedback, tune your setup to your end-users’ needs to fit their day-to-day workflow, identify unforeseen problems and areas of friction, and tweak your infrastructure until it’s ready to go.

6. Analyze and monitor end-user behavior to understand adoption and optimize user flows

After rollout, you need to keep tabs on how your end-users interact with your newly deployed IT resource, observe the challenges they encounter, and overall, keep trying to discover ways to simplify their user experience.

An end-user behavioral tool (like Whatfix Analyze) can keep you track of which pages your users visit, the features and UI components they interact with, and friction areas and issues they experience (e.g., rage clicks, unresponsive buttons, dead form fields, etc.) so you can understand how to optimize user flows better and remove friction from the user experience.

With Whatfix, you can address UX-related issues by launching new in-app guidance and moment-of-need support content inside your applications to overcome these areas of friction. This enables end-users to maximize their productivity powered by new technology and software applications, driving ROI from your IT modernization projects.

 

Challenges of Modern IT Modernization

The most significant obstacle IT challenges modernization projects face is inertia—after all, you’re trying to shake up, redesign, or, in many cases, completely replace the technology infrastructure your workforce is already used to.

So, you’ll encounter hesitance from the C Suite (“your idea is good but we can’t commit $1.2 million just yet”), stakeholders who’re comfortable with your existing setup and are wary of changes, customers and business partners who prefer the status quo, and end-users who will need to be coached to get up to speed.

That culture of resistance to change can manifest in several ways such as:

  • Balancing immediate needs with IT modernization strategies that scale: As you navigate a transition to new IT systems, tools, and infrastructure, you need to also worry about building future-proof solutions that align with your IT strategic plan that can scale up as your organization grows and also have forward compatibility with any improvements you make down the line.
  • SaaS management and waste: Depending on their size, modern companies use anywhere from 172 (organizations with <500 employees) to 664 (organizations with >10K employees) SaaS applications, spending between $7.9 million – $224.8 million annually per organization. But, as Zylo’s 2023 SaaS Management Index shows, at least 44% of that figure is wasted, mostly due to being underutilized after licenses and subscriptions are purchased. Despite the flexibility the SaaS model offers, switching between applications or from on-premise to the cloud comes with the risk that your SaaS expenditure will balloon out of control and become another cash burner that doesn’t return a positive ROI.
  • Downtime or lower productivity during change periods: During the transition period, it’s a given that your aggregate internal productivity will take a hit as your stakeholders try to navigate a switch from one product/platform to another. Depending on your industry and (possibly legally binding) obligations to customers, this can lead to decreased revenues, breach of contract, legal issues with disgruntled partners, etc.
  • End-user onboarding, support, and continuous training: Every major IT modernization effort requires an equally significant investment into onboarding users, publishing self-help resources they can access at their own pace, and collecting data across every user interaction surface to understand how you can improve the end-user experience.
IT Modernization Clicks Better With Whatfix

While it’s essential to choose the appropriate IT stack, assemble a dream team, and secure enough budget to modernize whatever part of your tech infrastructure you want to transform, the real work begins after your setup is done.

That’s when you need to create engaging experiences designed to coach your end-users through UI flows, publish self-help content your audience can access at their own pace, and use interactive job aids to provide in-app guidance until your internal users master how the IT tools in question work, whether it’s Salesforce’s CRM, SAP, Datadog, ServiceNow, or any combination of enterprise software packages designed to automate work at scale.

That’s where Whatfix comes in: our product is a digital adoption platform designed to help enterprises coach their in-house users through enterprise software. Using Whatfix’s suite of product adoption tools, you can:

  • Create contextual, role-based onboarding experiences with guided Tours and onboarding checklists.
  • Guide end-users through new digital processes with in-app Flows that coach them through the user interfaces of hundreds of applications.
  • Provide continuous reinforcement enablement and training with in-app Smart Tips that highlight features, unused UI elements, and errors.
  • Enable end-users with real-time support in the flow of work with Self Help.
  • Ensure data quality and cleanliness with Field Validation.
  • Collect end-user feedback with in-app Surveys that can be customized with Net Promoter Score format, free text fields, etc.
  • Analyze and optimize end-user experiences and IT with user behavior analytics and event tracking: Whatfix Analyze lets you track your users’ interactions within your enterprise applications, down to their page views, clicks, mouse hovers, pinch-and-zoom, scrolls, swipes, dropdown menu activations, etc.

Al without writing a line of code. At the core of our product is a WYSIWYG editor that enables non-technical users to design interactive teaching experiences from a drag-and-drop interface.

Request a demo to learn how Whatfix can help you unlock the value of your enterprise software as you transform your IT stack.

What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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Software Clicks With Whatfix
Whatfix's digital adoption platform empowers your employees, customers, and end-users with in-app guidance, reinforcement learning, and contextual self-help support to find maximum value from software.

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