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Modernization is Mandatory and Monumentally Hard

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Unless you’ve been heads down in your inbox—which is a real possibility after the holiday season—you’ve heard of and perhaps read about multiple outages in the past month impacting US travel.

As I write this, Microsoft is experiencing significant issues. That's a problem for those of us who rely on Azure and its portfolio of SaaS productivity offerings. But it was even worse because my Xbox wouldn't sign in, and I missed my morning game time.

Yes, that did dampen my day a bit.

Now, a myriad of articles, tweets, and LinkedIn posts on significant outages of late like to finger the lack of modernization as the cause. Others point to choices made about modernization—essentially blaming modernization of the wrong things.  

So first, let’s tackle the “lack of modernization” claim.

Most organizations, 81%, according to our research this year, are focused on the modernization of IT. Those modernization efforts span the IT stack, from infrastructure to operations to applications to practices. They also include business functions that most forget are important to digitizing the business.

Busted. Organizations are modernizing.

So, if that’s not the problem, what is it? Some point to “prioritizing modernization of the wrong things in the wrong order.”

I’d like to know what the “right” order is, then. When everything is interconnected and interrelated and distributed across the core, cloud, and edge, there is no one right order to modernization. But an order is required because the volume of technology in need of modernization is too large to tackle at once. We are literally talking about the entire breadth and depth of the IT stack. If organizations could "rip and replace," they probably would. But with systems and technology and enterprise architectures that originated in the last century—literally—the cost and effort required to raze it to the ground and start over would be so disruptive to business that it would effectively destroy it.

A modern enterprise architecture is an integrated, dynamic stack able to leverage new technologies and practices to quickly adapt to changing conditions—whether that’s increased demand for a customer-facing service or an internal scheduling system.

Until you map out an entire digital service—from end-to-end—you don’t really see just how big “modernization” really is. Just on the surface, there are six core capabilities—some in new domains—that are needed, and just one digital service is going to hit all of them.

Which means prioritization is required. And there are no best practices or guide that says, "here's the right order" because the "order" is wholly dependent on business processes that are often unique to the business.

Modernization spans organizational boundaries and business units, crosses roles, introduces new disciplines and practices, and requires a shift in culture to embrace change. It starts by defining a digital service, described by a business process, and executed by a complex set of applications and app services distributed across infrastructure, architectures, and environments.

There are so many moving parts to a business process that it’s a miracle more organizations don’t suffer catastrophic failures.

That's why I am encouraged by the percentage of organizations that continue to focus their digital transformation modernization efforts on the unseen-but-critical-path business functions—legal, HR, procurement, and finance—needed to deliver end-to-end digital services.  

Let’s face it, modernization is mandatory, and just about every organization is focused on it. But the scope of modernization is such that issues are going to arise unless you're starting from scratch. So, let’s cut those who must be out there, in the public eye, some slack while they work through the monumental task of modernization.

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