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Ask just about any CIO or CTO about their priorities, and you’re likely to find that cloud-native modernization has become more of a necessity than a luxury.

The ability to adapt and innovate your business products, applications and IT infrastructure to thrive in the cloud environment is crucial for staying competitive.  

Cloud-native modernization focuses on the end-to-end transformation of business processes and applications to improve your overall ecosystem and make your organization more agile and able to adapt to new challenges.

It involves aligning applications with cloud-native principles, or replacing them altogether with cloud-native technologies or software-as-a-service products – and everything in between.

Why modernize

Digital transformation is underway at most organizations – not always at the same pace but nearly always involving cloud, for both applications and network functions.

According to the 2023 Gartner® CIO and Technology Executive Survey*, 46% of organizations will increase their spending on application modernization in 2023 (the top four technology area in spending), while 50% will spend more on cloud platforms in 2023 (the top three technology area in spending). At the same time, 47% will decrease their investments in legacy infrastructure and data center technologies. Illustrating the transition to modern technology platforms.

To transform into a digital business, you need a different approach to the applications at the core of your organization so you can keep responding quickly to evolving customer needs and market trends. 

When done right, cloud-native modernization enables you to autoscale based on workload demand and reuse standard cloud-native services – resulting in faster deployment cycles and increased productivity. Other benefits include a product-centric operating model, a reduction in software licenses and less of a need for legacy skills.

Debunking the myth that modernization is difficult

To make the change with minimal hassle, you need a well-crafted strategy that includes the following essential ingredients for cloud-native modernization:

1. The business case and strategy

The first step in cloud-native modernization is defining a clear business case and strategy. What is the primary goal of your modernization efforts? Are you trying to reduce costs, improve your user experience, enhance your agility or achieve a faster time to market? Each of these goals requires a different approach, so it’s crucial to define your objectives from the outset.

Then, map the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your organization to the expected improvements in your infrastructure and applications. You want to make sure that modernization will improve what you already deliver.

This will also help align your investments with your business goals. Use a return-on-investment (ROI) model to track your progress and determine when you’re starting to monetize your investment in cloud-native modernization.

2. Assessment and planning

Assessment and planning go hand in hand to lay the foundation of your modernization project. Even in an agile environment, extensive planning is required.

Unlike with the waterfall model, where tasks are sequential, agile development involves parallel workstreams. Therefore, a solid understanding of what needs to change and how it will change is crucial.

Even testing requires a new approach: in cloud-native modernization, there is typically more automation during a testing phase than you’d find in manually driven regression-test suites.

A well-defined roadmap will keep your modernization project on track. Identify minimum viable products (MVPs) and pilot sites (such as specific factories) and users, and analyze the expected impact of all the changes you are going to make. This is where change management also becomes essential.

3. Security and compliance

Security and compliance are paramount from day one. As data breaches and compliance issues become more prevalent – among other risks related to distributed cloud-native architecture – safeguarding your digital assets during and after your modernization project is non-negotiable.

Ensure that your cloud-native modernization efforts adhere to industry standards and comply with regulations. Cloud providers already invest heavily in security and data protection, which will also benefit your organization. Understand how their security ecosystem will complement yours, and keep all stakeholders up to date in this regard.

You should also schedule regular audits to maintain compliance.

4. Talent transformation

Your workforce plays a significant role in the success of your modernization project. To manage your modernized infrastructure and applications effectively, you need to have the right people with the right skills in place. This may involve upskilling your existing employees or hiring new talent, or both.

Assess your current skill set and develop a talent transformation plan.

Keep in mind that a hiring spree isn’t the only – or even the most efficient – way of acquiring new skills. Working with an experienced managed service provider (MSP) like NTT gives you instant access to a range of cloud skills as well as skills and experience in the “bigger picture”, including data centers and networks.

5. Technology and architectural choices

Serverless or containers? Public or private cloud? Modernization involves making crucial decisions about your technology stack and architecture – and your cloud provider.

These choices will affect your scalability, performance and operational efficiency, so make them wisely and make sure they align with your strategy.

This is another area where an MSP’s experience is truly valuable.

6. The operating model

A modern operating model is essential for keeping pace with the dynamic nature of cloud technology and sets the tone for how your organization will function in a modernized environment.

Embrace agile methodologies, DevSecOps practices and a product-centric approach to streamline processes and foster innovation.

7. Leadership and stakeholder buy-in

Cloud-native modernization and migration take time and can involve multiyear programs. So, there is a risk of losing focus and impetus over time unless you align your organization’s leadership with your long-term goals. Lack of support from leadership can lead to project failures or delays, so it’s vital to secure their commitment early on.

And, while leadership is important, don’t underestimate stakeholder buy-in, which will play a crucial role in the success of your modernization project.

8. Ecosystem management

Successful modernization is not just about the initial transformation. It's also about ongoing management and innovation. Develop a robust change-management strategy that can adapt to your evolving technology and business needs. Implement observability and site-reliability practices to maintain the health and performance of your modernized cloud-native stack.

Continuously managing and innovating on your modernization efforts is the key to long-term success.

A rewarding journey to cloud

While cloud-native modernization is a complex and multifaceted journey that requires careful planning and execution, it will prepare your organization for a more agile and competitive future.

Just remember, it’s not a one-off event; it's an ongoing process of adaptation and improvement.

* Gartner, How to Choose the Right Approach for Application Modernization and Cloud Migration, Stefan Van Der Zijden, Howard Dodd, 23 January 2023

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the US and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.


Download our ebook, 3 Steps to Complete Cloud-Native Modernization, to read more about the opportunities of cloud-native modernization and how to avoid the pitfalls.