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Zero-disruption modernization: How to transform your business in 6 simple steps


Jul 10, 2023
Zero-disruption modernization: How to transform your business in 6 simple steps


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For even the most prepared enterprises, investment in modernization is always accompanied by risk — the biggest being the potential disruption to business continuity and stakeholder experience. Understanding customer journeys, business processes, how legacy systems operate, and how to maintain the customer experience are essential to successfully implementing innovative technology strategies. 

Steps to minimize business disruption

To minimize the risk of business disruption, enterprises should adopt a six-step approach that prioritizes the interests of their clients and emphasizes effective change management. Such an approach, when implemented correctly, will help execute a modernization project that has few — if any — disruptions.

Step 1:  Consumer, customer, partner and employee experience

Business success relies on understanding and meeting customer needs. However, in the context of modernization, ‘customers’ include the complete range of stakeholders: consumers, employees and partners. By assessing the needs of all parties involved, enterprise leaders create a set of goals to guide their modernization process, ensuring continuity. Throughout the modernization process, a team representing a broad range of functions — product, customer experience, research and development and IT transformation — should continually refine the modernization to ensure user needs are met.

Step 2: Business value chains and processes

During the coexistence phases of legacy and modernized systems, focusing on business value chains and processes can help an enterprise drive maximum value and minimize risks. In this step, organizations should prioritize the delivery of changes through value stream mapping by looking at the business value chain, the to-be-process definition, and the business case to select the best modernization strategy. 


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This may take the form of rolling out a new platform in small groups, such as starting with friends and family or with a specific group of champion users.

Step 3: External and internal application integration

This step focuses on minimizing or zeroing down the impact of modernization on the interfacing systems, both internal and external. The key is identifying and handling all the upstream and downstream interfaces, associated data formats or other changes through appropriate data enrichment mechanisms and data quality checks.

This step also facilitates the incremental transformation of the interface by carefully migrating from a monolith to a microservices-based one and managing from a conformance perspective while doing intermediate remediation, where required. 

Step 4: Data management and integration

This step is about moving, mapping and synchronizing the data from old to new systems. The right data management and integration strategy are critical to minimize disruptions. To manage data effectively, creating a temporary operational data store on cloud is important. This helps in better data synchronization between legacy and modernized application estates. Regardless of whether the customer gets routed to a legacy or modernized system, it ensures no loss of service. 

Storage can be done through these key steps:

  • Create an operational data repository (ODR) in the cloud that is in sync with the transaction data from the legacy database. 
  • Sync the transaction data captured through the online transaction processing (OLTP) micro-databases into the ODR. 

Step 5: Coexistence of the legacy and modernized systems

This step is about creating tech approaches and strategies to manage the legacy retained system and a modern system parallelly while introducing changes incrementally and having the ability to roll back when needed.

At this stage, an abstraction layer strategy is essential for the smooth coexistence of the legacy and modernized systems. This step communicates with both systems and analyzes requests coming from process layers and user interfaces. Accordingly, it routes the requests to the appropriate system based on the client, features and data supported by the underlying system. This way of managing coexistence will ensure the undisrupted delivery of modernized capabilities to end users.

Step 6: Shared digital infrastructure and engineering

This step focuses on how the legacy and modern systems can share the appropriate level of digital infrastructure with the proper provisioning of engineering capabilities. Using an integrated, platform-based approach is recommended for creating a shared digital infrastructure consisting of two critical elements: cloud and partnerships.

Cloud is essential to this approach because it can harness the power of DevSecOps to provide an enterprise-level view of all interventions. Specifically, integrating capabilities of infrastructure provisioning, development, test automation, security testing and deployment tools into a single DevSecOps platform on cloud offers accelerated and secure releases.

Partnerships are critical due to the magnitude and complexity of modernization. And the ecosystem should include startups, hyper-scalers, private cloud companies and specialists in relevant technologies. 

How these steps address disruption risk

Zero disruption modernization (ZDM) applies three key interventions to bring the right focus on the above six aspects within the modernization planning and execution. These interventions create an operating model that brings together business operations and technology services, transformation teams and innovation groups and the application development team. 

Micro-change management

Driven by micro-change philosophy, it is about breaking down large and complex changes into smaller and incremental ones, also called “Routine +1,” a small but significant step.  

By employing a micro-change approach, organizations can ensure that modernization does not devolve into a single, cumbersome larger transformation project but can be implemented via persistent, smaller changes with well-defined objectives and outcomes. 

A clear understanding of core business processes and data flows, coupled with ongoing communication among identified stakeholders, ensures that changes can be made quickly and feedback is integrated rapidly.

Ways of working harmonization

It is crucial to harmonize the ways of working between old and new systems, and for this, it is important to understand the as-is process with focused analysis. Identifying improvement areas in the end-user experience is essential by conducting workshops and interviewing select clients or suppliers. Then apply improvements towards the working pattern for better synergy across the systems.

Additionally, employees should receive training to increase the adoption of new ways of working. By aligning all stakeholders through the incremental approach, implementation-related disruptions can be minimized, and organization-wide innovation and agility can be encouraged. 

Platform-based automation

A platform-based approach to automation gives enterprises a high degree of visibility and control over modernization and is vital to reducing disruption. It also brings harmonization across different teams through integrated processes and accelerators. Simultaneously, standardized and repeatable automation of routine tasks significantly reduces effort and allows developers to focus on the core modernization tasks.

Besides the rightful execution of the above-mentioned ‘whats and hows’ of the zero disruption modernization approach, it is also fundamental to have the right skills and knowledge to adapt to new systems and practices. Focusing on this will help organizations to address inevitable questions like scaling, innovation in a time crunch, or choosing which costs to cut. While most organizations plan for this, many cannot prepare employees satisfactorily, given the current talent shortage. To address this challenge, the workforce needs to be upskilled and reskilled to deploy new technologies successfully. 

In summary, by working along these six steps and focusing on the three key interventions, enterprises have a roadmap for change that can guide all parties involved. Instead of experiencing paralysis as they ponder change or become bogged-down in large, drawn-out initiatives, enterprises will be empowered to modernize to minimize disruption, implement desired changes quickly, and create lasting impact. 

Gautam Khanna is VP and global head, modernization practice at Infosys.


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