Replace or modernise apps to address skills gaps

About the author:

Having been with the company since 1999, Frazer has worked in various roles across Ergo, developing a variety of key skills and expertise. His roles have included Marketing Manager, Commercial Operations Officer, Sales Manager, Network Services General Manager and Business Services Director. Frazer has a very strong understanding of the market we work in. He has a strong bias to action, a growth mindset and is extremely customer centric. As Group Chief Commercial Officer, Frazer has responsibility for the commercial activities across all of the business units. He is continuously seeking out opportunities to integrate Ergo’s group wide propositions to maximise the best outcome for customers.

Skill gaps, high employee turnover and fierce competition for limited talent have only added to the pressure that businesses are facing from inflation.  Though it may seem counter intuitive, it’s actually a good time to modernise or even replace applications, because they could be compounding your skills challenges.

Building a new solution from scratch, replacing what went before, can have huge workforce implications, because automation is integral to cloud-native applications that can be used to re-platform old processes that were slow and people-driven. BoatyardX, an Ergo company that specialises in custom development, is seeing a surge of interest in software solutions that leverage AI and automation to do more with fewer people.

Even modernising apps, rather than replacing them, will reduce the skills burden. The problem with legacy apps is that they were built on monolithic architecture with tightly integrated components that make them difficult to fix when something goes wrong, and hard to scale as the organisation grows. Over time they become more expensive to maintain, particularly if they are reliant on a vendor that has stopped supporting the application.

When sums don’t add up

Another issue we see in organisations is an overreliance on ‘the last person standing’, the member of the IT team who was there when it was developed, the only one who understands the complex dependencies between the application and its underlying operating system. It’s the person you call on when something goes wrong, and if they leave, their knowledge leaves with them and you’ve got a big problem.

After a while, the sums simply won’t add up. The inhouse experts have gone and hiring support is hard because the necessary skills are dying out and command a high price. It’s difficult enough finding skilled developers to support leading-edge software, let alone legacy apps. And the way they are built means troubleshooting issues are a challenge even if you have the expertise, resulting in longer downtime and more cost to the business.

Worse, even if you find a way to keep them running reasonably reliably at an affordable cost, the hard fact of life is that legacy applications won’t do many of the things that a digital business needs – they are not built for cloud agility or the concept of digital transformation. A much better fit is the DevOps world of software development adopted by Ergo and BoatyardX, where agile practices have largely replaced the old waterfall methodology.

The onus is on faster, cheaper development rather than long-drawn out release cycles, using a modular architecture that is portable and scalable, one that supports the innovation that organisations crave as they look to transform their businesses. Before the CFO calls time on the legacy app and demands a replacement, there may be a case to be made for regenerating it using DevOps processes. Talk to Ergo, we have a team that specialises in app modernisation.

Where developers want to work

The more you modernise, the less dependent you will be on the legacy skills needed to maintain old apps. If you are running a DevOps-only environment skills gaps will be much easier to fill. Not only is it easier to hire developers for a role, it’s a much more attractive environment for talent. Developers wants to work at the leading edge, on projects that will advance their career trajectory, not hinder it. They don’t want to be working with legacy code.

Employees also want the better experience that modern apps deliver. A young workforce brought up on streaming services and slick social media experiences will be less inclined to join companies that run their business on clunky, old-school applications.

Thirdly, it’s good for business. Operating at the leading edge is not about technology for technology’s sake, it’s about market differentiation and competitive advantage. Failure to modernise or replace apps will expose companies to unnecessary expense, increased security risks (older apps are generally more vulnerable) and a lack of agility.

The last point may be the most important because the pace of change and the threat of disruption is relentless. When you’re weighing up the cost of maintaining an app over modernising or replacing it, it’s the need to be agile that may well tip the balance.

Get in Contact 

If you have a new concept or existing product and are considering taking the next steps, we would love to discuss if a BoatyardX Discovery project can help you achieve your product vision. 



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