Digital transformation can be empowering at an organizational scale. It can help transform the customer experience, power innovation, increase agility and flexibility, reduce operating costs and drive data-based decision-making.

But outdated IT infrastructures and applications too often can stand in the way. Genuine digital transformation — in which enterprises take full advantage of  digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, connected devices and remote collaboration and communications platforms — benefit from a cloud modernization strategy that involves people, processes and technology.

While several types of modernization, including infrastructure modernization, platform modernization, application modernization, business process modernization and cultural/workplace modernization, can enable full digital transformation, advancements in cloud and related technologies can have a significant impact on each of them.

Effective digital modernization initiatives are typically coordinated efforts. It makes little sense, for example, to launch an application modernization project in isolation when its effectiveness hinges on modernized infrastructures, platforms and business processes based in the cloud.

We believe in a holistic approach.

Creating a coordinated cloud modernization strategy

Organizations that didn’t reap the promised benefits of the cloud may have failed because they tried to run with a piecemeal process. Coordinated modernization efforts should align with the enterprise’s business and cloud strategies. In other words, companies need to crawl before they can walk.

Once strategies are aligned, enterprise IT can develop the cloud modernization plan. To minimize disruption, IT should first identify modernization patterns and potential problems across all realms.

One of the biggest challenges can be converting the business rules integrated into existing systems and apps. How can businesses extract them and centralize these rules? How can IT teams ensure that there is no redundancy when outdated rules are applied to a modern cloud environment? These questions and others should be answered before a cloud modernization plan is enacted.

Other boxes to check in the planning stages of cloud modernization include containerization of workflows and API enablements of business capabilities.

Established systems that have not been modernized are typically built on large, highly integrated applications, and changing specific components in these apps can be complex and costly. To facilitate modernization, IT should first decouple these apps from the underlying infrastructure with APIs. Then atomizing these monolith apps into granular, cloud-based business capabilities is simpler and carries less risk. This enables an environment where change can be isolated and deployment platform decisions can be made in response to application needs and market demands.

Achieving cost efficiencies

When large, established organizations embrace a cloud-first strategy, they typically retain some mainframe capabilities. That’s understandable, as often these existing capabilities drive core business functions and support current profits. They are absolutely essential for running day-to-day operations and ensuring the appropriate level of data protection and application availability. For example, IBM offers IT infrastructure solutions with flexible pricing structures built for a hybrid multicloud environment.

For organizations to effectively scale operations and achieve cost efficiencies, it is important to identify the cloud environment where processes and applications are best suited to run. Selection of on premises or off premises and public, private or hybrid cloud infrastructure is critical. Some processes can be done more efficiently in a distributed environment that uses cloud-based data links such as cloud broker. One excellent example is transactional processing, such as validating a person’s Social Security number and financial records for a loan application. Here the privacy of PII data is imperative — it requires a mission-critical back end for the data and a flexible, public cloud-based front end for filling out the loan app.

Measuring success and simplifying the journey to cloud

Modernizing enterprise IT without measuring the risks and rewards of each step in the journey may not be the best approach. What are the potential benefits and pitfalls of change versus the status quo? What tools and techniques should be deployed to measure results? These all are essential questions that IT and business decision-makers should consider.

Cloud-based modernization of enterprise IT requires detailed planning and collaboration. All facets of modernization should be in sync to achieve meaningful digital transformation. Enterprises should tread lightly on the road to cloud adoption. Each cloud journey is unique, and while there are best practices, organizations should learn as they go and adapt as needed.

Risk-reward assessments can be a helpful tool for measuring the success of cloud modernization — and for mitigating failure. We’ll highlight some strategies for measuring these risks and rewards in a forthcoming article.

Learn more about how guidance, migration, modernization, cloud-native application development and managed services from IBM professionals can help your journey to cloud.

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