IT Modernization Hinges On A Successful Automation Strategy

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IT modernization initiatives must leverage automation in order to meet desired business goals

IT modernization is critical to staying competitive in our increasingly digital world. But modernization projects are failing at a surprising rate. Automation can help mitigate some of the biggest hurdles to modernization.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, for many organizations, made it necessary to improve agility, efficiency and scalability, in order to adapt to evolving challenges. This has accelerated digital transformation initiatives, redefining processes, services and day-to-day operations for a digitally dependent world.

CIOs are increasing efforts to modernize IT in order to support key digital initiatives and new business needs. Spiceworks Ziff David reports that 47% of organizations will be increasing IT spend in part to modernize IT infrastructure.

However, IT modernization efforts are not always successful. Modernization can be disruptive and complex, especially for organizations with a large reliance on legacy systems. A 2020 study from IDG Research Services found that only 25% of IT modernization projects achieved their goals.

IT Modernization vs. Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation refers to business strategies that recreate processes, services, day-to-day operations and even business models through the use of new technologies. For example, Netflix used to mail out DVDs until it leveraged broadband (new at the time) to redefine its business model as the world’s first streaming service.

In this context, digital transformation is a broad enterprise strategy, of which IT modernization is a key part.

So What Is Modernization?

IT Modernization refers to existing technologies, tools or systems, for example legacy mainframes, that need to be replaced or upgraded in order to support business goals and cybersecurity requirements. IT modernization efforts are designed to improve efficiency and reliability and often reduce operating costs. Application Modernization is similar, placing a greater focus on legacy applications that might be based in IT or business departments.

Typically, IT systems and software become more expensive to maintain as they age. Vendors stop releasing upgrades and security patches while expertise in those legacy tools becomes difficult to find. Most legacy solutions were not designed to integrate with modern or emerging technologies, requiring ad hoc or custom scripting to manage sensitive data across disparate tools.

Modernization is of special importance to large institutions that began digitizing decades earlier. This is why IT modernization is often spoken of in the context of federal governments (Federal agencies such as the DoD relying on floppy disks, for example), many of which still maintain information systems that date back to the 1970s.

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Problems With Modernizing IT Systems

Organizations need to modernize in order to integrate new tools and technologies into existing environments. The biggest challenges to a successful modernization strategy include:

  • Migrating sensitive data or workloads
  • Establishing governance
  • Integrating disparate data sources
  • Optimizing new environments for cost, automation and scalability

IT modernization, for many organizations, requires the integration of disparate technologies, managing processes, data and apps across legacy on-premises systems and cloud-based infrastructure and applications. For a majority of IT teams, it is integration that poses the greatest challenge to modernization. A survey by Mulesoft saw 85% of enterprise IT teams report integration as a primary hurdle to transformation.

Automation In Your Modernization Roadmap

IT teams are faced with a range of hurdles. The overall volume of projects IT teams are responsible for continues to grow as businesses become more reliant on IT. This of course is happening in the midst of a protracted IT skills gap, forcing IT leaders to delay projects and incur technical debt.

At the same time, IT systems are becoming more complex, absorbing more resources just to keep the lights on. As a result, IT automation projects have jumped to the forefront, with organizations increasing automation spend in an effort to free-up IT for critical modernization and transformation projects.

These automation attempts are often piecemeal, with IT implementing narrow tools to automate specific tasks within silos. This can include infrastructure automation tools, vendor specific schedulers, data center automation, RPA for business roles and more. This ultimately leads to more complexity and offers little in the way of minimizing integration challenges.

However, there are a range of automation solutions that can support modernization and transformation strategies. Workload automation software is often highly extensible, enabling IT teams to manage data, processes and services across disparate endpoints. Moreover, these tools can be used to connect applications and services with infrastructure resources. For example, workload automation software can leverage artificial intelligence to manage workloads across servers, and to provision and deprovision cloud-based resources.

Workload automation (WLA) platforms can enable a successful modernization strategy in several ways:

Workload Migration

WLA software can include change management capabilities that make it easy to manage processes and objects between environments. This includes pushing changes from QA or Dev environments into a production environment. For example, users can compare and synchronize job schedulers across on-premises and cloud-based environments.

IT modernization often includes the deployment of cloud-based infrastructure, platforms and software, requiring workloads to run in cloud environments. WLA can provide reliable migrations between those disparate environments.

Extensible Connections

Integrating disparate endpoints and data sources is a big hurdle for IT teams, especially as modernization initiatives introduce new platforms and technologies. WLA vendors can, in some cases, provide direct, programmatic access to major platforms and systems, including ERP and data warehousing.

Programmatic integrations into common platforms can be supplemented with universal connectors that support common IT and business tasks regardless of the technologies being used.

Additionally, WLA vendors are providing powerful new API capabilities. In some cases, users are able to build reusable REST API adaptors based on prebuilt or customized templates, accelerating the development of API adaptors without requiring custom scripting. According to Mulesoft, IT organizations that use APIs for integration are 69% less likely to experience integration challenges.

High Availability Failover

Modernization projects are complicated. Faulty server configurations and ill-conceived implementations can cause unexpected downtime that impacts the business. WLA platforms are often distributed systems that rely on multiple schedulers and execution agents to process workloads. Because of this, workloads can be rapidly moved to new servers or environments when issues arise, keeping processes running smoothly even in the event of an outage. Passive job schedulers can monitor active job schedulers and likewise take control when issues are detected.

Centralized Monitoring

By automating and managing processes from a central point of control, IT teams are also able to monitor processes and resources from a centralized location. WLA solutions can provide real-time monitoring, alerting and auto-remediation capabilities for cross-platform processes. This includes centralized log repositories and reporting capabilities for faster troubleshooting. Leveraging these capabilities can drastically reduce the time IT spends fighting fires, meaning more time to complete key devops projects.

Simplified Governance

Establishing a standardized governance framework across disparate environments isn’t easy. Centralized automation platforms can help simplify compliance efforts by enabling IT to enforce policies from a single point of control. This can include requiring certain protocols for sensitive file transfers, monitoring endpoint connections and providing full audit trails for all events, actions and users within the environment.

Automation Can Simplify Technology Modernization

Extensible automation platforms such as WLA can and should be deployed as orchestration engines. Broad functionality and integration capabilities enable users to automate virtually any IT or business use case, regardless of whether the endpoints are on-premises or in a public or private cloud.

Low-code WLA solutions with reusable templates and prebuilt connectors can be used to rapidly integrate new technologies, enabling users of any experience level to assemble end-to-end workflows that span infrastructure and service layers.

WLA can also circumvent and simplify many modernization requirements. For example, if an IT shop still relies on OpenVMS to manage batch processes, a WLA solution can be used to trigger processes within OpenVMS, in some cases removing the need to rip-and-replace the legacy software. The same can be said for COBOL-based systems, cron schedulers and any other legacy tools well past their heyday. 

The key to finding the right WLA solution for your modernization needs depends on finding a WLA solution that can support a wide range of use cases, enabling your team to consolidate or coordinate legacy tools within a single, low-code solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is modernization in information technology?

​​​​Modernization in information technology refers to the replacement of outdated systems, software and applications, often within IT departments. Hardware and software become more difficult to maintain as they age, creating additional costs while becoming less reliable. Moreover, it can be difficult to integrate new technologies into legacy information systems, often requiring custom scripts and ad hoc workarounds that build technical debt while increasing the risk of downtime.
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What is government modernization?

Government modernization refers to technology or information system modernization within public institutions. As technology ages, it is difficult to maintain compliance and security requirements as many vendors eventually stop releasing patches and updates. As a result, governments spend billions of dollars each year modernizing legacy systems.
See how ActiveBatch can simplify your modernization project.

How does automation help with modernization?

Yes, automation can help simplify modernization projects by reducing the need for manual tasks, giving IT teams more time to spend on modernization efforts. Automation platforms can also provide the capabilities necessary to integrate and manage other solutions. By triggering processes through a single solution, legacy tools can be consolidated or coordinated, in many cases removing the need to rip and replace outdated software.
See how ActiveBatch can simplify your modernization project.

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Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation Without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.