Unfortunately, in modernization, there is no universal playbook. The critical first step is defining the main business purpose modernization is designed to serve, whether it’s profitability, customer experience or simply the ability to respond to trends faster. This ‘why’ should be the foundation for a strategy and execution roadmap that’s closely connected to the business’s strategic priorities, and outlines concrete steps to tackle change on a number of difficult fronts.
One big part of modernization is learning when to let go of old systems and ways of working. Equally important is identifying where legacy processes and architecture represent important business assets, and need to survive the journey intact. ‘Lift and shift’ is the approach enterprises are often urged to adopt, but often falls short compared to a ‘Goldilocks’-like balance that marks a clean break from the past without requiring everything to be rewritten from scratch.
It’s closely identified with things like cloud computing, but modernization is better understood as a collection of capabilities rather than a specific solution or architecture. That means the modernization race won’t necessarily go to the firms who invest the most in emerging technologies, no matter how potentially groundbreaking those solutions are. Rushing to adopt the ‘coolest’ new tech can be counterproductive if the rest of the organization isn’t ready.
By far the biggest threat to modernization programs is the failure to plan for people and organizational, as well as technological, change. Efforts to transform can meet with unexpected resistance because they’re perceived by entrenched teams as a threat. Getting reluctant talent on board requires more than just constant communication. Business leaders need to make an active commitment to developing skills as the organization evolves, so everyone has a role, and stake, in the results.
Modernization represents a long-term commitment, and even the best strategies will need to be measured, challenged and reworked as priorities and external conditions shift. Along the way, progress will be evident in many different ways, from lower running costs to greater efficiency, happier customers and higher rates of innovation. The ultimate outcome is the embedding of flexibility and resilience deep within the organization’s DNA, at a time when both traits have never been more necessary.