Despite the fact that modernizing core mainframe applications can be complex, organisations have no choice but to start digitally transforming them.

This emerged in the invitation-only Mainframe Application Modernisation C-Suite Forum held during Micro Focus Realize 2020 this week.

Neil Fowler, GM, Application Modernization and Connectivity Product Group at Micro Focus, said global organisations are looking to transform rapidly, putting pressure on capacity, and the availability and costs of infrastructure and skilled staff.

“Digital transformation is not a simple journey, and no two modernisation projects are the same,” he said. “The only thing they have in common is change. Modernisation across applications, processes and infrastructure must balance cost, risk and speed, delivering incremental modernisation across three distinct by interrelated areas. 92% of core business applications remain strategic, so replacement or wholescale rewrite are risky. But doing nothing isn’t a low risk strategy either.”

Fowler highlighted Micro Focus’s Modernization Maturity Model, a best practice framework for planning and executing core business system modernisation programs.

Durga Prasad, associate VP, global head of modernisation practice, Zensar Technologies, said in enterprises, mainframe systems are the cornerstone of success. In terms of performance and reliability, they are mission critical, and as systems of record, they are the repository of complex transactional and operational rules and policies that define the organisation. “But these legacy technologies are hampering the digital innovation journey. Responsiveness and agility for these applications is quite slow, and in addition, the total cost of ownership is high and the talent pool to support these technologies is shrinking.”

He said major enterprises now investing in modernisation were achieving significant cost and business benefits. There was no one solution that fitted all applications, he noted: “It starts with identifying the right strategy. We need to take a pragmatic approach to modernisation.” This should include automated analysis of the portfolio, identification of the applications which were the best candidates to start with, and development of roadmaps using data driven and objective based decision making.

Noting that Micro Focus is supports end-to-end application modernisation across infrastructure, process and applications, he said the Micro Focus Modernization Maturity Model offered a practical and proven framework to implementing business critical change: “There are best practices in use; so there is no point in reinventing the wheel.”

Prasad said when modernising critical business applications, organisations should start by creating a compelling business case outlining the benefits and opportunities it would create; then determine where the necessary skills would be sourced, what metrics should be used to determine success, and the risks of each option.