The 6 Fatal Mistakes of Software Modernization Projects and How to Make Yours Succeed
Pardon the grim analogy, but if you ever needed major surgery for say, a leg injury, chances are you would search out the least invasive, quickest-healing procedure so that you could get back on your feet and get on with your life as soon as possible.
You wouldn’t choose to perform an unnecessary amputation and seek out a prosthetics engineer to build you a new leg, and then expect it to work better than the original.
Given that the complexity and intricacy of most legacy enterprise software systems are comparable to the inner workings of a human body, that same common sense approach of minimal invasiveness should be applied to any software modernization project.
Nonetheless, stakeholders often tend to choose the software equivalent of amputation and prosthesis rather than working with the good parts of the existing software to make the whole thing better and the transition smoother.
This overly-complicated and often catastrophic approach to software modernization is usually the result of three common, yet devastating myths:
Your current business model should not constrain your software modernization project.
You can build and launch an entire new version of enterprise software in one fell swoop and expect a smooth and swift transition.
A small team of higher-level stakeholders and developers can successfully create and implement this modernized software without the involvement of your larger stakeholder group, such as general users of the software.
The six largest and most costly mistakes of custom software development projects arise from these three fundamental misconceptions about how to effectively modernize, extend, and enhance large enterprise systems.
Avoiding these project-killing mistakes and implementing the appropriate risk mitigation strategies will propel your project towards software success in a world where most software modernization projects inevitably fail.
The 6 Fatal Mistakes of Software Modernization
1. Underestimating your current business software
The previous analogy we used about an enterprise software system being as complicated as a human body may sound overblown. But it’s a fair comparison when you consider that the software system you are using today is likely the culmination of countless features and functions developed over the years. The software has evolved as hundreds or thousands of users provided input and made needs-based requests.
Underestimating the incomprehensible amount of information that your current system is built upon is the fundamental mistake that often sets off a cascade of other mistakes, ultimately killing your project goals.
2. Attempting “Big bang” deployment of new software
Expecting to move from your current software to an entirely new system in one fell swoop on a dedicated “go live” date is the equivalent of having that amputation surgery and then expecting to strap on your new leg and run a marathon the next day. It all goes back to that grave underestimation of what it took to get your current system functioning as it does today.
3. Placing false constraints on your software modernization project
The right project constraints can set you up for success, but there are some misguided ones that often emerge from the myths mentioned earlier. These constraints can actually inhibit the best solutions to your current software problems.
Placing constraints on your development team against things like rework, or against looking to your existing system for guidance, or not allowing users to see the project until it’s finished, for example, can be very counter-productive to your software modernization goals. These limits can stifle innovation and prevent problems from being caught early on.
Most fatally, they can actually prevent our ability to put to work the plethora of valuable information that was collected over the years of using your legacy system. Accessing and properly applying that information can prevent a repeat of the same mistakes that made you want to modernize your software in the first place.
4. Building the software first and attempting to move your data afterwards
Attempting to migrate all the business data from your legacy system into a new one only after it has been built is the equivalent of trying to build a ship in a bottle by constructing the ship outside of the bottle and then trying to squeeze it through the impossibly small opening. Your existing business information is structured in a very particular way within your current database.
If you try dumping all of that information into a new system that is likely built to structure data in a different way, you’ll end up with a huge data conversion mess that could potentially lead to a failure to launch your new software and force you to revert back to your old system.
5. “Trimming the fat” from your project by removing existing functionality
Enterprise software is typically so loaded with little features and functions that it’s highly unlikely any one individual stakeholder is even aware of every single capability that exists in your system, let alone utilizes all of it. While one particular feature may be completely irrelevant to one department or subgroup of your stakeholders, it may unknowingly be crucial to another group.
Given the complexity and variety of features within your enterprise software, it can be highly detrimental to exclude any functionality in the modernized version. Some features may seem outdated or insignificant, but their absence in your new system could potentially derail the flow of your entire business process.
It’s very common for several of these “oops” to be caught only after a new system is implemented, leaving businesses stuck with a fancy new piece of software that no one wants to use because it doesn’t do everything their legacy system can.
6. Failing to create an inventory of existing system functionality
Actively creating an inventory of all existing capabilities in your current software may sound cumbersome, but it’s a lifesaver. Consider the fact that many functions of your current system are “behind the scenes” triggers. These triggers are likely significant, if not crucial, to your business practices; yet, without a list, these and many others will likely be forgotten as your team works on plans for the new build.
As mentioned earlier, excluding any existing functionality from the updated software, whether intentional or accidental, could be a deal-breaker for your stakeholders. We’ve seen it time and again: user response in these situations is to label the new system as unreliable and cling to the old and familiar, knowing it has everything they need.
Interested in modernizing your current enterprise software? Schedule a free consultation with our software development team. We have a 98% success rate delivering software that exceeds client expectations.