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How to liberate your legacy applications to unleash powerful, agile next-gen apps

Erik Haahr
March 1, 2021

Show me your application portfolio and I’ll tell you about your company.

No matter how you try to hide it, your IT capabilities will be visible in your application portfolio. The age and size of your core systems will tell if you are agile – not if you are using agile methodologies and frameworks, but if you are able to adapt your business to changes in an agile way. The number of applications with overlapping functionality and the status of the existing decommission plan will tell if you are simplifying and rationalizing your portfolio to keep the maintenance costs down and release resources to adapt to change even faster. I could go on, but I think you get the picture – your application portfolio reveals a lot about your business.

Tidying up the application portfolio

Discarding the burden of an existing traditional applications landscape will bring clearer waters for any IT fleet. But to actually getting rid of old, inflexible, and costly applications requires more than just identifying the redundant, unused applications as well the applications that cost more to maintain than they provide value to the organization.

The entire organization needs to understand and envision the benefits and value that a modern, flexible application portfolio can bring. When this is in place, two separate processes should be run in parallel: 1) Getting rid of the dead-weight in application portfolio, and 2) Acquiring the new applications.

Getting rid of dead-weight

Existing application portfolios are frequently dragged down by a dead weight consisting of expensive maintenance, poor business value, technical debt such as outdated or over-customized technology, or simply by lack of skills to maintain the applications.

To help build the overview of the existing application portfolio I would recommend using the eAPM approach, where you get metrics you need to define an end-to-end migration roadmap from the existing to a modern application portfolio.

With this overview you can start eliminating unused applications and applications with duplicate functionality. You can also start mapping the still viable applications to their future destiny – should they be lifted to a modern platform, should they be re-factored, should they be re-built,  replaced, or are they in a condition where you can invest in them directly.

One challenge still exist. Many IT experts know how to build new systems, few know how to decommission them. And you would want to leverage the treasure of data in the existing applications as part of the modernization.

Building the future

When starting to build the future application portfolio you need to move adaptability from afterthought to prime time. You need to “be like water,” that is, grasp that you need to stand up to change, to adapt quickly, again and again, or otherwise be condemned to the depths of irrelevance.

Systems should be envisioned and built by design for dealing with disturbance and change. The full next-generation toolbox of technology enablers should be considered – from “mesh” API services and self-improving IT operations up to open, secure data sharing, AI, and autonomous systems. It’s also about the mindset that the internal and external context will always, routinely, be disturbed and break: when Failure is an Option, it becomes an opportunity to learn, anticipate, and improve. Operational efficiency used to be the mantra. Now it’s water-like adaptability and continuous, “StratOps” agile strategy delivery.

Many companies today want to become data-driven and that has an impact on the future application portfolio. An enterprise will really warm up to the data-powered concept when it is able to define, measure, leverage, and even externally monetize the value it creates with data assets. Data-powered initiatives become easier to justify and execute when the value delivered is tangible and undisputable. However, under the pressure of cold-hearted facts, algorithms, and data the human-factor will certainly diminish. Addressing the emotional intelligence of every data-powered initiative will improve your chances of success. Then, data is not only driving automated decisions and actions, it also contains the potential to create new products and services. Augmented with AI, it unleashes the full creative powers of the enterprise to create brand-new business opportunities.


Tidying up the application portfolio is both about getting rid of the dead weight of outdated and obsolete applications and about building new flexible and adaptable data-based applications powered by AI and in sync with the people in the organization.

Further material

You can find much more information and inspiration in our TechnoVision toolbox that we have updated annually for the last 13 years.