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Application Modernization with Bruce Harple

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Bruce Harple

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny Ryan:Hello, and welcome to “The Two Bald Brothers and the Microphone” podcast. This is one of the bald brothers, Danny Ryan, and I’m here with Bruce, you’re not bald, but it’s still allowed. We still have people with hair come joining us for the podcast.

 

Bruce Harple:I’m moving in that direction, unfortunately.

 

Danny Ryan:Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that. As we were prepping for this, before we jump into our main topic, you said you’re gonna be renting a boat this weekend. That sounds like fun.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah, absolutely. We belong to a boat club down in Charleston, so, it makes it easy. You don’t have to trailer a boat around. You just take all your stuff, you show up at the dock, you load your boat up, you go, you come back, you unload all your stuff and you go home.

 

Danny Ryan:That is nice. Are you renting it for the day or for a couple hours, or how long do you typically rent it for?

 

Bruce Harple:You get the full morning or the full afternoon. They do it half day chunks. So, we’re going out early Saturday morning.

 

Danny Ryan:Nice. Nice. We did that, there was a Groupon or something along those lines for this summer and we ended up doing that and renting for a half a day two different types of boats. One was more like a pontoon boat, the other more like a skiing boat.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah. A ski boat. Yeah.

 

Danny Ryan:We had great time. It is nice where you just go there and bring what you need with you and then just leave.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah. We bring our own tube, our own tow ropes. We bring all our toys.

 

Danny Ryan:Nice.

 

Bruce Harple:You hook them up, go have some fun, and come back and someone else takes care of cleaning the boat. All that stuff.

 

Danny Ryan:That’s awesome.

 

So, our topic today is about application modernization. I guess the best place to start is what is this? What are we talking about when we talk about application modernization?

 

Bruce Harple:Application modernization is really … You could hear the words refactoring, repurposing, consolidation of legacy applications. The idea is taking older applications, older platforms, older infrastructure and kind of re-platforming those apps. You’re really trying to bring them onto a platform that more closely aligns with current business needs.

 

Making these applications so that they become more agile, more mobile, and more in line with organizational strategies and plans. I think what we’re seeing in the market place is cloud-based and mobile-based solutions are becoming a priority for most enterprises.

 

If you look at our space, we work in the Microsoft ecosystem. With Office 365 and Asher, organizations are seeing tremendous value in getting these older legacy applications that are client based, or client server based even; getting those off of their on printed environments and out into the cloud.

 

For us, again, being in the Microsoft ecosystem, when we talk about legacy applications, we’re not so much talking about the older original legacy systems, which might be your Cobol applications; main frame apps. We’re really talking about maybe SurePoint on prem applications, or SurePoint on prem instances. Basic applications that were built long ago maybe accessed applications or even office based applications.

 

We always talk about you know Excel being the Swiss Army Knife of organizations, right? Excel is a pretty powerful little tool and it does a lot of things but it’s not a cloud based, mobile based kind of application, right? So, yeah that’s kind of the ecosystem when we think about those legacy systems, right?

 

Legacy is the term get those into the Microsoft Cloud

 

Danny Ryan:When you say, “value as they move over to the cloud,” is it something where the support costs go down, the cost of running the servers, or what do we typically see as being the-

 

And assume some of these also are just where a lot of people with making the move over to the cloud, they’re basically taking their stuff that’s in there, data center moving it over to Microsoft’s data center and you know maybe not re-architecting it that point in time and just shifting stuff over into Microsoft’s data center. What we’re walking about here is more taking that and changing the way the application itself is built and moving towards more of a modern architecture of this.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah, I mean, it could be moving to a more modern architecture, and it could be moving it to a modern user experience.

 

Danny Ryan:Uh-huh (affirmative)

 

Bruce Harple:But I think the key is trying to leverage as many of those legacy applications as you can, and where you can. And most of these applications tend to be a lot of business applications, [inaudible 00:05:01] applications, you thing said, [inaudible 00:05:04] have a real finite purpose and a real finite set of users, but they’re on these older technologies and platforms, that are-

 

You know part of the issue is just the cost of maintaining those old applications. You know, because they’re on these old platforms. You know, you have individuals in the supporting these applications, and there’s one or two people that have all of the domain knowledge. You know around these old, visual basis access applications, and it’s not a scalable situation, and those applications, the challenge is they’re not extendable. It takes lot of work to extend them, because some of those older technologies are not as agile as we know with some of the newer platforms. And then you get to the point where Microsoft doesn’t support some of those old platforms anymore. And that has to do with your point, somebody that’s running SurePoint on 2003, something like that, at some point you start to lose vendor support for those platforms. The other thing that we’re starting to see a lot too with a lot of the client based applications, or even old client server, right in that model. What happens is, a new operating system is coming out, a new version of Windows come out, new versions of [inaudible 00:06:29] server come out, it gets what? Those applications break.

 

So, so many of those applications are so brittle, and it’s a nightmare for IT organizations to support those old client centric applications, or client server based applications, so it just costs a lot of money, not only from a resource perspective, but from an infrastructure perspective. And today, workforces are more mobile, they’re more device independent, it’s the- we’ve heard the terminology, “work anywhere.” Right? And if I got a client based or client server based application, I can’t work anywhere, not without already peeing in to some server or some box, and it becomes problematic to try to access an application, so that’s a lot of the pain that we’re seeing right in our organizations. And trying to get to a platform that is more agile and is more mobile, that can be extended as the business changes.

 

Danny Ryan:Gotcha, that makes sense.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah.

 

Danny Ryan:And what are some of the goals of doing this as you’re trying to make this move?

 

Bruce Harple:I think the key goal is these legacy applications, these line of business, departmental applications. I mean, they have tremendous value locked inside these applications, because they’re still production applications, right? And they’re still tremendous value to the organizations. So, one of the things that’s key in my organization is making sure you retain that value, because that’s an asset to the enterprise. But the beauty, so the real value proper position is A, retaining that value, that organization, that business value. But now, I get it into a platform and into an environment where I can now begin to extend the application, and “modernize” it, which might be, I put a more modern look and user experience on top of it, or it might be, now I can begin to reshape that application to meet current business needs.

 

So, I’m getting an environment where I can be more agile, I can flex that application, I can make it, by default it could be a mobile application. So the value is, once you get it in to the new platform, you modernize it. Now, I could really be positioned to add more value to the application and create additional business value, does that make sense?

 

Danny Ryan:Yep, that makes sense. That definitely makes sense. So then, along with this, what are you hearing, what’s the overall value proposition that you see with this?

 

Bruce Harple:Well, some of that I talked about, so one is just cost production, and there’s two costs, there’s the operating costs. The operating cost tends to be the people supporting these Legacy applications, maybe you have a reduction in that cost, or because you’re getting into a more platform, you have more resources that can help support and extend that application. Then they’re the capital cost, so if I can move away from an on-print infrastructure, we all know the cost associated with that, not only from the people perspective, but obviously the capital perspective. I give that to the cloud, I can save those costs, and then it really frees some of those IT resources who are spending a lot of time supproting these Legacy apps, it’d freeze them up to do other things, or enable them to retool themselves and grow themselves in learning how to use the new tools and the new technology.

 

So, it’s a win-win for them too, and really I think you’re getting into those cloud based environments where there are [inaudible 00:10:33] established, so I think you’re gonna reduce disruptions with these client based, or client server based applications. When they go down, it’s problematic. And then, we look at it as risk mitigation, any time you can get any of these applications into a cloud based platform you’re minimizing risk, you’re minimizing at least the infrastructure risks, some of those [inaudible 00:11:03]. So it’s really an insurance policy, and you’re really investing in the longer term health of those applications.

 

Danny Ryan:Mm-hmm (affirmative)

 

This all sound great, so how do I do this? (laughing) Wow, that sounds wonderful, how do I modernize?

 

Bruce Harple:I think the first step is to go through an application modernization-

 

Just trying to spend the time to understand what’s this application doing today, what’s its business purpose? What are those core use cases, those [inaudible 00:11:42] scenarios. Capture and keep business roles, and model of the current data structure, that data structure is, behind me is a basic one, there’s access database whether it’s Excel, structure of some kind.

 

Taking that and trying to understand, in the new world, and in new platforms, where does it make the most sense to move or re-platform this application. Is it something that could be re-platformed at Office365 in some way, leveraging all of the services available there, or is something that maybe needs to move in to a [inaudible 00:12:15] platform? Maybe it maybe a bit more custom, and then out of that comes, we call a product backlog, a schedule and a budget for, here’s our recommendation. Here’s what we think the future state of this application would be, and here’s what it’s gonna take to get there. So you start with that.

 

Really at the end of the day, there’s two work streams that come out of this, so if I’m gonna move this platform and re-platform, there is the call for re-platform services. Which is really taking that application and moving it to, either to Office365 as your platform, really moving to what I call solution as a service, not so much software as a service, because we kind of view ourselves as, we’re solution developers, we’re solution builders. We like solving business problems, we like building solutions, and for us, it’s like, you’re taking this application, and turning it in to a solution that can be used and access by mostly users.

 

So, there’s reforming the application, and then the other piece of it underneath it is, “Well that application has data behind it, right? There’s some kind of content, some kind of data.” It could be SurePoint data, which we all know about SurePoint migrations, but you really have to migrate all of the application content to the new platform. Migration services, and we think of migrations around SurePoint migrations a lot of time, but we migrated content from SQL Server, or Access, or Excel. So there’s, out of this modernization assessment, there becomes two parallel work streams. One is to reform the application itself, all the business logic, the UX behind it, et cetera. And then there’s, “Okay, now we get the data moved over to the new platform.” So that’s our view of it.

 

Danny Ryan:That made sense, and how do you see for working with-

 

You used to wrap this up as sort of the first steps of this is really going in to a dis-assessment piece where we’re looking at their environment, and then coming up with a plan from there, and then based off of that is which applications do we try to re-platform. Which one’s then need to have their data migrated, and coming up with an overall strategy around that is the first step to all of this.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah, exactly, because I think you have to look at, what are the applications that are providing me with those values. Because those are the one’s you probably want to move, and re-platform, because now you’re putting them in a position where I can really extend that value, and really have a significant impact on that business user community, so I think you have to do that first level assessment and prioritization of, what applications are the most critical to my business? And those are really the ones you should focus on first.

 

Danny Ryan:In having a outside company like ThreeWill do this to help somebody help these, and because I imagine this is an initiative that’s run by IT, the IT organization, what did the benefits of having an outside organization like ThreeWill do something like this. Is it being able to run this like a project, and have folks pulling the right people at the right time, or what do you perceive is being some of the benefits of having an outsider come in and do this for a company?

 

Bruce Harple:Well, I mean certainly it’s [inaudible 00:15:54] has committed, and managed the whole effort, start to finish, but I think what we bring is best practices around doing these kind of modernizations. And then migrations, re-platforming, and bringing in experience that we’ve had with other customers to bear, and we follow an [inaudible 00:16:15] process, and these kind of modernization projects fit perfectly in to agile escrow. It really lets you incrementally bring these features to cross into the new platform, so awesome.

 

Danny Ryan:Well, I appreciate you taking the time to do this, and look forward to more of these types of engagements in the future, and thank you for spending the time with me to go through this. Thank you so much Bruce, and thanks for all you do every single day, and delivering excellent results on projects. You’re awesome, and you got a great team, so appreciate everything you do.

 

Bruce Harple:Awe man, I appreciate that, just thrilled to be here man, we’re enjoying it.

 

Additional Credits

Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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