Application Modernization Is An Investment In Business Growth

Steven Grandchamp is CEO of Vaadin—a modern web application platform for Java.

The move to cloud continues to accelerate. Gartner predicts cloud spending will surpass traditional IT spending by 2025, with more than half (51%) of IT spending in the cloud (compared to 41% in 2022). This migration to cloud is also driving software modernization projects.

As companies look to modernize, Java remains a large piece of the puzzle as the workhorse programming language for enterprise business applications. This is unlikely to change any time soon as the June 2022 RedMonk Programming Language Rankings listed Java as the third most popular language, and the Q1 2022 Developer Nation survey indicates that 45% of developers use Java.

As you look to modernize your Java business applications, here are five critical considerations to ensure a successful modernization journey into 2023.

1. Anticipate stakeholder concerns.

Successful modernization needs buy-in from three groups: executive sponsors, application leaders and developers. A thorough migration assessment is the best way to generate information you’ll need to ensure cross-organizational commitment to seeing the project through. Know that executives will likely zero in on the costs and risks of different modernization approaches (big bang vs. gradual), delivery timelines and the impact on existing users.

Application leaders will be most concerned about tools or techniques that can reduce the effort, what skills will be needed and how to scale the migration efforts. Developers will need to hear detailed, technical answers about changes to tools and technologies, how the existing code has changed and how they’ll be expected to support and maintain the application after modernization is complete.

2. Evaluate modernization approaches.

There are many ways to modernize applications. You can try to simply lift and shift to the cloud or throw that application away and start over with an entirely new code base. A middle-of-the-road approach is to refactor or rearchitect the code you already have.

Deciding on the best approach will depend on the size and state of your existing application. For large applications that still provide the correct business logic and workflows, look for alternatives that let you leverage previous investment in the current application while transforming it to reach your modernization goals such as less technical debt, migrating to less expensive platforms or garnering more security.

3. Align your approach with the team you have.

Some application teams will want to leverage their existing Java expertise to build a full-stack pure-Java application. Keep them productive by looking for free open source frameworks and tools to make it easy to build a modern user experience on top of your Java back end without the need to learn new languages or frameworks.

Other application teams may split responsibilities for front-end and back-end development. In this case, front-end developers may gravitate toward JavaScript or TypeScript and related open source frameworks such as React, Angular or Hilla, while back-end developers continue to use Java. Your team’s technology skills and preferences will determine much about what’s feasible, what can be supported and how successful the transition will be.

4. Improve user experience (UX) to bring business value.

The explosion of consumer-facing websites and apps has set the bar for what your users expect from the enterprise business applications they use every day. However, the critical KPIs you choose for business applications will often be quite different. For example, while a consumer shopping site or app must optimize for infrequent use by ensuring fast load times and simple transaction flows, a heavily used business application might need to focus on minimizing the time to complete repetitive tasks. Getting the UX right can increase efficiency and reduce costs—as well as make your internal users or external customers more satisfied.

5. Focus on developer velocity.

The success or failure of app modernization hinges on developer velocity—making it as easy as possible for developers to deliver products or features more quickly while delivering value to their users. A McKinsey survey measured the impact of developer velocity, and companies with high Developer Velocity Index (DVI) scores realized revenue growth four to five times faster than those with the lowest DVI scores.

The quicker your development team can move to deliver new capabilities, the more competitive you can be, the more unique things you can offer to your customers, and the more you’ll drive revenue. Developer velocity matters. The key to juicing developer velocity is equipping developers with best-in-class tools. Companies with solid tools for continuous integration and delivery, planning, collaboration and development were 65% more innovative than those in the lower-scoring quartile.


Although there may be uncertain economic times ahead in 2023, your journey to the cloud can continue. There are plenty of ways to efficiently and successfully modernize applications.

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