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Navigating Modernisation Challenges: Incremental, Low-Risk Approaches to Success

As Artificial Intelligence becomes pervasive in today’s business, technology modernisation has become a critical imperative. Organisations must transition their application and data from legacy systems, especially mainframes, to capitalise on the new opportunities. However, legacy transformation is unfortunately still riddled with challenges and uncertainties, making it a daunting task – so far. To address these challenges, a new paradigm is emerging.

Rather than opting for drastic transformations, businesses increasingly embrace a more incremental and low-risk approach to modernisation. This approach provides several advantages over the traditional methods. It focuses on building the fabric of change within the organisation, taking small but meaningful steps towards modernisation. Let’s explore the key components of this incremental, low-risk journey towards a future-proof environment.

The Shift from Certainty to Risk

The days of certainty in technology choices have given way to increased risk. In the past, there was a time when selecting certain technology brands was considered safe. But as we enter 2024, a new reality has set in. Pervasive artificial intelligence, social embedded analytics, and other transformative technologies have been integrated into core business processes, challenging the wisdom of sticking with outdated systems. Businesses also face a service integrity risk because expert staff associated with ageing technology platforms are leaving the workplace.

This process tends to be overlooked in the digital change agenda. Still, it impacts the transformation initiative while simultaneously putting pressure on live services, often the ones supporting revenue-generating business processes. Finally, pricing practices by hardware and software vendors have introduced substantial commercial risk and uncertainty to operational budgeting and continue to smother budgets that might be made available to support the change agenda.

In simpler terms, organisations hang on to their legacy systems by a thread without fully grasping the scale and impact of the risks they take to support these platforms daily.

The Need for Incremental, Low-risk Approaches

One of the main ideas behind the incremental approach to modernisation is the recognition that massive upfront investments don’t always yield the desired outcomes. They can often lead to more significant risks and uncertainties. The new approach is to break the journey into smaller, manageable steps, tackling one challenge at a time.

This perspective shifts the focus from a daunting all-or-nothing proposition to a series of achievable milestones. This approach still begins by examining the full scope of the problem. Yet, instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, you can spread the risk over multiple manageable stages. This approach allows you to learn from each step, adapt as necessary, and ensure the smooth progression of your modernisation efforts. With each incremental step, your organisation gains confidence and can course-correct as necessary.

The key is to shift the narrative from one of crisis management to one of strategic modernisation. It’s about moving away from high-risk, big-bang projects and transitioning to a carefully considered and incremental approach.

The “7 Rs” of Modernisation

One of the key concepts of legacy application transformation is the “7 Rs” of modernisation, which include refactoring, replacing, and rewriting, among other approaches. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The choice of which “R” to apply should be based on the specific application or workload.

We want to stress the importance of evaluating the problem through multiple lenses, including risk, agility, and business value. An agile approach, allowing for course corrections and alignment with business needs, has been found to be more effective than traditional project approaches.

Capitalise on Enabling Technology and Human Expertise

At the heart of the incremental approach to modernisation lies an integration platform – a platform designed to tackle the technical complexities that arise during modernisation projects. It addresses issues such as data migration and seamless application transition, connecting the “old world” with the “new world” efficiently and securely.

While not the sole solution, the integration platform plays a pivotal role in alleviating the risks associated with modernisation. Providing an ecosystem of supporting technologies and expertise ensures that the incremental journey towards state-of-the-art technology and business processes remains on track.

Combining technology and human expertise enables the focus on business value and creates a viable path to success rather than taking a complex, high-risk approach.

Industry-Specific Challenges

While the incremental approach to modernisation is gaining traction across various sectors, industries still exhibit nuances in their adoption. For example, tier-one global banks, which rely heavily on mainframes, are understandably less likely to opt for rapid, drastic changes. Instead, they take measured steps to ensure a smooth transition.

Telecommunications and retail industries face unique challenges in supply chain, order management, and billing processes. These areas often require intricate modernisation efforts, and businesses in these sectors are starting to realise the importance of the incremental, low-risk approach.


Modernising mainframe applications and data is no longer optional; it’s necessary. We strongly advocate adopting an incremental approach while considering multiple lenses, including risk, agility, and business value. The key is to align IT and business goals, jointly driving a successful modernisation effort that ensures long-term sustainability in a rapidly changing digital world.

At LzLabs, we understand the complexities of modernisation and offer the technology and expertise to guide you through your transformational journey. By embracing an incremental, low-risk approach and leveraging our integration platform, businesses can confidently address the challenges of legacy systems and secure their future in the digital age. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organisation modernise effectively and mitigate risks.


Whitepaper: Mainframe Modernisation from LzLabs and CIO Magazine

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