In business and in life, it’s natural to set goals. Like many of us, you probably establish goals based on what you can accomplish in the short term, while gauging what it will take in terms of resources, assets and time.
An analysis by Snjezana Cvoro-Begovic, an EVP of Partnership Strategy at Cognizant Softvision, talks about the five similarities between application modernization and marathon training, giving insight on how to pace yourself.
But you may also embrace the idea of stretch goals, which help with motivation and permission to be ambitious, sometimes enabling us to focus on what’s most important and the task at hand.
On the personal side, maybe it’s losing 25 pounds instead of 15, finally writing that great novel, or convincing yourself this is the year you’ll run a marathon. On the business side, goals might involve doubling your sales, capturing more market share, or transforming your business and technology to become an industry leader.
Transformations & Marathons — Getting Off On The Right Foot
I have been involved in the software development and technology world for 30 years. During this time, I have actively participated in a great deal of technology-invoked changes, and I have witnessed the impact technology has brought to the world.
One of the most meaningful developments today is “application modernization,” or the process of taking existing monolithic and on-premises applications and modernizing their infrastructure, architecture, and overall experience. It is a big change, impacting every industry. It requires changes in business culture, processes, relationships and many more.
In this regard, it reminds me of training for a marathon.
I discovered marathons later in life. I used to play tennis, but with business travel it became a difficult activity to maintain. I needed a new sport, one I could take with me anywhere in the world.
The average person doesn’t train for marathons when they start running. Instead, they’ll try more modest races, perhaps a 5K. In similar fashion, businesses don’t immediately commit millions of dollars to upgrade legacy technology. Instead, they’ll approach application modernization one step at a time, perhaps moving five applications to the cloud while changing the user experience in two. Then, they’ll repeat this while looking to improve their process.
Lessons for Training and Engagement — Pushing Up That Hill
There are five key lessons for ensuring success with marathon training and application modernization:
Stay Diligent and Motivated – Both have a high degree of difficulty – we’re talking about a complete overhaul of legacy systems and getting ready to run 26.2 miles. It’s very easy to get discouraged. After all, if either were easy, more businesses would already be modernized and everyone would proudly display that 26.2 mile sticker on their cars. With marathon training, the most challenging aspect is getting up almost every day to run according to the training plan. It’s similar with application modernization. You need to follow your modernization goals, every sprint, every milestone, and do it with a steely resolve to reach your goals.
Embrace Your Community – When marathon training, your sole focus is the race. Everything you eat, your sleep, your mood… It’s all connected to your training schedule. You can’t do it without the support of your family. Modernizing 3,000 legacy applications requires several talents such as cloud, Java, .NET, Mobile, API, Microservices change management, process improvement, along with project management. Your entire company needs to be prepared and ready to play a role.
Learn As You Go – As you get comfortable and gain confidence, you will learn how to pace yourself during longer runs, how to train when it snows, and how to slow down and heal when injured. On the modernization front, you will experience failure and success. An application designed to improve performance may not deliver a huge impact. It could be related to performance, or perhaps the ‘look and feel.’ And that’s okay. You will learn something new every time you modernize an application. Be prepared to adjust your plans.
Celebrate Each Accomplishment – The most important aspect for running a marathon and application modernization is the ability to recognize and celebrate each success. Running a 10K or half marathon is a major accomplishment. It’s important to take the time to celebrate with those who helped make it happen. The same holds true for any successful major integration. Releasing a modernized application calls for “a team hug.” Everyone wants to win, and acknowledging everyone’s contribution and hard work will be a motivating factor when presented with the next challenge.
Aim High But Avoid Burnout – You’ve experienced some success and want to go further… 26.2 miles and full digital transformation. You’ll have to condition your mind and body for what’s next. In the case of application modernization, if you find outdated technology, is it better to ignore, to modernize, or rewrite? Quick business-driven actions are critical, and the same holds true for your marathon training. 26.2 miles will undoubtedly include some steep hills, and as you face the hill on mile 10 you need to decide if you will walk or sprint it, keeping in mind there are 16.2 more to go.
Coming Together To Move Forward
Long-distance running evolves into a lifestyle. I’ve raced in Vancouver, Oregon, Napa Valley, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Madrid, to name a few. Every race brings different rewards and contributes to my goal of living healthy as a citizen of the world.
It is the same with application modernization. You need a huge collaborative effort that includes design, engineering, and agile method before you reach your first milestone. Once that first success is realized, and you’ve celebrated with your team, you just keep going for more: another batch of applications, another set of business goals, and more new technologies to tackle.
And what do we do when a crisis, like COVID-19 hits? Naturally, things shift. All races have been cancelled for the foreseeable future and we have to adapt. My running group set our own race, picking my birthday in June as the race date, and we are training toward that. We don’t have group runs, we respect social distancing, but we are connected remotely and tracking our progress. In June we’ll run a real race and celebrate our mutual milestones. The power of the running community is amazing and inspiring.
The same holds true for application modernization. Business has been impacted, processes have shifted, and projects have been put on hold. But, application modernization efforts don’t need to stop, they need to be re-imagined and flexible. Work can be accomplished remotely. Processes can ensure continuity and that progress does not stall. New technologies and tools are empowering remote work like never before and teams can deliver regardless of their location.
Goals and timelines may need to be reset, but now is not the time to stand still. After all, the diligent turtle won the race.