Modernizing applications can result in massive cost savings, improved organizational efficiency, and increased capacity for winning more market share.
This is why the application services market is predicted to grow to USD 24.8 billion by 2030, representing an annual growth rate of 16.8%.
To reap the potential rewards, an application modernization project needs to stay on track and tackle system updates and code refactoring in an organized way so the process can be completed as quickly as possible (and with fewer outages, backtracking, and bugs).
In this guide, we outline the steps for creating a roadmap for an application modernization project.
How to create a roadmap for software application modernization
Roadmaps are frequently used for software development. But when you’re modernizing a software application, you need to do a lot of research and strategy work before you can start adding tasks to your roadmap.
1. Research users and competitors
Start by researching what your users expect, what feature requests they've already asked for, and what companies they're leaving you for when they churn.
The last thing you want is to develop the same application without addressing strategic concerns.
2. Get aligned on the business strategy
Great examples of software modernization all have something in common: the goals were outlined and agreed upon early on in the process.
When modernizing outdated tech, it’s easy to get caught in the weeds of data architecture without really tackling the product strategy. Use this time to take a step back and consider what you want the future of the application and the business to look like. Make sure you also clarify the expected impacts of the modernization project.
This product strategy template from Amplitude might be useful for documenting your strategy and getting aligned on what you want the final product to be.
Get started by documenting the business goals and main user flows for your product. Then come back and update your business and product strategy as you progress through the other steps and uncover more details.
3. Audit the architecture, code, and UX of your legacy application
The next step is to audit the current state of the application. To conduct deep technical discovery, review the data architecture, the code for all of the critical features, and the UX of the entire legacy application.
You might want to use Atlassian’s architecture review template to organize your work.
Make sure to also check out our guide to UX audits.
It’s important to not just review the data architecture and code, but the UX as well. You want to walk away with a product that’s not only future-proof, but one that is usable and user-centric as well.
4. Choose modern coding frameworks
“We love Laravel for the backend and Vue.js for the frontend. Developers love using and learning these frameworks. They’re fast, lightweight, and save hours of time.”
One of the most important decisions you’ll make during any modernization project is which new frameworks to build with. We recommend choosing frameworks that developers enjoy and respect. Why? They’ll be the most likely to have staying power.
We love Laravel for the backend and Vue.js for the frontend. Developers love using and learning these frameworks. They’re fast, lightweight, and save hours of time.
You should also consider your process for continuous deployment. Most likely, if you’re dealing with an outdated application, you need new CI/CD tooling as well.
5. Develop the data architecture strategy
Now it’s time to develop your new data architecture strategy. Use a tool like Figma or Lucidchart to visualize and share your plans for the data architecture and get buy-in from your team.
Remember, your data architecture is what powers and energizes the entire application, so make sure to consider how data is created, acquired, stored, processed, surfaced, and shared throughout all key features.
Lucidchart provides this application architecture example and template, which you can edit to match your own strategy.
6. Design the new UX
Now it’s time to design the new UX. Start with a low-fidelity prototype, and then get feedback from users and stakeholders. After addressing any feedback, create a high-fidelity prototype and then move onto the final UX design.
It’s smart to handle UX before jumping into roadmapping and development so you can make sure that code refactoring and new development is only taking place for essential features that are part of key user flows.
7. Create a roadmap to organize development
Now that you’ve done all of the necessary review, strategy, and design work, it’s time to actually create the roadmap that will guide the bulk of the project. It’s important to do all of the above steps first, so that you’re only adding necessary work to your roadmap.
Use a roadmapping tool like ProductBoard or Frill to or create a visual roadmap that can be shared with the development team. You can use categories such as under consideration, planned, in sprint, and launched for your kanban column titles.
Keep in mind that a roadmap is designed to plan and clarify the development strategy, while your backlog is where you’ll organize the critical tasks such as code refactoring, performance testing, and QA required to satisfy the backlog.
To this point, be sure to keep your roadmap simple. Each item should represent a unique feature or function. The more streamlined your modernization roadmap, the easier it is for everyone to stay on the same page with development.
8. Continue to update the roadmap as the project progresses
Roadmapping is an ongoing process.
The product manager should continue to add items, remove items, and update items in your roadmap. The changes can be affected by development challenges, budget constraints, new user research, or competitor updates.
How to create a roadmap for future development (with examples)
Modernization roadmaps aren’t typically shared because companies don’t want to worry users with all of the complicated steps of a massive modernization project.
But after you finish your application modernization project, it’s smart to create a roadmap that is public, or at least public to your signed-in users.
This way, you can easily collect new roadmap ideas and let users know if you plan to develop them.
ContentStudio roadmap example
This example roadmap from ContentStudio includes lots of upcoming updates, including content plan downloads and hashtag insights. Upvoting makes it easy to see which ideas users care about the most.
DoneDone roadmap example
In this roadmap example from task management platform DoneDone, we see that the columns used are:
Creating an application roadmap is essential to keep everyone’s eyes on what really matters—great features that users need.
Ready to modernize your application? Work with DevSquad.