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Back To The Future Series: Portfolio Modernization

Over time, we consistently hear feedback from our class participants, alumni, community, and clients, “You’ve got to share more of Charlie’s thoughts about this!”  We have been looking for additional ways to provide Charlie’s insight to our leadership community and plan to do even more going forward. As we organize new resources and go back into our archives, we find that we already have a lot of great stuff – stories, articles, speeches, videos, presentations, workshop content and more. In all, Charlie’s insight and advice continue to be relevant and applicable to today’s challenges. That’s why we’ve decided to start a series we’d like to call “Back To The Future”.

Some of the resources we’ll share in this series will be from long ago; some are more recent. All of them will be great reminders of the key principles, patterns, and experience that Charlie shares with us every day. In my opinion, they are powerful not only because of the way he spins a story and translates complex ideas into simple yet meaningful lessons, but also because he’s been learning, adjusting, and reinforcing this wisdom for decades across industries and dozens of transformations.

Topic: Portfolio Modernization

Timeframe: May 2019

Place/Context: Dialexa Executive Speaker Series

Click here for the entire video on this topic.

Connecting the Dots

We know that portfolios of legacy systems are so important – in good and bad ways. The good news is that legacy systems tend to have great, and sometimes unique competitive advantage, IP in them. This is how we run our businesses. This is how we achieve functional excellence. The tough part is that these legacy systems (and the infrastructure they ride on and the “hairball” of interconnection between them) make our IT estates expensive, risky, fragile, and make us slow to respond to business change. We have to both invest in new AND continuously improve, modernize, decouple, re-architect, replace, re-host, refactor the legacy base. If we do, then we can become efficient and productive (instead of expensive), secure (instead of risky), solid (instead of fragile), and agile to change (instead of slow). While this may be easy for IT leaders to understand it can be difficult to sell to our business partners and difficult to execute.

More From Charlie

From Charlie’s recent blog post Thriving in Dynamic Times: Turning Headwinds into Tailwinds Part 6: Portfolio Modernization.

The Challenge

It never feels like the right time to invest in simplifying, modernizing, re-architecting, or replacing existing assets that seem, on the surface, to be working okay. Even in good or normal times, budgets are tight, and it always seems more exciting and productive, in the short-term, to focus investment on developing new capabilities or buying the next shiny object or building something with the latest new tools.

The Time is Now

It’s definitely time for some counter-intuitive thinking, selling, investing, and acting. We’ve got to find a way to sell Portfolio Modernization into a huge headwind where many companies, in critical industries, will be very strapped for investment dollars or mindshare to focus on the embedded IT landscape. However, in the bigger picture, this is a ticking time bomb. There may not be a next time for some.

Most of us have seen the future of the “Modern Era” accelerate in just the last 4-6 weeks. Online shopping, banking, learning, entertainment, meetings, etc. are not new. They were all evolving. Now they have all accelerated. The biggest lasting change won’t be the doom and gloom of COVID-19. We’re going to emerge from the current crisis mode sometime soon, and the digital era will have leapfrogged to 2023. So, it’s time to “tack into the wind” and not only sustain but also increase and accelerate your Portfolio Modernization efforts. Those who don’t will find themselves really out of position, still with the rigidity that inhibits change and agility and a cost structure they can no longer afford, while the future shows up even sooner and faster than we ever anticipated pre-COVID-19.


Author: Jon Feld, COO, Principal
Connect with Jon Feld on LinkedIn



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Russell Villemez

Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute

Head of Technology Strategy, Dialexa – a Feld Group Institute partner

Highly regarded CTO and change agent with IT strategy and enterprise architecture expertise.

Russell Villemez is an Affiliate with the Feld Group Institute and the head of Technology Strategy at Dialexa, a Technology Research, Design and Creation firm that works with organizations on initiatives such as Operational Transformation, Business Growth, and New Venture Creation.

During 17 years in operational roles and 15 years in consulting roles, Russell has worked across a variety of industries in both executive leadership positions and as a subject matter expert. Russell thrives on the scale and complexity of leading major change agendas in large corporate environments.

Recent consulting clients include AmerisourceBergen, the American Automobile Association, Brinker International, Cubic, Equifax, and Cox Automotive. A common thread is the client’s need for strong leadership during a period of change—whether motivated by acquisitions, spin-offs, competitive pressures, or other factors. Clients also benefit from Russell’s expertise in enterprise architecture, agile development, application portfolio rationalization, technology and architecture strategy, as well as business strategy and commercial software product development.

Recognized as a versatile IT executive, adept at solving complex problems with innovative solutions, Russell’s capabilities and achievements span a continuum from business-strategy formation to hands-on IT solution development. His extensive career achievements include pioneering the first use of relational databases in high-volume transaction systems in the ‘80s, applying voice recognition DSPs in public intelligent network services for consumer markets in the ‘90s, and leading large-scale adoptions of open systems, object technology, and middleware frameworks in complex business environments, often in advance of commercially available software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Russell served at HP as Enterprise Services Chief Technology Officer for the Americas, leading a global capability for embedded Account CTOs in large enterprises. Russell began his career at Accenture, where he first crafted his consultative problem-solving approach, later honed at A.T. Kearny and the Feld Group. Russell’s deep telecom experience is built upon numerous director and enterprise architect positions at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Telstra, US West, Pacific Bell, and Sprint, and as V.P. and CIO for WebLink Wireless.

Russell has a BS in Business Administration from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. In his spare time, Russell participates in amateur auto racing, and is a driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.