The True Path to Modernizing Government IT
There has been widespread acknowledgement of the need to modernize IT in federal, state and local government agencies. This has been most acutely demonstrated through the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which will allow federal agencies to invest savings accumulated through efficiency practices in technology modernization.
In part, MGT was conceived amidst growing concern that nearly 75 percent of Federal IT’s budget goes toward maintaining existing, or “legacy,” systems, though its IT spend aligns with the private-sector average.
Across federal, state and local governments, the presumption “new” is better and all legacy systems are old or ineffective has convinced critics of the budget it’s time to modernize mission-critical assets from systems like the mainframe by migrating them to newer platforms like the cloud through a “rip, rewrite and replace” strategy.
However, this isn’t true modernization; it’s a shortsighted scheme that ultimately pins technology against citizens.
The longer code has been running, the better it becomes as bugs and inefficiencies are eliminated. Many public-sector CIOs have said the COBOL and Assembler programs in which their agencies’ legacy systems have been meticulously and prudently written can be maintained and enhanced.
With over 220 billion lines of mainframe application code in use today and five billion more added each year, it’s clear government CIOs can and should continue leveraging those programs. That’s why public-sector CIOs should avoid unnecessary and risky re-platforming under the guise of modernization. A far better strategy is to leverage the right platforms where they perform best, keeping the focus on developing innovative services that materially improve the lives of citizens.
Citizens want federal, state and local government services that are available on demand at all times. This requires resilient technology services that are developed and operated efficiently and effectively.
Many believe the cloud is the only answer for managing those services because it offers scalability, customization and anywhere access; however, the mainframe has also proven to be one of the most modern and adaptable platforms available to large enterprises and government institutions, to the extent 88 percent of CIOs believe it will continue to be a key business asset for the next decade.
You don’t have to abandon the mainframe, nor do you have to completely forgo the benefits of the cloud. A two-platform IT approach can yield significantly more benefits for modernizing government IT, because it calls for keeping agencies’ mission-critical applications and data on the mainframe and moving less critical workloads to the cloud—while keeping both moving at the same speed.
According to a Forrester report, between 40 and 50 percent of companies face serious issues when they attempt to modernize their mainframe environments by 1) migrating applications, 2) working around the platform or 3) leveraging the wrong tools and processes.
Modernization is far from a platform issue—it’s an issue of culture, processes and tools.
Today’s innovative applications span multiple platforms. Many of the modern front-end technologies customers use to access services are supported by the mainframe. However, while the mainframe is integral to the progress of public-sector IT, the mission-critical programs it runs still must be brought up to speed.
Public-sector IT can learn from the private sector and leverage best practices for transforming culture, processes and tools to ensure that happens:
For more information, contact Claire Bailey, Director, Federal, State and Local Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Just because something has a particular age doesn’t necessarily mean that it is at end of life.”
– Beth Killoran, HHS CIO
“The underlying infrastructure is very much state of the art. That is why we can process returns so fast.”
– Terry Milholland, former IRS CIO
“Right now, it will not pay to change the back end of some of the systems we have. COBOL is not going away anytime soon. The prediction is that it will be around as our major business system for a while.”
– Terry Halvorsen, former DOD CIO