A Path to Successful Legacy Modernization for the Public Sector

As a government organization, the benefits of modernizing IT for organizations are becoming more and more self-evident, and yet the risks associated with migrating sensitive and often mission critical data are still cited as the most significant barriers to considering full platform transformation.

Anyone who has worked in the government industry over the past 20 years no doubt has at least one horror story regarding a failed migration. So what are the greatest barriers to entry for government organizations, and how do we share learnings and best practices as an overall industry with our fellow teammates and peers?

Modern Systems has 30 years of experience to draw on for these types of conversions / migrations, and has completed 60-plus successful public sector migrations in Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and North America, comprising more than 140 database schemas.

What has all of this experience taught us, and what should organizations be thinking about when it comes to modernizing their IT? Here are our four tips for legacy migrations for the public sector.

1. Shift views from merely accepting regulation to using it as a strategic lever
First, understand and accept that regulation and compliance changes are a constant, and embrace them.

All industries struggle with compliance and regulation, but for government entities this is of heightened concern. As a government organization, you are not likely to easily hand over your databases, software code or other IP to a third party. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was the precursor to many privacy and security regulations that have grown considerably due to security and privacy breaches that companies are facing quite frequently.

Additionally, there are a host of regulatory concerns that need to be considered, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), NARA Records Management, the U.K data protection act of 1988, the records management act in the U.S., not to mention the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act signed by President Donald Trump on December 12, 2017.

These regulations have another side. They can also be seen as opportunities, and government entities need to not lose sight of the fact that implementing consent requirements is an opportunity for your organization to acquire flexible rights to use and share data while maximizing business value.

In addition, as more cloud solutions come into play, the options for migration become less scary since customers do not have to deliver their code.

2. Engage and educate staff
As with any big changes, legacy system migrations can make employees feel nervous and act in territorial ways. Will they be able to learn to use the new system? Could it end up making their job harder? Or worse, could it make their job so easy that they in fact become obsolete? Keeping staff regularly updated and proactively articulating to them the benefits of the new system—such as increased efficiencies, flexibility and ultimately a better end-user customer experience– can help to alleviate these fears.

Training is critical. If you decide to migrate your system to a private cloud, for example, will the existing staff be ready to manage the new system? As cloud services continue to flourish under the MGT act, this will continue to be important for training your staff.

Last, know who should be one of the key decision makers, and who needs to just be kept informed. The last thing you want to do is create a culture of “decision by committee” when it comes to these critical IT projects.

3. Push for a culture of innovation

At times it might seem safer to take the path of least resistance, but a safer path can often drag down organizations and even put them at risk for efficiency and growth. Government organizations often choose to stick with legacy-based, incumbent tech vendors rather than looking critically at alternative players and solutions that might progress them on a path into a bright future.

In the worst case scenario, organizations decide to do nothing. This can create many future problems as seasoned IT veterans trained on mainframes retire, and a new cast of IT leaders come into the organization. Intellectual capital gets lost, and so does productivity.

4. Assess your current environment

At a minimum, know what you have in your IT environment and build a clear picture of which applications, operations and infrastructure are causing you risk. If you are worried about leaving your large IT SI, consider allowing a smaller firm with deep expertise to at least provide you with a complete assessment.

For example, at Modern Systems, irrespective of whether one of our customers intends to migrate their legacy systems, we always begin every engagement with a complete assessment of their current environment. This includes a mainframe application assessment, operational and infrastructure assessment and if applicable, a cloud readiness assessment.

Completing an assessment alone can benefit customers by allowing redundant code to be eliminated, reducing the total cost of ownership and simplifying any future conversion/reengineering initiative. With Modern Systems’ approach, customers start saving money even before the conversion project even begins.

As with any industry, challenges and regulations will continue to persist for IT leaders. There are unique challenges ahead for the public sector, but leaders can also view these challenges as opportunities. Taking these steps, as well as talking to your peers at industry events like NASCIO can help ensure you aren’t caught flat footed as the changing regulatory and technology environment moves at a speedy pace.

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