Navigating government agencies' digital transformation with application modernisation
Blog //18-04-2023

Navigating government agencies' digital transformation with application modernisation

by Tim Jones, Managing Director - Application Modernisation

Even though governments across the globe have already taken monumental steps towards modernising their core systems, it's no surprise to us that many critical applications still need urgent attention.

When U.S. President Joe Biden sent his first discretionary funding request to Congress, which granted another $500 million to the Technology Modernization Fund, the request noted that there’s an ‘urgent need to modernise Federal technology, with particular emphasis on mission-essential systems and citizen-facing digital services.’

We spoke in depth with several enterprise architects, application managers, and project managers within the US Government about their experience with mainframe modernisation to get their thoughts on everything from their organisation’s strategic direction to challenges around mainframe modernisation.

1. Is your organisation planning to reduce its dependency on legacy systems?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “Yes, we want to replace and modernise our aging IT systems as soon as possible. We know that it will cost us more in the long run to maintain the legacy systems than it will to modernise.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “Reducing dependency on mainframe-based legacy systems is a key objective for the business.”

2. What are the main drivers to modernise?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “There are three main drivers 1) Streamline our operations by eliminating millions of lines of legacy code 2) Improve security and data protection and 3) Reduce the cost of maintaining these legacy systems.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “The key drivers for mainframe modernisation are increased efficiency, lower costs, and the strategic shift to the cloud. We have always challenged ourselves to provide maximum utility and create value for state government and our citizens whilst maintaining the budget limits.”

3. Which mainframe modernisation approach are you using and why?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “The approach that we are using is a combination of rehost and retire.  It will help us operate our business more effectively and we don’t want to be stuck using legacy systems, which provide little to no room for innovation.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “We are using rehosting as this approach offers little or no modification to the existing applications. This approach has delivered a quick and convenient cloud migration solution based on our needs. Rehosting has reduced our cost of migration programme, and the cost of running the programmes is also comparatively low.”

4. What are the main challenges you have faced when modernising?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government:The key problems we face are the risks associated with replacing out-of-date hardware and software.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “In the initial stages of our mainframe modernisation, we did encounter some challenges. Poor planning has to be the first challenge because we had no idea where to start, which approach to choose, which vendor to pick and which applications/software to modernise first. The lack of appropriate personnel with full expertise in mainframe modernisation was also a concern. Another major issue that we faced internally was an underestimation of the complexity of our processes. Migrating more than 10 million records written in COBOL was also a major challenge.”

5. What kind of cost savings (per annum) have you seen as a result of mainframe modernisation?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “We haven't modernised our entire system, but there has been an estimated waste of $11.6 million in mainframe maintenance and $1.5 million in overuse of its licensing and software subscription support costs that can be saved once our mainframe modernisation project is completed.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “We have saved around $20-25 million due to mainframe modernisation. Automation and cloud simplify processes and require less time, resulting in increased productivity.”

6. How has mainframe modernisation impacted your organisation's sustainability goals?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “Sustainability is currently the most urgent issue; thus, maintaining sustainability and reducing carbon footprint are essential requirements. Our top focus is retiring and decommissioning old systems in favour of more environmentally friendly infrastructure, since it can help us minimise paperwork and staff workload. We are attempting to move all of our data to the cloud to decrease the footprint of our aging on-premises IT systems, which also take up a lot of floor space that could be utilised for other purposes.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “Mainframe modernisation has had a positive impact on our organisation's sustainability goals by simplifying and automating processes that in a way that wasn’t possible before.  It has helped us optimise our transportation resources to maintain a smaller per capita carbon footprint.”

7. Has mainframe modernisation helped with customer service?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “Mainframe modernisation has undoubtedly enhanced the customer experience. Also, it made it possible to offer additional digital services and support by making it easier to access operational data. Modernisation will ease administrative burdens whilst promoting improved compliance.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “The modernisation approach has helped us deliver better services to our customers as it gives us access to real-time information.  Generating reports has become very easy and reports generated are more appropriate than the previous ones handcrafted using the mainframe system. Data-driven insights have enabled efficient planning and assessment of projects, operational activities, and maintenance programmes.”

8. How important is your organisation's cloud strategy?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “Our cloud plan is crucial because, in addition to the need to learn how to adapt as digitalisation advances, maintaining these legacy systems over the long term will cost more than successfully implementing our cloud strategy. In addition, there are other elements to consider, such as sustainability, digitisation, systematic management, security, and risk management. Our IT system is the foundation of our company, and if we are not continually working and adjusting to the latest trends, our business will undoubtedly suffer.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “We are working with an underlying aim to provide fluent and uninterrupted transportation services to citizens. We handle a large amount of data daily, and our provider ensures the complete safety of our data and provides a seamless experience. Cloud is helping us a lot, and it also plays a key role in the success of our department.”

9. What will be the biggest challenge in the next few years?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “In my opinion, finding the correct people in this mainframe modernisation process will be the biggest challenge that I can clearly see. Finding the ideal employee with both mainframe and cloudification expertise is quite difficult.”

Senior Project Manager, US State Government: “Shifting to a completely different infrastructure is never easy. There is a very big challenge in sourcing and finding new skilful talent that can facilitate us in this era of digitalisation.”

Our latest Mainframe Modernisation Business Barometer Report summarises key findings from a survey of organisations around the globe that utilise mainframes and generate annual revenues of more than US $1 billion. View the full report here.


How a European Government Agency successfully migrated away from CA Gen

A large government agency (which employs over 1,000 citizens) within the Kingdom of Sweden is responsible for servicing millions of customers. The organisation’s core business applications, written in CA Gen in the 1990s, resided on a mainframe. They were facing mounting pressure to modernise due to exorbitant costs (particularly software licensing) and resource challenges stemming from a lack of available CA Gen developers. Ultimately, they chose to refactor their CA Gen applications to Java on Linux with Advanced’s Automated Refactoring solution. 

Discover how they reduced costs and improved performance by reading the full case study here.

Our team of modernisation experts has an unmatched history of project success, backed by the best tools available. If you would like to find out more about how we can help with your legacy modernisation projects, please get in touch.


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Tim Jones

Tim Jones


Managing Director - Application Modernisation

Tim has a track record of success in mission-critical Application Modernisation projects. He is renowned for helping organisations maximise their investment in critical legacy applications.

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