Navigating government agencies' digital transformation with application modernization

18/04/2023 minute read Tim Jones

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

When 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 modernize 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 modernization to get their thoughts on everything from their organization’s strategic direction to challenges around mainframe modernization.

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

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “Yes, we want to replace and modernize 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 modernize.”

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 modernize?

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 modernization 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 while maintaining the budget limits.”

3. Which mainframe modernization 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 program, and the cost of running the programs is also comparatively low.”

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

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 modernization, 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 modernize first. The lack of appropriate personnel with full expertise in mainframe modernization 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 modernization?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “We haven't modernized 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 modernization project is completed.”

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

6. How has mainframe modernization impacted your organization'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 favor of more environmentally friendly infrastructure, since it can help us minimize 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 utilized for other purposes.”

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

7. Has mainframe modernization helped with customer service?

Enterprise Architect, U.S. Federal Government: “Mainframe modernization 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. Modernization will ease administrative burdens while promoting improved compliance.”

Senior Project Manager, U.S. State Government: “The modernization 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 programs.”

8. How important is your organization'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 digitalization 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, digitization, 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 modernization 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 digitalization.”

Our latest Mainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report summarizes key findings from a survey of organizations around the globe that utilize 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 organization’s core business applications, written in CA Gen in the 1990s, resided on a mainframe. They were facing mounting pressure to modernize 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 modernization 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 modernization projects, please get in touch.