Urgent Need for Application Modernization Seen at the Federal Level
December 2, 2015 Alex Woodie
Security breaches. Downtime. Poor performance. These are some of the problems federal IT managers expect to encounter if they continue to run legacy applications as they now exist, according to a recent study from MeriTalk. But instead of ditching the old applications and writing new ones from scratch, MeriTalk advocates a selective modernization approach that blends new and old.
MeriTalk, a public-private partnership that addresses IT issues in the federal government, recently tackled the topic of legacy modernization with a report titled “Future Ready Applications: The Modern Legacy.” The November 18 study involved responses from 150 federal IT managers, and was underwritten by Accenture.
According to the study, 92 percent of federal IT managers say it is “urgent” that their agencies modernize their “legacy” applications, which account for over half of their existing apps. Only about half (48 percent) of survey takers said their legacy apps are “completely capable” of delivering on their agency’s mission now. But when looking out five years, only 32 percent of managers have such confidence in their legacy apps.
The biggest concern that federal IT managers have with legacy applications is the possibility of security breaches, which was cited by 52 percent of survey-takers, followed by performance issues (42 percent), downtime and service disruptions (40 percent), and failure to deliver on mission (39 percent).
“The Federal government is running legacy systems from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, which many Feds find outdated, inefficient, and difficult to fix,” says MeriTalk general manager David Hantman. “However, if they take a deeper look into their legacy applications, they will realize that implementing the right modernization strategy can truly uncover unrealized potential.”
The need for modernization would appear to be clear. However, only 53 percent of managers say their agency has a formal strategy in place to complete a modernization project, and just 28 percent have developed a business case around renewing or replacing applications, according to the study.
But it’s not all bad news. For instance, there’s support for modernizing legacy apps, instead of outright replacing them. MeriTalk says 55 percent of their current applications could be successfully modernized by remediating, renewing, or re-platforming the applications (which relegates the other 45 percent to the scrap heap).
The most popular route to modernization is re-platforming–or moving the app to a different platform–which is supported by 72 percent of the survey takers. Renewing the application (or changing the underlying architecture of the app but staying on the same platform) is being considered by 69 percent of survey takers. The less invasive approach of application remediating (which leaves the underlying architecture in place) is supported by 68 percent of survey takers.
“Application modernization provides a powerful opportunity for agencies to upgrade to more flexible and secure systems for innovation and cost-cutting in the long term,” says Tom Greiner, who leads Accenture Federal Service’s technology business. “It’s time for agencies to accelerate their legacy application modernization efforts to drive enhanced mission capability and reduce their reliance on outdated technology.”
Two-thirds of the IT managers who took the survey say modernization efforts will increase at their agency over the next 18 months, which is certainly good news. But perhaps the best news for users of legacy systems–which often run on IBM i and mainframe platforms–is the realization that there is a lot of value embedded into these applications, that “legacy” doesn’t have to be a bad word.
“Once upon a time, we associated the word ‘legacy’ with a strong, proud heritage,” MeriTalk says in its report. “Today, however, the term is negatively perceived. Feds see legacy applications as outdated, inefficient, and difficult to fix.
“Perhaps they should take another look,” MeriTalk continues. “Like an old house with a rock-solid foundation, not all legacy applications must be bulldozed to make room for the next generation. The right application modernization strategy can uncover unrealized potential in your app portfolio–turning it from a burden to a boon.”
You can download the entire report at http://meritalk.com/future-ready-apps.