Is this the year to tackle legacy systems?

Is this the year to tackle legacy systems?

For all the forward-looking talk ambient computing and the API economy, a huge slice of public-sector IT involves legacy transactional, reporting and management systems that have often been in place for decades.   Is the time finally right to reinvent the core?

According to Deloitte's just-released report on public sector tech trends, the answer is... maybe.

"The environment is ripe for a renaissance," the report authors write.  "Modernization is leading towards a convergence, with shared services receiving a resurgence with support from shared first and cloud first mandates.... Virtually every agency will grapple with [modernization] in the future – if they haven’t already – and there is a strong case for pressing ahead."

At the federal level, the Government Accountability Office certainly agrees.  GAO auditors have noted repeatedly that at least 70 percent of agency IT spending goes to the maintenance and support of legacy systems.

Yet legacy systems stick around for a reason.  Modernization is "often more difficult for many government agencies, given the sheer size of their IT systems and the traditionally risk-averse mindset of many in the public sector," the Deloitte researchers note. "Any significant shift in an agency’s IT infrastructure can affect far more than the technology itself. It can also create change management challenges in terms of training, communications, talent management and governance."

The report offers suggests three basic steps for pushing forward:

Know which technology assets you already have. "The first step is to take inventory and make decisions about which technologies are candidates for consolidation, elimination, outsourcing or endorsement."

Don't overlook the short term.  Public sector IT leaders should plan "both their short-term goals as well as long-term enterprise-level vision and core architecture investments. Otherwise, modernization could result in disconnected technologies and more technical debt down the line."

Line up your advocates. " Start with internal stakeholders who understand the vision and need to revitalize the heart of the IT and business footprint. Stakeholders behind the plan can help to promote the potential benefits with you."

For the full report -- which also addresses ambient computing, APIs and the CIO's role as "chief integration officer," -- please click here.

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