Dec 07 2020

The Benefits of Application Modernization in Government

Modernizing applications helps agencies reduce costs, gain scalability and improve their ability to update apps more easily.

Many of the projects that have received funding from the Technology Modernization Fund revolve around modernizing legacy applications.

The move to modernize applications is going to continue to be one of the dominant themes of government IT upgrades over the next few years, as agencies rationalize their application portfolios under the Cloud Smart strategy.

Once agency IT leaders decide to modernize their applications, they can start reaping the benefits of doing so. They will reduce the total cost of ownership of those apps, their applications will run faster and more efficiently, and apps will be more scalable and more easily updated as they shift them onto cloud-based platforms.

It’s a win-win-win scenario — there is no real downside risk for agencies to modernizing applications.

Why Should Agencies Modernize Applications?

A key reason to modernize applications is to reduce the agency’s total cost of ownership for running them. Modernizing forces agencies to clear out the dead wood in their application portfolios.

Agencies often have more applications than they realize. For example, before it started modernizing its app portfolio, the Defense Logistics Agency had more than 1,300 systems and 194 applications, Federal News Network reports. Many applications in environments are enterprise supported while others are shadow IT.

Maintaining a lot of legacy apps means IT staff need to dedicate time and resources to managing them. The process of modernization involves looking at applications and determining which ones can be moved to a Platform as a Service cloud environment. This allows agencies to deconstruct monolithic legacy applications into different modules or web applications for specific functions, leveraging application programming interfaces. Those APIs can call out to middleware and still pull in data from legacy databases.

The point is, at the end of the day, it is much easier to upgrade the front end of applications using modern programming languages than to maintain legacy applications running old ones.

For one, it obviates the need to hire expensive outside consultants who may be the only ones capable of helping an agency manage an application still running on COBOL.

It also eats up an agency’s time and resources to maintain older applications that may not be as secure as they should be because they can no longer be patched.

Agency IT leaders should use tools such as Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework to go through their application portfolios to determine whether apps are valuable, should be abandoned or should be modernized. Doing so will save time and resources in the long run.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Follow the 5 R’s of rationalization for an effective cloud migration.

Gain Scalability and Flexibility in the Cloud

When agencies decide to shift applications to the cloud, they are changing their cost structure but also gaining the benefits of scalability and agility.

By moving applications to the cloud, agencies can start paying for them on a utilization basis, in which the usage meter is running and the bill comes due at the end of the month.

Moving apps to a Platform as a Service offering from Microsoft, AWS or any other cloud service provider allows agencies to abstract the entire application stack below the app layer itself. Such platforms are built to be scalable. If, say, an agency migrates a legacy human resources application to the cloud, that application can be scaled up during the few times per year when the agency has a hiring fair and knows it will receive 10 times the amount of job applications it normally does. When that time passes, the resources needed to support the app can be scaled down.

Moving applications to the cloud also allows agencies to more frequently and easily update them. Apps can be updated with bug fixes more readily, and security patches can be added more quickly.

Application modernization should be a no-brainer for IT leaders and their teams in government. Such modernization cuts down on costs and brings scalability and flexibility that cannot be achieved in a legacy environment. Now is the time to get started on rationalizing and modernizing your application portfolio.

This article is part of FedTech’s CapITal blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FedIT hashtag.

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