4 Best Practices to Refresh Government Operations

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The concept of modernization isn’t a cut and paste option. Every organization must align IT goals with their particular business needs to be effective.

Tim Conway is president public sector at NTT DATA

The consumerization of every industry and technology platform has placed high demands on IT infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. To compound this, the public sector is often more forward facing, working directly with its constituents, while also operating with fewer resources.

Today’s consumers are demanding “always on” access from the companies and organizations with which they interact. The convenience of mobile and cloud-based applications, along with real-time access to information online, can be problematic for traditional IT infrastructures typically used by public sector entities. An exemplar user experience and flawless uptime are required or government organizations risk facing the outrage of their constituency.

Operating a legacy IT infrastructure is expensive, and updating it can take time and reduce productivity. Addressing the need for an upgraded system can also bring exorbitant costs if not carefully planned for from a management and resource point of view. The complexities and problems faced in this dilemma can leave government workers wondering what to do next.

Revitalizing Legacy Systems

The transition to digital business can benefit the public sector just as it does private enterprises – providing more user-friendly services at a lower operating cost. The concept of modernization can be approached logically, with improvements to IT performance taking place without abandoning existing legacy infrastructure.

Chief information officers and other decision-makers are aware of the benefits of legacy modernization, ranking it as the second most important upgrade priority. Current, flexible technologies, like business analytics, cloud-based tools and Web-based interfaces, can be used to revitalize and upgrade older systems. These improvements are capable of bringing efficiency without excessive costs or halting productivity.

The concept of modernization isn’t a cut and paste option. Every organization must align IT goals with their particular business needs to be effective. This is an ongoing process that will take time and commitment, requiring refinement over time.

Reaping the Reward

There are two standard methods for modernization – tool-based or system integrators. These require, in essence, a rip and replace method of fully converting the current system with an alternate, upgraded version.

However, a hybrid of the two can be most effective to maintain productivity, eliminate excessive budgetary needs and upgrade to a digital business platform.

The hybrid approach also maintains a consistent user interface with little to no disruptions to daily activities and prevents the need for new hardware, programming and software. An overall better experience and workflow refinements can also come from code migrations, which can expand the user interface to a browser-based system.

These code conversions are approximately 70 percent more cost-effective than a total redesign or rewrite of the programming, which allows them to produce an ROI 30 percent more quickly. Modern coding languages also allow for the use of newer technologies while mitigating the risk of cybersecurity weaknesses. A hybrid approach provides all the benefits of modernization without the potential negative impact on resources.

Real-World Results

A metropolitan property records system in the northeastern U.S. is already using this approach to make a difference in their IT operations. The complexities of this organization included an online land records database containing over 16 million mortgages, deeds and other land-related documents. Collecting up to 6 million requests daily, this hybrid system became an indispensable resource for constituents, businesses and the city government.

Reconfiguring the platform of more than 40 modules spanning public-facing, back office, workflow and government-to-business components to comply with statutory and regulatory changes was increasingly difficult. The code was written in outdated languages using third-party components that had reached end-of-life. This resulted in a great need for modernization to allow for the efficient development of search and retrieval functionality.

It could potentially take three to five years to implement the rip and replace method, which would adversely affect the day-to-day functionality of the office. This was understandably not an option because of monetary and time constraints. Conversely, a model leveraging an automated tool plus a manual rewrite to update the code was chosen.

This way, the user interface and back end system remained in place while enhancements were made with newer technologies to provide greater workflow and document functionality. This was able to be implemented without disrupting daily activity or exceeding the budget and was complete in two years.

Adhering to existing compliance requirements, the internal and external user interface was not changed. Additionally, the city administration now has an efficient, effective system both scalable and integrated, with consistent uptime. It is more user friendly and accessible than before, with the ability to make changes in house, including the capacity to manage documents electronically.

Looking Ahead

To maximize the benefits of modernization, it is important to take into consideration the objectives and measureable milestones with an organizationwide commitment to improvement. The public sector seems to always be looking for ways to cut costs, so a hybrid approach to becoming a digital business could be a sound solution with perceptible results.

By listening to the constituency, a case can be made that these upgrades are necessary. Having a comprehensive strategy that will meet business needs without disrupting operations or breaking the bank will win over decision makers with a vision to solve IT problems. A modernization investment can yield significant results by working closely with leadership and defining success together.

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