10 Ways Legacy Technology Hurts Your Department
January 29, 2020 – Jeremy Mann
We have become so accustomed to modern technology that we can sometimes forget just how pervasive and astonishing the benefits from such applications can be. You can call a car, check stock market trends, and answer any conceivable pop-culture question all with a few taps on your phone. But despite ubiquitous technological advancements, for many government employees things aren’t as easy.
If a government employee wants to review their government’s historical financials, look up the status of a pending budget proposal, or understand the organization’s progress-to-goals, more likely than not, they’ll need to submit a request to the appropriate party and wait until the proper systems are queried and the reports compiled. Sometimes, their question might not even be answerable because of data that is difficult to query and compile. And when it is, it will often be returned in a static, data table format that can make it difficult to explore the data and draw conclusions.
OpenGov has been building the software suite to democratize powerful technological tools for the 21st century government because we know the promise of modern technology and the frustrating ways legacy technologies can hold your government back. Below, we list the 10 most common ways legacy technology is hurting your organization.
1. Stifles Collaboration
Legacy technology like access databases, programs running on COBOL, old IBM mainframes, etc. are difficult to run, take a long time to learn, and are localized on difficult to access on-premise servers. As a result, legacy technology encourages specialization among staff members, often localized in the IT or finance staff, and makes cross-departmental collaboration utilizing the technology nearly impossible. Clunky technology requires onerous, middle-man steps that soak up time and make it difficult for nimble, flexible collaboration.
2. Obscures Visibility
Because knowledge of how to run and operate legacy technology is localized among specialists, it can make it difficult for staff throughout the organization to understand how the organization is performing to goals, the state of the budget and actuals, and how key performance indicators are trending over time.
3. Creates Data Silos
Because legacy technologies require specialization and are difficult to aggregate, staff in different departments often have access to different data. As a result, data silos form, where specialists in one department possess a different understanding of data and progress-to-goals than those querying a different technology. Without visibility to and agreement about the underlying data, higher-level strategy conversations can be easily derailed and delayed as staff quibble about the underlying facts.
4. Expensive Maintenance
Most legacy technologies were sold using an on-premise technology model, in which systems are owned and operated by the IT department leveraging the technology. While owning your tech and data from top to bottom can feel like a tangible benefit, it comes with a host of costs and additional responsibilities. Maintenance fees for legacy systems can become extremely expensive, sometimes adding up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year range, and that is just to ‘keep the lights on’. Additionally, someone needs to own this maintenance, which takes valuable time away from your IT team that may be better-spent onboarding new solutions and training end-users.
5. Outdated Versions
Updating legacy systems can be expensive, time intensive, and complicated. Besides the high costs of upgrading legacy technology, it can be tough even to complete an upgrade of a single system. As a result, most legacy systems are never updated with the provider’s new versions, fixes, and patches, leaving the systems in the same shape as the day they were purchased. As other technology advances or internal processes update, the outdated technology becomes even more cumbersome and difficult to integrate into a modern technology stack.
6. Saps Recruiting Efforts
Many legacy technologies utilize outdated languages like COBOL, which haven’t been taught in years. While new technical professionals are proficient in today’s languages, much of the COBOL-fluent population is nearing retirement. Asking younger developers to specialize in dated technology is a difficult ask when the skills they learn won’t be transferable to the larger market place and the technology they’re working with will be more frustrating than the systems on which they’ve grown accustomed.
7. Reduces Mobility
On-premise solutions require on-premise presence. Increasingly, the workforce is becoming more mobile, so the ability to access, use, and troubleshoot SaaS solutions from anywhere with an internet connection is missing in the world of legacy technology. Additionally, in the event of a natural disaster that would preclude government professionals from working in their usual government building, many necessary functions may shut down.
8. Not Scalable
As governments increasingly ingest and analyze more data, they are finding they need technology solutions that can grow and adapt to their data needs. But legacy technology is usually provisioned to handle a fixed amount of data. To update or upgrade legacy technology’s data capacity often requires improvements to the physical infrastructure (e.g. servers) that house the technology, making any attempt to scale difficult and expensive.
9. Makes Community Relations More Difficult
Legacy technologies struggle to provide useful and intuitive information to government staff. Instead, specialists have to query the technology and summarize the information in reports. As social media presence becomes a vital medium through which governments communicate with their constituents governments need sleek, easy-to-understand visuals suited for the social media age. Unfortunately, the convoluted outputs of legacy technology, which even internal staff often struggle to understand, isn’t suited for the form of communication that social media requires.
10. It’ll Only Get Harder
Replacing, updating, or improving legacy technology can be an intimidating endeavor. Legacy technology systems, even when they are disappointing or frustrating, are the devil you know, and they can provide a sense of comfort and predictability. But if your systems feel clunky and outdated now, imagine how they’ll feel down the line when your technology is even further entrenched and even farther behind.
Understanding the limitations and frustrations of legacy technology, OpenGov set out to bring the benefits of modern technology to governments. OpenGov’s software is collaborative, visually appealing, and user-friendly, encouraging broad adoption of technology across the organization. OpenGov’s dashboards and intuitive visualizations will make it easy for everyone in your organization to understand progress-to-goals and the state of the budget, and reports can easily be shared across the organization or to the public via social media OpenGov’s software lives in the cloud so we can always provide you with the latest version of our software and you can access the software anywhere you have an internet connection.
With over 300 years of government service on our staff, we know that moving away from frustrating, but familiar, technology can be an intimidating effort. But, as a company that’s seen the outsize benefits of modernizing technology, we also understand the cost of waiting. Whether you’re interested in learning more about our specific technology or in better understanding the efficiency gains modern technology offers to governments, we’re here to help you understand what’s best for your government.
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- Difference between old-school and new-school government technology - and what that means for your government
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