Preparing for IT Modernization in Four Steps

A detailed look at the actions and considerations associated with Milestone 1. Click the image to view the full infographic with all four milestones. 



The government’s outdated existing IT portfolio is aging and poses significant future security and operational risks. In fact, at least 70 percent of the Federal IT funding estimated for FY 2017 is expected to support “legacy” (or O&M) IT spending.

Modernization would improve the ability of these IT systems to deliver, but currently many agencies are stymied by the high costs, lack of funding, and risks associated with modernization efforts. Combined with the increasing cost to maintain existing systems, agencies are hampered in their ability to manage and enhance their IT systems strategically.

Sapient views modernization as more than a rip-and-replace proposition; rather, it’s an opportunity to look across an organization to evaluate an agency’s maturity and determine the best path forward. It’s about building a modernization plan that gets an agency from old tech to new tech in a way that transforms the organization and furthers an agency’s mission.

To help agencies begin an IT modernization initiative, we developed a four-step guide that identifies objectives, resources, and potential challenges to consider at each stage of the modernization process. The accompanying infographic discusses the need for an updated enterprise roadmap, the identification and prioritization of systems, the development of modernization system profiles, and finally, the execution of the modernization program.

Milestone 1: Updating Your Enterprise Roadmap

As they approach the task of modernization, agencies should start by updating their Information Resources Management (IRM) Strategic Plans to reflect modernization goals. Successful agencies will recognize the larger opportunity: to better position themselves to implement modernization projects that drive transformation of their technology platform and their overall organization. This phase emphasizes strategy and planning, and here at the outset, agencies should take a realistic look at resources. It’s critical to continually ask whether they have the knowledge and skills in-house that are needed to assess, plan, and perform throughout the modernization effort.

Milestone 2: Prioritizing Systems for Modernization

Deciding which systems will be targeted for modernization efforts requires a complex, objective analysis that not only prioritizes the most promising candidates for modernization, but also provides clear traceability to their roadmaps and full transparency into prioritization decisions. Agencies should begin exploring the future-state concept for each modernization effort; if documentation of the current-state doesn’t exist, this is also necessary to document and track changes. This phase emphasizes project management to ensure systematic planning and coordination.

Milestone 3: Building Modernization Profiles

Agencies will now turn their System Information Templates into full-blown business cases, or Modernization Profiles – a complex process requiring exploration of the current landscape of technologies and tools, definition of a solution’s notional future-state, and modeling of benefits and costs. Successful agencies will produce detailed models that quantify the full cost and modernization impact, and document the strategic impact and potential risks for each system. This phase emphasizes a more holistic view of the modernization effort – examining financial, business, and organizational implications. Expect a shift toward strategy and business analysis during this phase, with support from technologists, project managers, and to a lesser extent, creatives.  

Milestone 4: Executing Your Modernization Program

An effective continuous modernization plan will clearly articulate modernization goals and model out the costs and benefits of the ongoing program in the future years. These goals, costs, and benefits should directly inform an agency’s IRM Strategic Plan and Enterprise Roadmap—with easy traceability to annual budget submissions. And just as important to the effort as the technology and planning is the recognition of modernization on people. As agencies reshape the systems supporting the organization—and the way the organization works—understanding and addressing the unique change management challenges is critical to modernization success.  This phase requires heavy project management focused on schedules, staffing, resources, and estimation.

Download the full step by step guide

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