Many organizations are saddled with outdated IT systems and network infrastructures that are expensive to operate and difficult to defend from cyber threats. When CGI executives met face-to-face with 1,300 business and IT leaders this year, 73% told us that the “need to modernize” is a top IT priority. A similar percentage said this last year as well. (Read more about CGI Client Global Insights.) A key driver for this priority is to reduce operation and maintenance costs to invest in value-creating initiatives.

So why does IT modernization get put off? Three causes are common:

  1. Many large system replacements have been prone to failure. Old system design methods of exhaustive requirements gathering and development have led to years of frustration, often seeing projects abandoned with little to show. Even when efforts are successful, project staff are left exhausted and with deep battle scars.
  2. The focus is on customer end-points. Today, many organizations are focused on improving customer service by redesigning the user experience or moving to mobile applications. There are countless newer applications being implemented―some in the cloud for scalability at lower price points. In some cases, organizations are basically putting lipstick on a pig. Yes, I went there. Creating a new, user friendly website is the low-hanging fruit. And while the initial reaction may be good, if the backend can’t deliver, there will be a lot of frustration over the long haul. The hard work has to be done at some point.
  3. The infrastructure side of IT modernization is complex. Most organizations consolidated their data centers to reduce costs and energy consumption when the cloud movement hit. So, they shifted to the cloud in some cases, but often without a defined strategy and without consideration of an application’s cloud-readiness. This has led to a hybrid approach that often lacks governance for, or knowledge of, what is in these environments, and whether security is still intact. So, the benefits of speed and savings of the cloud aren’t being fully realized.

Modernization is a difficult but necessary step

IT modernization should result in more agile, more secure and less costly technology assets. Organizations that take an inventory and strategic approach to their infrastructure and applications can see real savings and much stronger security.

On the infrastructure side, many organizations are taking an asset-light approach by maintaining a smaller footprint while outsourcing the rest to partner data centers or cloud services. Personally, as a former CIO, dealing with the hardware and infrastructure was of little interest to me. I would rather spend my time supporting the applications that drove the business. No matter the final direction of where the hardware might sit, a strategic inventory of what you have and how it is being used will certainly lead to better and more secure operations.

On the application side, IT modernization isn’t just about going digital (although that is an important aspect). It also means tackling some of the legacy systems. Fortunately, agile methods focused on quick and modular delivery can help achieve greater transformation with fewer traumas. Agile provides a much more rapid design/development approach that is seeing good results, especially when outdated systems are broken up by their functional components. This allows the teams to focus on a business function rather than over-designing something very complicated.

This means that systems integrators become much more vital, but with a modern twist. The traditional integrator role was tied to a big system development. They had to be familiar with what they were deploying as it looked today. Oftentimes, this also meant implementing proprietary software which led to interface integration challenges in the future. The shift to a modular approach to modernizing legacy systems means that the integrator role must to evolve to include:

  • Broad, flexible technology and integration experience
  • Broad governance of multiple vendors and support data
  • Shared resource architecture based on integration services and reusable business models

These characteristics, coupled with agile and modular development, will help ensure that legacy applications are modernized with a greater likelihood of success. This will enable organizations to both improve their security postures and reduce costs, and use the savings to invest in digital transformation.

About this author

Picture of Jeffrey S. Smith

Jeffrey S. Smith

Vice President, Consulting Services

Jeff is responsible for digital transformation strategy and services for CGI’s U. S commercial and state government business unit. In this role, he helps drive growth through the development, execution and go-to-market of offerings and the evolution of CGI’s portfolio of industry solutions. He has ...

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