Jun 20 2024

What Is a Strategic Application Modernization Assessment, and How Can It Help Government?

To reach their digital transformation goals, IT leaders must review their entire application portfolio and update software fast and affordably.

Most government IT leaders understand the importance of modernizing their applications and data, but they have struggled to get started and map out the right process.

According to a 2023 report from the IBM Institute for Business Value, 83 percent of North American IT executives say modernizing applications and data is central to the business strategy of their organizations. Despite that, only 27 percent say their organization has modernized many of the necessary applications, including related applications, data and systems.

One avenue state and local governments can take to jump-start their application modernization efforts is to assess their enterprise application portfolio. Such an assessment, especially if it’s automated, can significantly speed up an organization’s application modernization initiatives, says Greg Peters, founder of Strategic Application Modernization Assessment (SAMA) at CDW.

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How to Conduct a Unique Application Modernization Assessment

It’s critical that organizations conduct a holistic assessment, one that looks not only at the technology but also at whether the organization has the staffing and resources to maintain certain applications, Peters explains.

SAMA is designed to approach the modernization process by breaking down silos between different elements of an organization, including developers, security teams, network engineers and others.

How does it work? SAMA essentially monitors a government agency’s entire application portfolio and then identifies which items are prime for modernization tasks — and it’s all done as an automated process so government IT leaders can get a macro-level view into their software updates, fast and affordably.

Greg Peters
Instead of spending millions and millions of dollars on manual analysis, they can use that money for actual modernization. That’s the massive benefit they get from this process.”

Greg Peters Founder of Strategic Application Modernization Assessment, CDW

Peters, the principal developer of SAMA, compares the process to improving a car’s design. It’s an undertaking that requires conversations with specialists in engines, electrical systems, braking systems and so on. And SAMA’s approach to application assessment involves gathering all the knowledge of relevant specialists only it’s through built-in security scanning, custom reporting and analysis tools. This speeds up the assessment process by obviating the need for separate initial conversations with every team.

“We want to look at the portfolio instead of just one little piece of the puzzle,” Peters says.

The process begins with CDW engineers installing and configuring a virtual machine to run the SAMA tool in an organization’s environment. SAMA then gathers data from a government agency’s code repositories, covering more than 40 languages as well as applications on mainframes or in the cloud. All of this work is done on-premises for the agency, never remotely. SAMA then looks for tasks that have been completed around modernization by monitoring that changes were made in the application portfolio.

Assessments Can Accelerate the Application Modernization Process

Peters says that a typical manual assessment of a government organization’s codebase can take roughly 12 to 18 months to do manually. However, with SAMA, government IT leaders can get an automated assessment completed in just two to three weeks, depending on the portfolio size.

SAMA scans applications’ metadata and source code only and does not scan databases or agents on agency networks. The assessment gathers data, determines whether applications can run in the cloud, and detects anomalies in code. It also evaluates the security level of each application.

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Following the assessment, SAMA produces two automated reports. One has assessments of every application’s suitability for modernization. The other is an executive summary that has a heat map of the complexity of the portfolio, assessments on the personnel needed to support the applications and other high-level findings.

This essentially gives government IT leaders the “keys to the kingdom” so they can query all of the data the assessment produced and get guidance on how to prioritize given software based on the organization’s business objectives, Peters says.

After the assessment, state and local agencies typically decide to modernize about 8 to 10 percent of their application portfolio, Peters says. Typically, CDW recommends IT teams prioritize either applications with major infrastructure or security issues, or applications that are relatively easy to modernize.

DISCOVER: Applications can support modern workspace management.

The Benefits of Assessing Your Applications’ Readiness

There are many benefits to using the SAMA approach to application modernization. For one it helps government IT leaders “get the information needed to make the decision faster than they could before,” Peters says.

The assessment can also provide a benchmark as government IT leaders achieve more of their digital transformation goals. “Our clients continue using SAMA to monitor changes in their application portfolio as they modernize” Peters says.

Lastly, SAMA saves organizations significant costs, Peters says: “Instead of spending millions and millions of dollars on manual analysis, they can use that money for actual modernization. That’s the massive benefit they get from this process.”

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