Legacy Apps Causing Headaches for Federal IT Managers

Respondents cited the largest driving factors as security issues, time required to manage or maintain systems, and inflexibility/integration issues.

federal it and legacy apps

The vast majority of federal government IT managers (92 percent) said it’s urgent for their agency to modernize legacy applications, according to a MeriTalk survey of 150 federal IT managers familiar with their agencies’ application portfolios.

Respondents cited the largest driving factors as security issues (42 percent), time required to manage and/or maintain systems (36 percent), and inflexibility and integration issues (31 percent).

Nearly half (48 percent) of federal IT managers surveyed believe their legacy applications are completely capable of meeting their mission needs today, and significantly fewer – 32 percent – think they will be able to deliver five years from now.

Survey results show that 52 percent of respondents cite security breaches, 47 percent cite performance issues, and 40 percent cite increased downtime and service disruptions.

Additionally, 62 percent say if they do not modernize their legacy applications, mission-critical capabilities will be threatened.

"What's most concerning to me is that the gap between understanding the urgent need to modernize and having a comprehensive strategy in place, is too large," David Hantman, general manager of MeriTalk, told eWEEK. "Agencies clearly understand the urgency, so the message has been received and nothing needs to change in that sense. Now it's time to put a modernization plan in place and act on it. I know that is easier said than done, but putting it on the back burner is only making things worse."

Despite the urgent need for modernization, a little more than half (53 percent) of agencies have a formal application modernization strategy, and just one in four (28 percent) have developed a business case around renewing or replacing existing applications.

In addition, the survey discovered that agencies are delaying the modernization process for a variety of reasons. Delays are primarily due to risks (42 percent), failure to execute (34 percent), and the overwhelming amount of options (20 percent).

On average, federal IT managers estimate that 55 percent of their current legacy applications could be successfully modernized using solutions like re-platforming the existing application (72 percent), leveraging architecture-driven modernization (69 percent), and remediating the existing application to extend its useful life (65 percent).

The good news is that more than three out of four (77 percent) federal IT managers say application modernization will improve the user experience at their agency and two out three (66 percent) say modernization efforts at their agency will increase in the next 18 months.

"The reality is you can't upgrade everything overnight, so you can give priority to the applications that are in the most serious need of upgrading," Hantman said. "The survey results showed us the top five deciding factors when choosing where to prioritize, and addressing security risks was firmly at the top of that list."