How to Do Mainframe Modernization Right Under the MGT Act
At the end of the 2017 holiday season, not long after the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act was signed into law, I was reading the latest story about millions of tax dollars wasted on an unwise mainframe modernization decision the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) made. Immediately, I thought of one of my favorite movies, Scrooged (1988). Imagine being visited by the past, present and future ghosts of IT. There is a point in time where your past informs your present decisions. You either listen to your ghosts and change or you follow the path you’re on. This determines your future. In KDOR’s case, the path they chose followed an IT crowd that erroneously believes it can replace the mainframe. In 2012, KDOR began its own mainframe-replacement project, migrating off the systems it used for issuing driver’s licenses and state IDs.
Six years later, about the time the project was supposed to have concluded, KDOR announced the project would be delayed for an unspecified amount of time, effectively adding itself to the list of organizations that have failed to migrate off the mainframe, either altogether or without incurring major losses in time and money.
Under the MGT Act, federal agencies have a lot to think about regarding how they leverage new funds to improve IT, especially with systems like the mainframe: will they try to migrate off, or will they choose to improve?
Rather than taking a deeper look at their mainframe systems—the most reliable, scalable and secure systems available—and improving the culture, processes and tools surrounding them, KDOR chose the migratory path of risk and cost. Like others before them, they now seem to be in a bind. Is this really what’s best for the citizens of Kansas?
I wonder, if we could take KDOR back in time, would they reconsider what exactly Kansas citizens are gaining through the rewriting of a mainframe application to an open system? Would they wish for a different decision, or would they continue down the path of throwing good money after bad decisions?
Working Code Is Gold
My favorite motto is “working code is gold.” It’s a simple statement that can save agencies millions of hard-won dollars.
The public sector is held to the highest standards of technology: public trust and public dollars. That’s why they should strive to build upon what works.
When it comes to mainframe modernization, agencies don’t need to spend years and millions of dollars trying to get off the platform. Instead, they can introduce innovative tools and processes and empower their teams with better culture. When you iterate on what’s proven to work, you not only build a better result, but you also improve transparency with government officials and citizens.
Simply adopting an Agile approach and leveraging an enterprise DevOps platform that transcends the distributed-versus-mainframe-versus-cloud platform debate, you can change your destiny through continuous improvement. And, building upon an Agile sprint cycle, your reports to legislative bodies would be simplified to:
- This is what we delivered as promised.
- This is what we learned.
- This is that we promise to deliver going forward and what we expect to learn (i.e. our roadmap).
- This is how we performed against our budget to date with any causes of variance.
It’s unfortunate to see government agencies follow the wrong mainframe modernization path. As many organizations continue to struggle to succeed with migrations, I’m hopeful more agencies will take the correct path—especially now that they have a foundation for innovation and modernization that can be used to improve the right systems, like the mainframe, at the right time.
For federal agencies, that foundation is the MGT Act.
Mainframe Modernization Under the MGT Act
Signed into law at the end of 2017, what started as a cloud-only bill has manifested as legislation that can enable federal technology leaders to do what they have needed to do for years: make the best ideas work for the citizens of the United States and maximize their cost savings.
The MGT Act outlines the approach that is needed to be truly efficient, and it’s applicable to agencies’ mainframe teams. Here’s what you should do to leverage it for true mainframe modernization in 2018:
Inventory your assets.
MGT Act funding is limited, which, as always, creates a competitive selection environment. But, knowing what you have and identifying your working code that is gold positions you to truly address what is most critical for your organization.
Identify what is obsolete.
Legacy IT systems, as defined in the MGT Act, are those that are outdated or obsolete. Given how modern the mainframe is and how integral it is for supporting front-end technologies, it’s far from a legacy platform.
Some other systems are obsolete, but when it comes to the mainframe, the only obsolescence is found in unsupported software that should be phased out and replaced with Agile/DevOps alternatives. That’s the fast-track to generating savings for your organization.
Prioritize based on citizen demands.
Identifying new technology, such as the cloud, and trying to harness its power for everything, including mainframe programs that simply aren’t designed to be ported like that, is the opposite of what agencies should be doing: identifying citizen demands for services.
When you know what citizens need most, you are ready to use Agile-based methodologies to deliver innovative solutions, if you have the right tools, regardless of platform. Porting code is not true mainframe modernization—it amounts to massive costs just to achieve the same results for the citizens you serve. Why waste years and money migrating when you could be truly innovating on a perfectly good computing platform?
Implement Agile methodologies to maximize value to citizens in the shortest amount of time.
Agility is the operand of this goal.
Imagine a world where you have innovative DevOps tools integrating across platforms; where you recognize cost savings immediately because you are delivering solutions to citizens in 90-day sprints; where you don’t waste precious tax dollars migrating off your most secure and highest-processing-capacity platform, the mainframe.
If you can imagine this, you have recognized the true intent of the MGT Act: modernizing government technology. The year to make it happen is 2018, and the mainframe industry stands with you to provide the path to maximum efficiencies all while securing precious citizen information.
Compuware is here to help. For more information, contact Claire Bailey, Director, Federal, State and Local Solutions at [email protected].