John MacMillan, Pennsylvania CIO

It’s based on the idea that the minute a service or a system or application goes live, it’s immediately legacy. Now you start into productive service and realize all the things you didn’t think about are like warts on a toad: they’re plainly obvious and now we’ve got to modernize. Usually sometime on the Monday morning after you go live, you realize this thing needs to be modernized immediately. We tend to use it like a blanket over a rhinoceros. You’re trying to hide something far bigger, far more complex and far angrier than what would be obvious.

People tend to think of mainframes as legacy technology. We have access to a brand-new mainframe — there’s no need to modernize it. So when you use the term “modernization” in concert with “legacy,” you really have to ask the question, what’s under the blanket? If you have a contemporary piece of hardware, with contemporary operating systems, contemporary development languages, what you’re really talking about modernizing — probably — is the skills needed to support it. It’s usually a people problem, not a technology problem.

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He's reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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