Insight by Pegasystems

Beware of the COBOL cliff during your technology modernization journey

Army Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the chief information officer/G6, said late last year he plans to modernize the service’s technology.

Crawford’s strategy is focused on network modernization, application rationalization and data center consolidation that involves a more aggressive move to the cloud.

At the same time, the CIO’s office is supporting the Army’s artificial intelligence task force across six areas. These include the cloud infrastructure to ensure data is accessible and protected at all times.

Crawford said the Army will update its data strategy and continue to implement its enterprise data analytics strategy as a way to further support the AI efforts.

That is one path.

A second IT modernization path the Army is heading down is the Enterprise-IT-as-a-Service effort the service is just beginning. This initiative, the Army hopes, will speed up the modernization process.

The Army estimates that 70% of the servers, routers and end-user devices on its 288 worldwide facilities are at or near the end of life. The figure is even higher for the equipment that handles voice communications — about 90%.

Crawford said under the service’s current modernization methodologies, replacing all of that gear would take until at least 2030. And in the meantime, it would be stuck with the bills involved with maintaining an enormous amount of legacy infrastructure.

The Army’s challenges are no different from many agencies, except for size and breadth.

The Army–and really any agency for that matter—is changing the proverbial tire of the car while it’s still driving.

Current IT Modernization Strategy

We got very anticipatory a number of years ago about the Y2K bug, which turned out not to be much. But I think there is the COBOL programmer cliff of basically all of these people who are experts in mainframe programming that still drive a lot of the agencies and commercial industry. There is a race against the clock to modernize that stuff because of the talent to maintain it really no longer exists and is not necessarily coming out of the educational system today.

Data and IT Modernization

We are really focused on data accuracy through business process. One of the methods that we are really employing is agile methods, working with our functionals to understand what those business processes are and how we need to work back through to bring accuracy and results in that data for dashboard type technologies.

Culture Change

One of the things we are really focused on is making sure that we are not customizing and we want to embrace out-of-the box technology as much as possible so we can enable things like mobile through HTML 5 and we have a baseline for the way we are managing, using and governing what we have. So out of the box is really important especially when it comes to the processes that align with the technology itself

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