Outdated Public Sector Technology Should Join the Silver Tsunami
By Matt Novak, VP of Business Development at CityBase
The public sector tends to get a bad rap for using old school technology, but there are plenty of cities, counties, states, and utilities that are making the hurdle to upgrade to industry-leading software solutions. For those out there weighing the pros and cons of investing in new technology, here are a few key reasons why you should make it a priority to move on from your legacy software.
1. The Silver Tsunami Is Hitting the Public Sector
Baby Boomers are in exodus across every sector of the United States, but perhaps none so visibly as the public sector and utilities, where the median age of employees is over 50. Government and utilities, with great pensions and job security, have retained talent for decades. This is great! But it also means that as your staff retires en masse, so goes institutional knowledge about software systems that are less than intuitive.
This can be the push you need to let your older software retire as well. As you lose the staff who are most accustomed to old tech and the best at troubleshooting it, it’s the perfect time to onboard new solutions that are easier for everyone to use, and at the same time more cost effective. And unlike a longstanding colleague leaving the workplace, that software probably won’t be missed. There are many ways to ease the transition. Building solutions that wrap around existing technology allows you to gradually replace older technology without any downtime or an abrupt cut over.
2. Old Technology Is Compromising Your Security
Relying on legacy applications and infrastructure dramatically increases the likelihood of a security incident. As technology ages, it becomes increasingly more difficult to manage patches, updates, and general IT hygiene. Proactive security features are a hallmark of newer technology. Best practices like threat hunting and security automation help ensure sensitive personal information is guarded against hackers. As government agencies and utilities increasingly offer residents and businesses more personalized digital experiences, technology that keeps personal data secure must be at the core of their platform, rather than an add-on.
3. It’s More Cost Effective to Use Newer Technology
An initiative to replace old systems may seem like a big investment, but it will lower your overall IT spend and make your budget easier to predict. Older technology is written in outdated and often completely obsolete coding languages. This usually requires an organization to look outside their internal IT resources in order to maintain or modify even basic functionality. Specialized consultants that charge hourly rates get pricey fast. These engagements will often lead to many change orders and drawn out processes. As technology continues to age, this problem only gets worse.
Newer, cloud-based technologies both eliminate hardware costs and allow for software providers to deploy continuous updates without downtime to users — and without costly consulting hours. Since software as a service (SaaS) providers perform regular maintenance and system updates as an inherent part of the technology, budgeting for this tech is straightforward and without unexpected costs. Additionally, newer coding languages like Elixir are optimized to scale over time, so you won’t easily outgrow your latest software.
4. Outdated Software Has No Upgrade Path
The technology of the past is often rooted in on-premise hardware with antiquated workflows and user interface. There’s no easy path to upgrade, and you’ll never be migrated to a newer operating system without physically updating hardware, software, and database systems periodically. Older tech may have served your needs 10 or 15 years ago, but both technology and the public sector are evolving. The current trend is driving agencies to migrate from multiple disparate back-end systems to a fully integrated, unified platform. This is a significant cost savings if various agencies don’t have to support multiple websites, vendors, and products. This leads to a better overall customer experience (CX), and the costs of a single system can be shared across multiple agencies and departments.
But it’s hard to teach old tech new tricks. Due to a lack of open APIs (application programming interfaces), old technology is not optimized for real-time integrations.The traditional model is that legacy tech vendors restrict access to the source system to a handful of preferred partner solutions that will limit your options as a consumer. However, if you’re using software with open APIs, this means you can shop for the best solution in the open market. Since you have the option to choose, you also have room to negotiate costs down.
When the public sector is built on a unified API and supports open data, it’s much simpler to integrate to various databases underlying multiple agencies, and it’s also easier to onboard other software solutions and experiment with new tech at a lower cost.
5. Your Younger Workforce Wants Better UX
As you recruit younger talent to replace retiring staff, it becomes more important than ever to compete with your employees’ private-sector expectations. This means providing a better user experience (UX) for the technology your staff relies on day to day. Technology solutions should empower your team to get their job done more effectively. In contrast, outdated or overly configured technology can lead staff to create workarounds that add confusion and slow processes. The process accommodates the technology rather than the technology optimizing the process.
In addition to providing universally better UX, newer cloud-based technologies can also accommodate off-site work in an era when staff across industries are increasingly working remotely at least part of the time. Solutions that operate in the cloud mean people can easily work on any device while at home or traveling, and mobile-optimized interfaces enable people to complete tasks from their phones even when they’re commuting.
Thank You, Next
It can be daunting to say goodbye to the familiar, even when you know there’s something better out there. But the benefits to retiring old technology far outweigh the challenges of migrating. Even though you can find ways to extend its life, older technology is ultimately unsustainable. As you take the steps to updating your tech stack, you’ll find that it’s easier than ever to learn from peer cities and others in your industry to find the solutions that are right for you. And starting the process now will set you up for years to come with smarter technology that can evolve with your needs, while reducing your overall spend.