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CIOs Seek Ways to Replace Legacy Systems

In this article by Matt Williams, Kristen Russell (CIO and Secretary of Technology, Colorado) is interviewed about her experiences in attempting to replace legacy systems. The systems in question were at least 23 years old, and in an analysis it was found that 77 of the state’s IT systems were more than 15 years old, and half were around for a decade at least. Russell was left to a very stark decision: continue pushing along with the hope that these old systems would somehow continue to work, or spend a potentially enormous amount of time and money in replacing the entire system infrastructure of Colorado. Russell wasn’t alone in this challenge, as most states are dealing with aging systems: A study of states’ unemployment insurance (UI) systems made public last year by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies reported that most of them were first built in the 1970s and 1980s, and haven’t been modernized significantly since then. These systems, which collect unemployment taxes from employers and determine eligibility and pay unemployment benefits to workers, are in many cases considered separately as “tax systems” and “benefits systems.” A state government’s average benefits system, as of last year’s data, is 22 years old, while the average tax system is 24 years old, according to the study. The oldest of these systems, as of 2010, were 41 and 42 years old, respectively. Only eight states had modernized their systems, meaning they can fully support Web-based features and current database technology. A potential solution is a multistate approach, where states could share benefits systems, for instance, and thereby support each other’s efforts in keeping up to date. However, jurisdictional issues need to be resolved as do the individual state’s particular business rules. While Colorado in particular is interested in the multistate plan to update its legacy systems, Russell also indicates that it’s important for her state to understand how it manages its systems. The days of a large single system are over, and the management style that supported that type of system must change.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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