Making ECM a Priority

This interview is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, Innovations that Mattered in 2016. Download the full guide here.

As technology continues to evolve, government agencies are having to confront the inadequacies of their legacy systems. However, the majority of the federal IT budget is dedicated to maintaining legacy IT investments. This leaves few funds to develop or modernize critical new technology. But without updated systems, organizations are at risk for cyberattacks and inefficient processes.

In order to better understand how government can effectively update their legacy systems in the face of budget constraints, GovLoop sat down with Austin Adams, Vice President of the Public Sector at Alfresco, an open platform for business software.

Adams explained that there are a few main roadblocks to updating legacy applications and systems. Many of them are written in outdated languages, exist behind closed-source code, and are on platforms that are decades old and lack the flexibility to embrace open standards and cloud functionality. Additionally, complete modernization requires the ability to upgrade applications and functionality in real time as your agencies requirements change.

Despite these challenges, agencies must start developing plans to update applications and modernize legacy systems. “Federal CIO, Tony Scott recently called for agencies to update enterprise technology roadmaps, identify and prioritize key systems, and come up with plans to move those systems to the cloud or other secure, modern platforms,” Adams explained.

Identifying where to start with modernization efforts can be a challenging task. But, content management system modernization is a low-hanging fruit project that can yield immediate results and help agencies comply with this new policy. Doing so allows organizations to improve their cyber posture, save money, and become more agile.

Antiquated content management systems make agencies extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks. “Every agency we’ve met over the past few years has systems holding invaluable content in brittle and inflexible content management systems,” Adams said. “This year, $19 billion dollars of the federal budget will be spent fighting cybercrime. Yet legacy government content management systems are typically outdated IT solutions with known vulnerabilities.”

This is problematic because the majority of government data breaches are due to accidental data spillage. Adams underscored that modern content management solutions aim to eliminate this issue by securing data at the source through intelligent user access control and monitoring, rule-based auto-classification, and encryption both in transit and at rest.

Additionally, legacy content management systems severely hamper agencies’ productivity and their ability to meet their mission. Government employees cannot perform their duties to the best of their abilities if they are struggling to find information that is kept in multiple, siloed repositories. Adams explained that this can lead to a drop in morale, agency recruitment, and an inability to deliver services to citizens and execute the overall agency mission.

Modernizing content management systems can help agencies automate previously cumbersome processes. Moving out of the age of fax machines and paper documents and into the digital era allows employees to more efficiently complete tasks and more effectively meet their constituents’ needs. Additionally, the new Gartner Magic Quadrant for enterprise content management (ECM) underscores the shift in organizational thinking away from traditional information storage solutions to content services and plat form applications that facilitate the use and sharing of information.

Regardless of the security and agility benefits, many agencies are still hesitant to modernize legacy content management systems because of the perceived cost. However, these solutions can be modernized and deployed to the cloud for less than the yearly cost of keeping the old systems running. The U.S. Navy will save tens of millions of dollars a year by modernizing their task management systems – which include content and records management – with Alfresco. The new system, known as DON TRACKER, will consolidate 22 legacy systems onto a single platform and will allow the Navy to automate processes and efficiently manage, search and use petabytes of information.

“Every agency we have talked to has at least three or as many as three dozen legacy content management systems,” Adams underscored. By prioritizing those systems for modernization, consolidation, and migration to the cloud, every one of those agencies could yield massive year-on-year cost savings. While they can be extensive, content management modernization projects represent the holy grail of IT modernization as it essentially pays for itself within one year.

In order to enhance security and operational efficiency, it is critical that government agencies begin to explore and identify ways to implement modernization efforts. “There is an obligation to ensure that systems used to hold constituent information are secure, support efforts to deliver on the mission, and make the best use of taxpayer dollars,” Adams explained. Modern technologies like Alfresco represent a rare opportunity to positively change the way government operates, protect critical data at the source and save millions of dollars. For those reasons, legacy content management should be a top modernization priority.


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