The Holistic Approach to Modernizing Federal IT Systems -- (Part 2)

Blog /The Holistic Approach to Modernizing Federal IT Systems-2

The first part of this post outlined the problem, hope, research and potential strategy related to modernizing federal IT systems, an effort currently hampered by the need to spend money on obsolete systems rather than new technology. In this post, we’ll look at the details of taking a holistic approach to modernization.

NTT DATA’s Surveyor framework was created to tackle this conundrum. It aligns operational goals, user needs and technology capabilities to effect strategic forethought. This approach eliminates inefficiencies in systems and drives continuous process improvements, freeing up funding for modernization.

Surveyor Framework

For example, a large government agency faced rising costs from an expensive, proprietary computing platform. An evaluation showed the same capability could be achieved with commodity hardware running Linux for a fraction of the cost: millions of dollars that could be used for more important projects.

The Surveyor framework helps agencies reform their existing IT strategies or build new strategies that are (1) aligned with government priorities and (2) driven by empirical evidence. That ensures the modernization effort is a tailored affair: emerging hypotheses are validated, prioritized and transformed into future-state requirements.

Application portfolio rationalization (APR)

In a nutshell, APR involves evaluating the entire technology stack for each application in a portfolio to further rationalize the underlying infrastructure and determine valid approaches for cloud migration. It includes functional and technical evaluation criteria and collects inputs through multiple channels.

The result is the ability to categorize applications into one of four quadrants:

  1. Retain. For applications that are serving the organization well.
  2. Invest. For applications that support the organization and mission well but would benefit immensely from corrections to technical deficiencies (e.g., platform upgrade).
  3. Rework. For applications that are weak mission supporters despite being of good technical quality.
  4. Replace/retire. For application with mission/technology issues such that they do not bring sufficient value to the organization.

Not all systems can (or should) be migrated to the cloud. Following APR, agency leaders will have a reasonable idea of the effort necessary to modernize each application. That work helps drive data-center consolidation and cloud migration.

After rationalization is complete, analysis and design can begin, including an evaluation of which modernization tactic is best for each application:

  • Migration, which translates existing code from one programming language to another
  • Augmentation, which involves the creation of, for example, a data warehouse to provide analytics or extended search capabilities to an existing enterprise system
  • Replacement, such as replacing a heavily modified COTS program with a low-code solution
  • Improvement, which boosts performance of an application that meets functional criteria
  • Encapsulation, which isolates an aging technology that is difficult to migrate from all modern systems

A final note

Undertaken thoughtfully and holistically, modernization can become self-funding and self-sustaining. NTT DATA has found that within a fiscal year, if the right things are done, enough can be saved to fund the next year. Voices in the federal government have also begun to promote the idea that it is possible and desirable to “harvest inefficiencies to reinvest in innovation,” a promising sign.

To discuss your IT modernization strategy, please contact us at

Post Date: 3/2/2017

Dave Kapusta - NTT DATA Dave Kapusta

About the author

Dave Kapusta is the chief operating officer of NTT DATA Federal Services, Inc. where he is responsible for all operations of NTT DATA’s federal secure market. Kapusta has more than 28 years of defense and IT industry leadership experience. His career and capabilities span IT, systems implementation and integration, program management, government contracts management, strategic planning, sales and sales management. Prior to his appointment at NTT DATA, Mr. Kapusta held management and executive level positions at IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Coopers & Lybrand. His experience also includes service as a U.S. Air Force officer. Mr. Kapusta is a graduate of Lehigh University (BS, Electrical Engineering) and Boston College (MBA).