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Considering the rate at which technology advances today, the information included in a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment of federal government IT is startling. In a report titled “Federal Agencies Need to Address Aging Legacy Systems,” the GAO notes that many agencies currently use outdated or obsolete technology—some departments use components that are more than 50 years old.

Some federal agencies still use 8-inch floppy disks

According to a recent report, some government agencies are still using 8-inch floppy disks for critical systems. Image from the Computer History Museum. Photo credit: Mark Richards.

The report provides each department with modernization recommendations—and many of those departments have already begun or are planning to update their technology. This is good news, considering that the increase in spending on operation and maintenance of legacy systems over the past seven years has resulted in a decrease in spending on development, modernization and enhancement efforts.

The bad news, however, is that the GAO’s recommendations do not address an issue that is often overlooked—the critical role end-user adoption plays in determining the success of a technology upgrade.

Focusing on the end-user to increase adoption, productivity, efficiency, and, ultimately, return on investment, is an important part of any tech modernization effort, whether it’s public or private, small-scale or wide-ranging.

In a recent article, we explored ways in which government agencies can incorporate end-user adoption into their modernization efforts, and ensure migration success.

Talking about end-user adoption when many agencies are still using systems built in the 1960s and 1970s may appear a bit cart-before-horse, shoes-before-socks—but it’s not

Government agencies face unique challenges when initiating an IT overhaul, including the short tenure of public sector CIOs (two years is the average), extended procurement cycles, slow approval processes, as well as the outdated legacy systems highlighted in the GAO report.

And considering those challenges, talking about end-user adoption when many agencies are still using systems built in the 1960s and 1970s may appear a bit cart-before-horse, shoes-before-socks. But not talking about it will only serve to compound the problem and to create an even greater efficiency gap.

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