CIOs Seek Ways to Replace Legacy Systems

November 15, 2011 By

Former Oracle executive Kristin Russell used to be in charge of all the company’s data centers and worldwide computer operations. She was accustomed to technology being replaced every three to five years, a norm in the private sector. So when she decided to join Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration earlier this year to serve as the state’s secretary of technology and CIO — her first government job — she was shocked by the condition of the state’s computer systems.

She learned that Colorado’s unemployment benefits system is 25 years old, its tax system is 23 years, and its titling system is 26 years old. And a recent audit found that the state’s financial reporting system, which processes $36 billion in expenditures annually, is at risk of failure. Russell’s discoveries confirmed an analysis two years ago of 200 of Colorado’s IT systems, which found that 77 of the state’s IT systems were more than 15 years old, and half had been around for at least a decade.

Many of these computer systems are coded in antiquated computer languages known only by the most senior of personnel — many of whom are set to retire in the next few years. The companies that built these systems in the first place no longer support them because the technology is so old, which drives up support costs with each passing year.

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