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How Miami-Dade County, Fla., Updated Complex Legacy Systems

The county worked to quickly streamline systems, targeting 60 applications, including more than 1,000 forms and 1,300 reports to be modernized, rewritten or retired.

Keeping up with technology can be a costly, lengthy and downright daunting task for many government agencies. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? Definitely not, as proven by Miami-Dade County, Fla.'s recent and successful update of its legacy IT systems, which has also resulted in major cost and time savings. 

The Miami-Dade County Information Technology Department oversees the county’s entire IT infrastructure (minus the Police Department and Seaport), including Solid Waste Management, Public Works, Water and Sewer, and Small Business Development departments. So when in 2011, its existing technology provider, Oracle, enforced an IT update that was going to require extensive staff training and resources, officials knew there had to be a better way — especially since the investment didn’t make sense, as this update would only target a small portion of the overall system. 

To address the challenge in a more sustainable way, the county turned to Morphis, a private legacy-to-cloud modernization company, to quickly streamline systems. Together, they targeted 60 applications, including more than 1,000 forms and 1,300 reports to be modernized, rewritten or retired.

Beginning in 2013, the company assisted in the migration of the IT department's existing database to an SQL server database, and helped to transfer many applications to either .NET or Java, including internal Garbage Roster, Paving Restoration, Special Tax and Calculation (STC), Case Management System and the ICI Billing System.

The update of 10 applications took about a year to complete, but the county was faced with a lack of security for its systems. To fill this gap, it is temporarily using Deep Security as an AV layer, which will eventually be replaced on the Oracle server. Once all updates are complete (expected by June 2016), its technology stack will be fully supported by its vendors. 

The modernization will streamline security and speed and, as Miami-Dade Database Manager Sue Camner points out, it will lead to significant cost savings for the department.

“Having to maintain the existing Oracle infrastructure while we re-architect the applications is costing us several hundred thousand dollars in licensing and hardware costs annually," she said. "We will see these savings once we finish re-architecting the applications."

Neil Hartley, U.S. head of operations for Morphis, notes that legacy modernizations and technology updates are rapidly growing as the greatest needs for government agencies everywhere.

“This is one of the hottest trends there is right now. President Obama has even proposed $3.1 billion for funding for government bodies to tap into to solve the problems that Miami-Dade has already solved,” he said. “It’s a huge challenge for all government organizations. IT modernization is a great example of the scale of the problem and it’s recognized at the highest levels.” 

According to Camner, investments in technology updates like these are hugely important because they drive the success of public service organizations.

“These investments are critical to ensure we continue to deliver value for money," she said, "and also to ensure the integrity and security of the applications we develop and maintain on behalf of our customers."

While identifying and implementing attainable solutions to outdated IT systems can be a challenge for government agencies, Hartley said he hopes this successful project will encourage agencies to take that challenge.

“The most important thing is that this particular problem gets portrayed as being unsolvable. It’s a difficult challenge, but it’s not unsolvable," he said. "When I see these stories, you can see that it can be done. Miami-Dade County should be applauded for working through this.”