IT Modernization Isn’t Enough. It’s Time for Digital Transformation.

December 2, 2020

By Jennifer Hoover, Director of Digital Transformation

IT modernization has been a key initiative for most government agencies over the last 10-15 years—and with good reason. Outdated software platforms and legacy programs can have serious consequences for security, operational efficiency and sustainability. That’s why NCI has invested in the development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) to help government agencies increase efficiencies. From updating legacy systems to modern computer language to providing enterprise technology solutions like its NCI Empower™ platform, these technologies provide never-before-seen efficiencies, dependability, accuracy and cost savings to organizations.

But by itself, IT modernization isn’t enough. To prepare their organizations for the future, agencies must move towards a philosophy of digital transformation. A digital transformation approach looks beyond software platforms to the people who will use them and the processes they support.

IT Modernization vs. Digital Transformation: What’s the Difference?

IT modernization focuses on just one aspect of digital transformation: the technology. Technology initiatives are often driven by IT teams with the goal of updating legacy software and platforms to newer languages, increased security standards and additional functionality requirements. Over the last decade, the rise of cloud-based platforms has been a driver for many organizations to update systems in both the commercial and government sectors.

Updating technology is important, but by itself is not sufficient. A digital transformation approach looks at three aspects of modernization―the technology but equally as important, the people and the processes that will result in a true digital transformation.

Digital transformation is a holistic approach that starts with the people who actually use the technology and what they are trying to accomplish. It is not simply a matter of updating outdated legacy code but thinking about how changes will impact the end-users, the clients or constituents they serve, and the agency’s ultimate mission.

Building a Successful Digital Transformation Strategy

Digital transformation must be approached strategically. What does a digital transformation strategy include? Here are some of the elements that should be considered.

  • Mission Focus: How is the project aligned with mission priorities for the agency and for the Federal government as a whole? A digital transformation strategy should consider how well the project meets high-level goals. These may include budget and manpower reduction, process and workflow improvement, security enhancement or other priorities.


  • User Buy-in: While IT modernization is driven by the IT department, digital transformation must include agency leadership, the end-users of the software system, and other stakeholders who will be impacted by the changes. This ensures that the ultimate solution is optimized for the mission of the agency and the people who will be using the platform.


  • Development Strategy: In the past, many government IT modernization programs were completed using a traditional “waterfall” development approach, where the project plan and timeline is laid out up front and followed through to completion. Now, more agencies are moving to an Agile approach, which provides more flexibility to respond to new user requirements as they emerge.


  • Rollout and Training: User adoption is often a missing element in IT modernization projects, but it is absolutely critical for the ultimate success of the initiative. Communication and training are essential to ensure that users are prepared for the changes and set up for success. This should not be thought of as a one-time event but an ongoing process with plenty of support for users. The costs of training and implementation support should be considered as part of the overall budget for the initiative.


  • Sustainability: While IT modernization is focused on achieving a specific goal, digital transformation is about evolution. A digital transformation strategy includes processes for continual improvement and advancement as needs, priorities and available technologies change.


    • NCI is helping government agencies put digital transformation strategies in place. From code refactoring to intelligent automation, our AI-based solutions start with understanding the needs and priorities of all agency stakeholders. We built our NCI Empower™ platform to provide complete transparency into the digital transformation process while reducing costs and development timelines. Through digital transformation, we are helping our agency clients prepare to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.