Many state and local agencies are dealing with decades-old technology that limits how well they can serve citizens. A recent study from MeriTalk found that 96% of state and local government IT decision-makers felt critical infrastructures are at risk due to legacy applications or systems, and 87% said legacy applications prevent them from delivering modern services. (1) These limitations impact hiring, security, and budget, putting extra strain on agencies.

Finding qualified staff to update or maintain legacy systems is a considerable challenge. For the many agencies still running decades-old COBOL systems, the hiring pool is shrinking rapidly, and qualified consultants are expensive. State CIOs are already struggling to hire and retain workers, balancing employee burnout and hybrid work. (2) Modernization will expand the number of eligible applicants by shifting to more common skillsets. In addition, training customer-facing employees to use older systems can be slow when trying to ramp up services to meet demands. 

Interoperability between old and new technologies is limited. 47% of state and local government IT teams had a project fail in the last 12 months because their legacy systems couldn’t support it. (3) When these systems were first designed, no one knew just how digital the world would become. Mobile devices now account for more than 55% of internet traffic, (4) and the systems built decades ago are definitely not mobile-first applications.

Cybersecurity is another reason to modernize. 57% of state CIOs said ransomware is their top security concern. (5) Legacy systems are often long past their end of support, and securing them can be both difficult and disruptive. They’re not as easily backed up, creating a greater risk of data loss in the event of a security incident versus immutable cloud workloads.

Cost is yet another hindrance. Legacy hardware and expensive consultants for antiquated programming languages are eating up budgets that could otherwise go to improving services and infrastructure. Trying to link new and old systems also results in costs for custom integrations that must be maintained or, worse, manual connections that require headcount.

State and local government IT leaders know digital transformation needs to keep moving to improve efficiency, reliability, and security. But 55% of state CIOs don’t yet have an application modernization strategy in place. (6) The key to success will be developing a careful strategy to modernize while minimizing disruption.


1Modernizing State and Local Legacy Applications with Cloud, MeriTalk, April 2022

2How some state CIOs are fighting burnout, StateScoop, May 2022

3Modernizing State and Local Legacy Applications with Cloud, MeriTalk, April 2022

4Mobile Vs. Desktop Internet Usage,, January 2022

5Driving Digital Acceleration: The 2021 State CIO Survey, NASCIO, October 2021

6 – Many states lack strategy for application modernization, NASCIO data shows, StateScoop, May 2022