Licensing is one of the critical functions performed by government agencies to control activities or services performed by third-party providers. Government authorities typically control who can provide these services by verifying if they meet certain standards before allowing them to engage in activities that fall under the purview of licensing. Based on the jurisdiction of the provided services, licenses could be issued by the city, county, state, or federal governments.
Since these essential services govern hundreds of thousands of providers in a state or country, the process to manage the verification, issuance, and renewal of licenses and the triaging of the complaint process is cumbersome and complicated. To better handle these complexities, many vendors have come up with proprietary software solutions to automate many tasks to efficiently deliver services to their citizens.
These software solutions were primarily developed using legacy languages and were hosted on-premises. With the advent of new technology and changes in customer behavior – such as social media, mobile devices, and remote workforces – agencies are finding it challenging to meet the needs of citizens and support these channels using the existing legacy applications. Consequently, agencies are forced to modernize their applications.
Let’s take a closer look at the issues faced by agencies using legacy applications and how Salesforce addresses these issues and delivers value to organizations.
Issues with Legacy Applications
Government agencies are now facing a myriad of issues in efforts to maintain and manage their legacy licensing applications. One of the problems with existing solutions is that they were developed decades ago and were implemented using legacy programming languages – which are no longer embraced by mainstream programmers. Due to the nature of these languages, there has been a dearth of qualified people in the marketplace with expertise and desire to work on these languages. The challenge for many licensing agencies looking to maintain legacy systems is that existing workers who are still interested in using older applications are expected to retire in the next decade.
The next problem with legacy services is that to robustly run them around the clock, the agencies are often forced to over-provision their infrastructure to handle peak load and any future growth. In addition, since licensing is a mission-critical government function, the agencies need to have a strategy in place to quickly resume business following a disruption. This typically requires agencies to invest in an alternate data center in a different region along with redundant infrastructure, which results in heavy upfront investments and higher maintenance costs over the life of the system.
Moreover, on-premises solutions require agencies to invest in additional workforce to manage the myriad of infrastructure, such as servers and networks, needed to run an enterprise solution that delivers robust services around the clock. To make matters worse, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a single resource that has the skills to support all the different infrastructures that make up a modern data center and instead are forced to hire multiple resources (i.e. one to administer the servers and another to manage the networks).
Much of the hardware and software used to build legacy systems were designed to support use cases that were relevant a decade ago. With the advancement of technology and the integration of multiple platforms, modern-age businesses have digitally transformed to support newer channels that were previously nonexistent. The citizens, who are now accustomed to these channels, are expecting agencies to provide services over their favorite channels. Due to these changing customer expectations, government agencies are forced to extend their existing solution to support new channels and are consequently forced to handle high request volumes that are steadily increasing every year.
These new dynamics have forced agencies to modify their legacy system in ways that were not envisioned in their original design, leading to increased security risks. Considering the amount of personally identifiable information stored in these systems, continuous monitoring is required to shield from cyberattacks, as they serve as an attractive target. This requires agencies to invest in security teams that constantly monitor for vulnerabilities and work with the development team to immediately remedy any issues that are identified.
Lastly, the legacy systems were not built with open API architecture. The lack of open API’s limits these systems from easily integrating with external platforms and in order to take advantage of newer technologies. As the younger members of the population rapidly embrace a newer technology landscape, they are provided with poorer experiences, as legacy systems struggle to adapt to changes.
All of the previously mentioned factors are causing agencies to spend most of their technology budgets on maintaining legacy licensing systems – resulting in the inability to support newer use cases, popular social media channels, or richer mobile experiences. These issues eventually lead to growing dissatisfaction among customers and the employees who are using these systems to deliver day-to-day services.
Modernizing with Salesforce
Salesforce is a cloud-computing platform, where the applications are hosted on the infrastructure provided by some of the major cloud providers and accessed through the internet. This infrastructure is typically pooled among multiple tenants, leading to efficient utilization of the resources, as well as lower operating costs.
Salesforce offers Government Cloud, an infrastructure dedicated for use only by United States federal, state, and local government agencies. Customer data is processed and stored solely within the United States and operated and supported by screened U.S citizens. The government cloud data centers maintain a FedRamp Moderate Authority to Operate (ATO), a DoD Impact Level 4 Provisional Authorization (PA), and is connected to DISA Cloud Access Point (CAP). These infrastructures allow government agencies to store and process customer data and meet some of the stringent security requirements.
Hosting infrastructure and data centers in the cloud have many added benefits as they offer tremendous flexibility. The cloud infrastructure provides the ability to scale servers at a moment’s notice to handle spikes in traffic and automatically scales down once the traffic ebbs. This eliminates the need to invest in dedicated infrastructure capacity to handle peak load or future growth.
One of the additional benefits with the cloud infrastructure is the savings realized on redundant systems required to maintain business continuity during disasters. Major cloud providers have invested in redundant data centers across the country and have built services to transparently transfer the workload to another data center in a different region in case of a disaster. Due to multiple tenants pooling the resources, these additional infrastructures are now more cost-effective, as the expense on these mostly idle resources is shared among many tenants. This eliminates the need for agencies to invest in additional dedicated infrastructure in an alternate region to handle disaster scenarios.
Salesforce follows a subscription model that allows agencies to adopt a pay-as-you-go model and eliminates the need for high, upfront investments before kicking off a project. Many agencies find it easier to start projects as it is easier to get approval from legislatures, decreases the time spent on the procurement process for the various hardware and software, and reduces the dead investment costs if the project does not start as planned.
While a single agency might find it exorbitantly expensive to hire people with different skills to run an enterprise web-based application, it becomes very cost-effective for Salesforce as a platform provider. They can employ individuals who are highly skilled in their respective areas of expertise, such as networks, network appliances, server administration, and software development. Since each area is implemented and managed by skilled professionals, they tend to adopt best practices in implementation and maintenance, reducing the likelihood of security risks. Due to their shared operations, platform providers can invest in highly-trained security professionals, who can dedicate their time to identify security vulnerabilities and work with appropriate teams to remediate them. Additionally, they also find it easier to retire old infrastructure and continually invest in adopting and implementing infrastructure at the forefront of technology to ensure that the operations are run smoother and with fewer security risks.
The Salesforce platform has heavily invested to build the platform from the ground up to support open architecture. Most of the features available in the platform can be exposed externally through APIs and provide access support through a variety of protocols. The open architecture enables other applications to easily consume information, as these API’s allow for robust machine-to-machine communication compared to the brittle file exchange-based communication adopted by legacy applications.
The Salesforce platform was developed from the ground up based on cloud-first architecture and implemented using modern languages. In addition, Salesforce is continually investing in modernizing development and taking advantage of the latest changes in technology stacks, such as implementing React framework for front-end development with a modern look and feel, integrating artificial intelligence libraries to provide business insights, processing huge data volumes as big data systems, and handling high volume events to support the Internet of Things use cases. With the continual investment in technology, it is easier to attract top-notch talent, who in-turn drives rich feature implementation that benefits all the customers using the platform. The components written using modern languages has also enabled richer integration with newer channels of communication, such as social media, mobile, other internal applications within the agencies, and allows for embedding features from external applications to extend the system capabilities, thereby improving customer’s overall experience.
The Salesforce platform has a rich set of built-in features that provides point and click interfaces to quickly automate business processes. Complex processes that are currently performed manually or through Excel spreadsheets can be automated through easy drag-and-drop actions. All pages in Salesforce automatically conform to various device form factors, providing customers the ability to access them from the most convenient device without additional development effort. Built-in reports and dashboards provide a rich set of components that allow employees to quickly build reports and dashboards to get a better overview of their licensing operations.
Salesforce also provides a marketplace for applications that are purpose-built for the Salesforce platform, offering a rich functionality across a wide array of services. This marketplace allows customers to take advantage of the functionality out of the box, such as generating PDF documents without having to build the system from scratch and deliver a robust product that has been thoroughly tested by many users under a wide variety of use cases.
Agencies can now take advantage of all the above Salesforce capabilities to address the pain points with their existing legacy systems. Additionally, this platform allows agencies to focus their most valuable resources on developing features to effectively enhance their citizens’ experience in the digitally transformed world and realize faster time to value.
At MST Solutions, we have built a configurable licensing solution that further reduces the cost of migrating legacy licensing systems to the Salesforce platform. This application has pre-built functionality to handle new applications, manage the license life cycle, process payments, and manage complaints and associated investigation processes. Now agencies can efficiently manage the whole licensing process and significantly improve the customer experience at a lower operating cost.