Modernizing child support enforcement with IBM and AWS

With 68% of child support enforcement (CSE) systems aging, most state agencies are currently modernizing them or preparing to modernize. More than 20% of families and children are supported by these systems, and with the current constituents of these systems becoming more consumer technology-centric, the use of antiquated technology systems is archaic and unsustainable. At this point, families expect state agencies to have a modern, efficient child support system.

The following are some factors driving these states to pursue modernization:

  • Current systems are developed on mainframe-based systems using an antiquated, scarcely available technology stack.
  • The unavailability of a skilled workforce makes these systems expensive to operate, manage and enhance.
  • Child support programs are focusing on pioneering a new, holistic and family-focused delivery perspective to make families feel included, listened to and empowered.
  • Modernization will free caseworkers’ time to focus on and collaborate with families, rather than focusing on navigating an aging system.

To fulfill these ever-increasing citizen expectations to consume state-provided child support services, statewide child support systems need do the following:

  1. Empower families to get help when, where and how they need it, including virtual and real-time communications.
  2. Provide quick and transparent services to ease stress and frustration in times of need.
  3. Be intuitive, user-friendly and cut down on manual effort.
  4. Automate routine tasks to free up time to provide personalized services and build relationships with families.
  5. Empower caseworkers with online tools to collaborate with colleagues and access knowledge repositories.

Existing systems simply are not able to provide the capabilities needed to realize this family-centered approach of service delivery and need to be modernized, immediately.

Every U.S. state is different

Core system requirements—such as new case initiation, providing location and establishment services, enforcing orders, handling financial transactions, etc.—are mandated by the Office of Federal Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), making many state child support enforcement (CSE) systems similar.

Despite this commonality, every child support organization is unique, and each needs a tailored modernization approach that supports its vision and understands the reality “on the ground.” For example, the core systems technology landscape for each state could be a mainframe legacy system with varying degrees of maturity, portability, reliability and scalability.

States’ existing investment in modernizing ancillary systems (e.g., improved document management capabilities, web portals, mobile applications, data warehouses, enhanced location services, etc.) might negate the need for modernization for these systems. This, along with the overall maturity of CSEs, uninterrupted service requirements, state budget, timing, staffing, and other factors mandate a comprehensive modernization approach to pull in these investments.

IBM Consulting’s Accelerated Incremental Mainframe Modernization

Legacy applications, while being the current crown jewels of states’ IT ecosystems, hinder business agility and are expensive and complicated, therefore making any rebuild, refactor or integration attempts risky.

IBM Consulting’s pioneering Accelerated Incremental Mainframe Modernization (AIMM) approach focuses on legacy modernization with a lens of incremental transformation, rather than just translation. Our approach focuses on business data domain-centric initiatives that can deliver value in the short term and create a development ecosystem conducive to incremental optimization—instead of a risky big-bang application and infrastructure update.

As highlighted in the graphic below, AIMM’s approach focuses on starting with a business and technology map alongside the client-specific IT ecosystems, instead of only a code conversion.

This helps us create a client journey with the co-existence of legacy and incrementally migrated functionality to the new digital core, eventually strangulating and sunsetting the legacy platforms.

The approach leverages IBM’s zOS connectors, allowing us to shift the focus from application to data, move mainframe data in mainframe format into cloud storage (with near real-time, bidirectional data sync), and leverage new and modern cloud data management services. With its proven tools and processes, AIMM meets clients where they are in the legacy modernization journey, analyzing (auto-scan) legacy code, extracting business rules, converting it to modern language, deploying it to any cloud, and managing technology for transformational business outcomes. Ultimately, this helps states to realize their business goals and deliver value faster.

A proven methodology, IBM assets, tools, cloud provider services and our ecosystem of partners and alliances drive IBM’s end-to-end mainframe modernization approach and deliver business value.

The following are some of the industry-leading methodologies, tools and assets used by AIMM:

  1. IBM Garage brings together industry best practices, technical expertise and knowledge, client collaboration and partnership, cloud service providers, and the IBM Consulting teams to deliver accelerated outcomes.
  2. IBM Consulting Cloud Accelerator (ICCA) recommends client journeys without deep engineering knowledge, covering execution and modernization steps that take a workload from a source to a cloud destination.
  3. IBM Asset Analysis Renovation Catalyst (AARC) automatically extracts the rules from the COBOL application source code and generates a knowledge model, which is then deployed into a rules engine like IBM Operational Decision Manager, Pega, etc.
  4. IBM Operational Decision Manager (ODM) enables businesses to respond to real-time data by applying automated decisions, enabling business users to develop and maintain operational systems decision logic.
  5. IBM’s open-source automated workflows provide cross-cloud, AI-powered software designed to accelerate application modernization with pre-integrated data, automation and security capabilities, enabling business and IT teams to build and modernize applications faster.

Why IBM Consulting and AWS?

IBM is a Premier Consulting Partner for AWS, with 19,000+ AWS certified professionals across the globe, 16 service validations and 15 AWS competencies—becoming the fastest Global GSI to secure more AWS competencies and certifications among Top-16 AWS Premier GSI’s within 18 months. At re:Invent 2022, IBM Consulting was awarded the Global Innovation Partner of the Year and the GSI Partner of the Year for Latin America, cementing client and AWS trust in IBM Consulting as a trusted partner of choice, when it comes to AWS.

AWS has the biggest cloud infrastructure services vendor market share worldwide, averaging around 33% as of Q4 2022. AWS provides AWS GovCloud (US) Regions, a flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing model, reliability, FedRAMP compliance and flexibility of compute. This makes AWS a great choice for federal and state agencies looking to achieve operational efficiencies and innovate on demand to advance their mission across the nation.

As more states are finding new ways to leverage mainframes as part of their modernization strategy with hybrid cloud, IBM is leading the way and working with state and local governments across various sectors, helping deliver more responsive services, digitize their operations, and advance equity and access.

As an example, IBM Consulting worked with the Department of Children and Families of a U.S. state to modernize their highly complex legacy application systems—comprised of 200 databases and 72 application modules into a strategic enterprise AWS cloud platform, resulting in 200M lines of Java code.

Leveraging IBM Garage Method for cloud, IBM Consulting teams executed a proven factory-based approach (process, skills, tools) to do the following:

  • Deliver throughput and consistency in migration and rationalization.
  • Standardize on a core set of platforms, infrastructure and tools across environments—spanning multiple agencies and service providers.
  • Empower end users with self-service catalog management.

This resulted in a 50% reduction in annual operating costs, improving application response time by 3.5x, benefiting end-user experience, and moving the state to a “pay-as-you-go” model for a reduced upfront commitment.

In 2022, IBM Consulting leveraged AIMM and worked with another major U.S. city agency serving 19M citizens. They led the modernization and migration of 29 user-facing applications, developing standardized DevOps, technology, and quality-assurance processes while modernizing and migrating three legacy applications to AWS by Q1 2023.

The IBM and AWS partnership can accelerate your CSE modernization journey

For a state considering modernizing the legacy mainframe system, IBM recommends the combination of one or more of the following patterns:

  1. Migration to AWS with no/minimal code changes with middleware emulator.
  2. Migration to AWS with refactoring (auto-refactoring of code to Java/.Net).
  3. Rearchitecting and modernizing with new channels of information delivery (leveraging microservices).
  4. Data migration to the cloud for analytics and insights.

For all these patterns, business functional equivalence is essential, as detailed below.

Mainframe modernization patterns and landing zone.

Leveraging these patterns and our extensive AWS experience, IBM Consulting has solidified these patterns as accelerators to help clients looking to migrate to AWS. Below is a high-level schematic.

Business functional equivalence is essential for automation and project speed.

At AWS re:Invent 2022, IBM shared five hybrid application modernization patterns, complete with reference architectures for DevOps/API Life cycles, demos and making the IBM Z Cloud Modernization stack available on AWS Marketplace. In addition, we have developed reference architectures for deploying IBM Mainframe z/OS on AWS with IBM ZD&T, an AWS native development environment reference architecture for modernizing z/OS applications, and a flexible, integrated application modernization and IT automation platform, enabling states to accelerate application modernization, achieve IT automation, reduce risk of application changes, create and deploy secure APIs, and reduce the need for specialized skills.

For code refactoring—in addition to home-grown tools and third-party tools—IBM is training its resources on AWS Blue Age (a recent AWS acquisition) and focusing on simplifying and optimizing the modernization journey by automating the majority of the code-refactoring process.

This approach has yielded immediate benefits for our clients, including providing better ROI, frontloading the savings to power modernization through reinvestment, and providing a gradual ramp up for states’ human workforce—critical for building the skills necessary for operating a mission-critical workload.

Learn more

States and their child support enforcement systems need a technology partner that is committed to listening and understanding the reality of where the state is on the modernization journey. They need a partner that will work in tandem with a state to tailor an approach that supports its vision, constraints and existing investments.

IBM brings deep child-support industry knowledge, leading-edge technologies and expertise on AWS through a unique combination of IBM Consulting, software and as-a-service capabilities. From concept to scale, our end-to-end solutions and proven methods help child support agencies modernize their applications and infrastructure with speed and consistency, so states can stay ahead of the curve.

IBM is proud to be a trusted partner of choice for many states and is eager to help modernize support systems designed to look after the welfare of our most prized asset—our families.

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