From Here to Modernity: A Case Study in Legacy App Transformation

Calendar icon 08-24-2021

Halfaker, an SAIC company, supports a wide range of government clients in planning, executing, scaling, and sustaining application and system modernization using a combination of leading-edge best practices tailored to specific customer goals and organizational, technical, and operating environments. Earlier this year, we kicked off a suite of application development and management initiatives to support one of our health sector customers in meeting their mission to provide research, production, and promotion of scientific evidence to improve the organization, financing, and delivery of healthcare. Relying on a powerful business operations and program support system composed of multiple home-grown applications, our customer requires a holistic approach to modernizing its 30-plus custom-developed modules with a unified look and feel, centralized data management, and scalable approach to building new applications to increase efficiency across the research program lifecycle.


Major capability areas:

Database Administration, Operations and Maintenance (O&M), User-Centered Design (UCD), Web/Mobile Development, DevOps, Cloud Migration, Agile Software Development, Agile Transformation, Robotic Process Automation (RPA)


The challenge

As the demand for rapid delivery of IT services increases among program offices and end users, our client needs to sustain and rapidly enhance existing applications in their legacy business operations system and maintain readiness to scale capacity for new application development. To provide reliable sustainment for a growing number of applications and resiliency across an increasingly complex technical environment, our client requires expert-level ecosystem support as well as technical and process innovations to accelerate delivery without compromising software quality or introducing risk. To further enhance operations, our client requires a modern RPA capability to monitor and manage workforce productivity while working under normal or emergency conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our solution

Using industry-leading standards like agile scrum, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and the U.S. Digital Services Playbook, Halfaker builds on our client’s current success to manage and scale business support system capabilities in a cost-effective manner while incrementally delivering key agile process innovations. Our technical program manager doubles as an agile coach to help our client improve and scale their agile processes to increase development velocity, training resources to use lightweight agile processes and Atlassian tools (e.g. Jira, Confluence, Bamboo) that streamline project reporting, reduce manual documentation, and automate configuration management and traceability for greater compliance. Leveraging UCD best practices, we engage directly with product owners and end users to identify functional requirements, conduct iterative prototyping, and build a minimum viable product (MVP) with user-friendly interfaces for rapid product adoption. To reduce future technical debt, we prioritize code reuse and microservices architecture to enable modular components for shared services, ensuring changes in shared components benefit all applications while isolating application-specific changes to minimize impact to the larger IT ecosystem.

To increase delivery velocity, Halfaker’s cross-functional engineers configure DevOps pipelines to automatically build, test, and deploy high-quality code and user-centric applications, while identifying opportunities to leverage artificial intelligence/machine learning to prevent issues before they occur. We also maintain an innovation backlog and continuously evaluate new tools to support future virtualization, cloud migration, and mobile development goals. To support our client’s gradual migration to the cloud, our team evaluates applications, data, and other workloads for cloud readiness and develops a strategic roadmap to govern cloud services implementation and optimization.

In addition to implementing a robust agile process and modernizing our client’s system infrastructure, Halfaker implements a robust RPA solution to further augment productivity and quality across research program teams. We evaluate industry-leading RPA tools (e.g., UIPath, BluePrism, Automation Anywhere) against our client’s short- and long-term business goals and infrastructure compatibility. Using agile scrum methods, we gather and prioritize functional requirements from stakeholders and develop a feature roadmap to guide RPA solution development. Prior to tool procurement and configuration, our team proactively establishes key infrastructure elements and resolves interface requirements between the RPA solution and client data sources. Using DevOps, we incrementally build, test, and deploy RPA solution functionality to include dynamic filtering by location and organization, enabling our client to continually monitor and address workforce readiness.

Realized benefits

Halfaker’s DevOps-enabled agile methodology innovates and accelerates business operations and program support application delivery at scale, achieves infrastructure and customer cost savings, and increases value to the user community by streamlining agile processes and advancing the transition from on-premise hosting to the cloud. Our architecture innovations and agile process improvements achieve:

  • Increased development efficiency and quality
  • Enhanced infrastructure resilience and scalability
  • Greater workforce productivity

By delivering secure and intuitive applications and optimizing business processes, we enable our client to better manage clinical research initiatives and produce evidence to make healthcare safer, accessible, equitable, and affordable. Moreover, our RPA implementation provides our client with additional data visibility and insight for improved business decision-making, enhanced delivery quality and speed, and workforce readiness regardless of operating condition. Following a successful presentation with program leadership, Halfaker’s agile training materials are being shared with other development teams to accelerate agency-wide cultural adoption.