August 15, 2022

What is Legacy Modernization—and Do You Need It?

The Office of Financial Management in Washington is the owner of the AFRS system, which was implemented more than 30 years ago and continues to serve as the system of record for accounting transactions across the enterprise. 

Staff at every agency use AFRS; it’s still doing its job. But the agency understands that the AFRS solution is at end-of-life and that they are missing out on tremendous opportunities for greater efficiency and savings. Today, they are working to replace AFRS with a modern solution that will support the state’s expanding requirements. 

Similar situations play themselves out every day in agencies across the state. Systems that once instigated growth have now reached—or are approaching—their maturity points. Soon, they’ll no longer be useful. Worse, some will actively harm your organization, putting important data at risk or costing your workers time as they continue to deliver services using an aging—and increasingly sluggish—system.

What is a Legacy System?

A legacy system refers to outdated infrastructure or an outdated application or process. All systems eventually become legacy systems—clinging to them can hold back growth and create inefficiencies. 

But not modernizing them in the right way can be equally damaging. It’s important to approach system modernization with care, in order to determine the best way to bring the system into alignment with your organization’s current needs.

Why Modernize?

Your legacy system is familiar. It may still be performing its function admirably. But once it becomes a burden to maintain—financially or operationally—or keeps you from implementing the kinds of innovations you need to grow, it’s time to reassess its role in your agency.

Systems that have reached maturity include those that:

  • Are too high-cost to support or maintain.
  • Are inefficient and/or too slow to be competitive.
  • Run on unsupported platforms.
  • Require skills that are no longer universally indispensable.
  • Are overly complex.
  • Cannot be integrated with newer systems and/or technologies.

Modernizing a key system can have far-reaching—and long-lasting—benefits. A modernized system can help your organization:

  • Reduce costs.
  • Make your processes simpler, more flexible, and more adaptive.
  • Improve operational efficiency.
  • Boost worker productivity.
  • Increase data consistency. 
  • Improve security.
  • Facilitate collaboration.
  • Bring your agency into compliance.
  • Become more competitive.

Where—and How—To Begin?

Change is the only constant: new systems and new workflows are simply part of your work. 

If your organization has been around for a while, begin by recognizing that all of your systems are probably bordering on maturity and that you will need to bring every one of them up to date. 

First Steps

Document legacy systems thoroughly before you think about modernizing. Ancient systems with poor documentation are much harder to migrate because data schemas are unknown, functionality is unknown, and data may be unrecoverable. This can add time, complexity, and angst to any system modernization.

Decide ahead of time if you have the stomach for Agile or if you need to stick with Waterfall. You either need all your requirements documented ahead of the project start or you’ll have to make a serious investment and commitment to Agile methods before the project begins. There is no way around this.

Don’t skip the feasibility study. It will help reveal all the gaps and opportunities and set you up with realistic expectations for cost and timeline. 

Start with the process—not the technology. Don’t think about your modernization project as an IT project; it’s a business project that is, fortunately, landing on a modern platform.

Involve your stakeholders early and often. Listen to what they say, capture what they really mean, and incorporate as much of their feedback as you can.

Which Approach?

Once you’re ready to explore other possibilities for a system, it’s time to consider the best approach. In the change management world, we call the options for application modernization the “Seven Rs.”


Your team may decide that the system, on its own, is redundant and no longer needed. If this is the case, it’s likely that you have alternate systems already in place where you can migrate existing data or users. This option may require some work to close or optimize an operational gap.


Sometimes, a team may determine that a system in its current iteration is serviceable for the time being. In this case, you will simply keep and maintain the current system. This may be a good option if the system in question is a low or mid-priority asset or if a major change, such as a merger or a leadership turnover, is on the horizon. Be aware that choosing to retain the system will require a team to re-engage the question down the road and that cumbersome, outdated systems can accrue significant costs over time. 


Rehosting a system means that you migrate the data or other elements of your current system into a new environment without altering code, changing the functionality or features, or recompiling data. Also called “lift and shift,” this approach is used, for instance, to move an email system to the cloud. Be aware that although this approach will require less operational disruption, it does not take full advantage of options and tools available in the new system’s native format. 


Like a rehosted system, a replatformed system moves elements from a legacy system to a new home. The replatform approach calls for a minimal number of code changes to adapt it to the new platform while retaining the functions and features of the legacy system. This is a minimal-intervention approach that allows you to continue to take advantage of your investment in the legacy system. 


Changing the architecture of your system is a step beyond replatforming. Re-architecting a system often means using new technologies to make changes on the back end by optimizing code for better performance while retaining front-end functionality. This is less disruptive than a complete rebuild but leverages new capabilities.


The longest, most intense option, a rebuild is a complete restructuring of the current system. Though it takes the longest—and costs the most—of any of the other options, it is also the most beneficial, often moving clunky, site-based systems fully to the cloud. The result is a flexible, higher-performing, lower-cost system. 


This option calls for scrapping the existing system—wholesale—and replacing it with a modernized version to allow for updated processes and compliance with new requirements. For instance, you may move an email or invoicing system to a cloud-based application. Bear in mind that this option will require a significant amount of user training and a ramp-up period while users are learning and getting accustomed to the new system.


Modernizing your agency’s systems requires an intentional, 360-degree process that includes assessment, development, implementation, and integration of modern technologies that make the most of your IT resources. It is not for the faint of heart—nor can it be an afterthought. However, the results are well worth the effort. 

To get excellent results, we recommend that you partner with experts (like us) who have completed multiple successful legacy system modernization projects across diverse industries and geographies. 

Building on more than 20 years of change enablement and modernization experience, FirstRule can help your organization modernize legacy applications, transform your IT operations, and improve your business processes.

We follow a proven approach—involving people, process, and technology—to solve challenges, including working with you to understand your needs and creating solutions that are positioned to deliver value and quantifiable outcomes. Combining the right tools, techniques, and expertise, we can help ensure your organization is positioned for the future, and for success. Learn more about our legacy application modernization services, methodology, and success stories at

Hope Youngs

Client executive and chief needle threader

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Master’s in Business Administration; Business Architect certification; ScrumMaster certification.


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​Hope is the Client Executive at FirstRule Group. She specializes in helping companies execute on strategic objectives and loves getting things done with a rousing “heck yes!”


About Hope

​When not working, you can find Hope sharing family time with her daughters, hiking in the mountains, or feeling the wind on her face sailing.

Jarius Rice

Jairus Rice

Consultant and Partnership Builder

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Public Administration; Bachelor’s in Political Science; Prosci Change Management Professional; LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt


Function and Specialization
Jairus is an executive leader specializing in designing and shepherding organizational change and process improvement strategies. He helps clients develop strong partnerships to achieve strategic goals, maximize performance, and increase value to their customers.


About Jairus
Jairus is a combat veteran who served five years in the United States Marine Corps. When he and his wife Jessica aren’t coaching their three kids’ sports teams, they enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. 

Shelley McDermott

Partner and Diplomatic Hostess

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Project Management Professional certification


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Shelley has more than 25 years of senior program leadership experience. She specializes in leading teams and optimizing high-risk, high-visibility projects.

About Shelley
Shelley enjoys cooking, remodeling projects, and spending time with family and friends. 

Stacy Steck

Stacy Steck

Partner and Illuminator

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Master’s in Business Administration; Project Management Professional certification


Function and Specialization
Stacy is an expert in planning and executing transformational technology projects. She specializes in communication, facilitation, and getting things done. 


About Stacy
Stacy is passionate about fundraising and loves serving her community. She also enjoys traveling and writing.

Joanna Briese

Joanna Briese

Consultant and Project Manager

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Master’s in Secondary Teaching; Applied Project Management Professional certification


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Joanna is a skilled project manager and curriculum developer. She specializes in e-learning and training and has even been a trainer in the specialty coffee industry!


About Joanna
Joanna loves the outdoors, cooking, family, travel, coffee, and curling up with her cats and a book.

Nissa Burger

Nissa Burger

Consultant and Project Manager

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20 years in elections managing statewide software implementations


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Nissa is a seasoned project manager who specializes in all facets of software development.


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Nissa loves summertime, cheering on her kids in their sports, and spending time with family.

Trish Coloma

Trish Coloma

Consultant and Transformation Specialist

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Bachelor’s in Sociology; Project Management Professional certification


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Trish is an adept project manager focused on designing and implementing governance and helping organizations manage change and improve processes. She specializes in turning vision into action.


About Trish
Trish is an avid hiker and backpacker. She’s found that just like project management, a great hike is all about the journey and good planning!

Heather Coughlin-Washburn

Consultant and Negotiator

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Studied journalism and psychology; sixteen years in the IT field; Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) certification


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Heather is a senior consultant who specializes in managing complex IT projects and quality assurance. She is passionate about building successful teams and achieving positive outcomes for clients.


About Heather
Heather has a background as a professional journalist specializing in government, politics, and law enforcement. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, photography, and camping.

Lindsay Flye

People Operations Manager & Bringer of Energy

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Masters of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology 


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Lindsay is the People Operations Manager for FirstRule Group. She focuses on recruitment, onboarding and offboarding, candidate experience, and human resources policies and processes.


About Lindsay
Lindsay loves to read, cook, quilt, and be outside with her pup. She also enjoys traveling, time with friends and family, and game nights.

Larry Holden

Larry Holden

Consultant and Creator of Big Hairy Spreadsheets

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Bachelor’s in Chemistry


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Larry is an experienced project manager and analyst with a focus on finance and IT projects. He specializes in process improvement. 


About Larry
Larry loves cooking, skiing, Christmas movies, and hanging out with his kids. He is also actively involved in his community Little League.

Pamela Johnston

Consultant and Puzzle Solver

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Master’s of Education in Counseling Psychology; Bachelor’s in Management Science


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Pamela is a senior business analyst with extensive technical IT experience. She specializes in system integration and implementation, data analysis, and reporting.  


About Pamela
Pamela is a proud Duke Blue Devil2 who loves ballet, orchids, bowling, and line dancing. She is the mother to fur babies Dash and Valentino. 

Jessica Larson

Consultant and Project Manager

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Master’s of Public Health; Master’s of Health Administration


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Jessica Larson is a seasoned project manager with demonstrated skill in all facets of project management. She specializes in helping teams identify and understand problems and develop impactful solutions.


About Jessica
Jessica has visited 7 countries and 39 U.S. states and is always planning her next trip. In between travels Jessica enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking and baking, rooting for Seattle sports teams, and spending as much time outdoors with family as possible.

Lori Luppino

Lori Luppino

Consultant and Intuitive Collaborator

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Twenty years of experience in IT finance


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Lori is a business analyst with an affinity for change management. She specializes in IT finance, budgeting, and business operations.


About Lori
Lori enjoys live music, the outdoors, traveling, painting, and her family.

Duncan McDermott

Finance Manager

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Master’s in Business Administration; Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in finance


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Duncan is the Finance Manager for FirstRule Group and oversees billing and contracts and supports other operational functions of the firm. He specializes in tall orders and a sunny delivery.


About Duncan
Duncan played basketball for Pacific University and enjoys boating, summer activities, and billiards.

Daisye Ore

Daisye Orr

Consultant and Creative Strategist

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Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis in health communication


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Daisye is an experienced program leader and systems thinker. She specializes in policy development, program planning, communication, partner engagement, and working from a place of equity and inclusion.


About Daisye
Daisye loves creating art, being in nature, searching for vintage treasures, reading, and spending time with her loved ones.

Ben Robinson

Ben Robinson

Consultant and Data Storyteller

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Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance


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Ben is a management consultant specializing in business operations, financial forecasting, and data analysis and reporting.


About Ben
Ben is a lifelong learner. He enjoys backpacking, cycling, and adventuring with his family.

Eric Stout

Consultant and Technical Make-It-happener

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Associate’s degree in Computer Science; Black Belt Candidate; Microsoft Product Specialist 


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Eric is an accomplished consultant with deep technical knowledge. He specializes in cross-business partnerships, IT transformations, and program management.


About Eric

Eric is a father, musician, snow boarder, and boat captain.

Laura Scott

Consultant and Team Developer

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Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a major in Information Systems; Project Management Professional certification


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Laura is a project manager specializing in technology projects. She is also known for creating inclusive, empowered, and high-performing teams.


About Laura
Laura is from Seattle and enjoys all things outdoors, such as hiking, snowshoeing, sailing, and gardening.

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Consultant and Tenacious Observer

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Stephanie Telander

Stephanie Telander

Consultant and Insightful Connector

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Project Management Professional certification; Prosci Change Management Professional certification; IT Service Management (ITIL) and International Standards Organization (ISO/20000) certifications

Function and Specialization
Stephanie is an experienced project manager and business analyst. She specializes in taking complex things and making them easier to consume through diagrams, flow charts, and plain speak documentation. 

About Stephanie
Stephanie loves gardening, travel, cooking, crafts, family, and a good mystery.  

Chi Underwood

Chi Underwood

Consultant and Strategic Improvement Specialist

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Finance; LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt 


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Chi is an experienced consultant focused on process improvement using Six Sigma methodologies and data analytics. He specializes in business analysis, team development, budgeting and the organizational design of new processes.  


About Chi
Chi is an avid fisherman chasing salmon in the Pacific Northwest. He is also a judge for the First Robotics competition. 

Sheri Anderson

Consultant and Chaos Controller

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Project Management Professional Certification

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Sheri is an experienced consultant and an effective liaison between business and technical teams. She specializes in process improvement, business analysis, team leadership, implementations, data warehousing, user training, and testing.

About Sheri

Sheri splits her time between Utah and Arizona and prefers to relax around water and in the mountains.  She enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time with her two adult boys and grandson.

Christy Anna Gerber

Consultant and change advisor

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Master’s in Business Administration


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Christy Anna is consultant with a unique ability to see beyond challenges. She specializes in  creating pathways for opportunities, learnings, and desired outcomes.


About Christy Anna

Christy Anna loves spending time with family and friends especially if that time is spent outdoors. She loves skiing, mountain biking, and fly-fishing across the West. She’s also a fan of a great book and enjoys live music.

Malcolm Hooper

Consultant and Trusted advisor

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Master’s in Education; Bachelor’s in Economics


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Malcolm is an accomplished consultant with many years of experience managing operations, IT, and cybersecurity. He specializes in partnering with senior leadership to advise, develop, and implement strategic and effective IT initiatives.   


About Malcolm

Malcolm loves baking sourdough bread, perfecting recipes, traveling with his family, and training for his next ultimate tournament in his free time.  

Karen Langehough

Consultant and force multiplier

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Bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in psychology; Certified Master Project Manager; Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources  


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Karen is an accomplished senior leader and business-focused practitioner. She specializes in human resources consulting, change management, coaching, and development.


About Karen

Karen enjoys cooking, gardening, coffee, watching Seattle Mariners and Seahawks games, volunteering through her church, and spending time with friends and family.

Susan Meenk

Consultant and Mind Reader

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Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in organizational development; Bachelor’s in psychology


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Susan is an executive leader with expertise in Human Resources. She specializes in strategic planning, leadership development, succession planning, conflict resolution, and team building. 


About Susan

When Susan is not spending time with her family, she can be found outside working in the garden, running, or paddle boarding. She is also an active community volunteer. 

Shawn Milligan

Consultant and Project Manager

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Doctorate in Business Administration; Project Management Professional certification; ScrumMaster certification


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Shawn is an accomplished project manager with extensive business experience. She specializes in bringing people together to make things better. 


About Shawn

Shawn is an avid international traveler and has visited all seven continents. She is also a nature and travel photographer.

Lindsey Phillips

Consultant and Intuituve Facilitator

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Associates of Art’s in Liberal Arts & Sciences 


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Lindsey is an experienced and versatile project coordinator known for her adept management and relationship-building skills. She specializes in spearheading projects, optimizing operational productivity, and providing excellent client service. 


About Lindsey

​Lindsey enjoys spending time with her wonderful family and two dogs, as well as expanding her skills through gardening, pottery classes, and other creative pursuits.​ 

Anne Shields

Consultant and Business Strategist

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Project Management Professional certification; PMI Agile Certified Practitioner 


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Anne is project manager who creates simple solutions while providing transparency into complex environments. She specializes in cross functional team coordination with multiple disciplinary dependencies.


About Anne

Anne enjoys traveling, yoga, gardening, cooking, and entertaining. She shares her Lake Tapps home with an 80-pound German shepherd-husky mix with adorably crooked ears.

Steve Smith

Consultant and Alchemist-in-residence

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​Masters in Business Administration 


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Steve is a distinguished consultant with experience in human services delivery, financing, policy development, and executive leadership in the government and non-profit sectors. He specializes in “How did he do that?” problem solving outcomes. 



In addition to his standing as a top-ranked volleyball dad, Steve is known for his commitment to his fellow veterans, especially as an advocate for expanded veteran housing options. He is a member of the Orlando Housing Authority board of commissioners and the managing board of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida.

Wendy Ld Helling

Wendy LD Helling

Partner and Thought Leader

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Master’s in Business Administration


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Wendy has deep experience in bringing complex, multi-year projects to life. She specializes in IT project management, data management, and strategic planning.   


About Wendy
Wendy loves traveling and hanging out in warm climates.