Jun 17 2024

What Is CDW’s Strategic Application Modernization Assessment?

To reach their digital transformation goals, K–12 IT leaders must review their application portfolios and update software quickly and affordably. A new assessment from CDW can help.

Most IT leaders understand the importance of modernizing their applications and data systems, but it can be daunting to find a place to start and map out the right process.

According to a 2023 report from the IBM Institute for Business Value, 83 percent of North American IT executives say modernizing applications and data is central to the business strategy of their organizations. Despite that, only 27 percent say their organization has modernized many of the necessary applications, data and systems.

One avenue IT professionals can take to jump-start their application modernization efforts is to conduct an assessment of their organization’s application portfolio. This type of assessment can significantly speed up an organization’s application modernization initiatives, especially if it’s automated, says Greg Peters, founder of the Strategic Application Modernization Assessment (SAMA) at CDW.

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Key Components of an Application Modernization Assessment

It’s critical that organizations’ assessments are holistic, Peters explains, looking not only at the technology but also at whether the organization has the staffing and resources to maintain certain applications.

By design, SAMA’s approach to the modernization process breaks down silos between different elements of an institution, including developers, security personnel, network engineers and other IT professionals.

Peters, the principal developer of SAMA, compares the assessment process to improving a car’s design, an undertaking that requires conversations with specialists in engines, electrical systems, braking systems and so on. “We want to look at the portfolio instead of just one little piece of the puzzle,” he says.

SAMA’s approach to application assessment involves gathering all the knowledge of relevant specialists through built-in security scanning, custom reporting and analysis tools. This approach speeds up the assessment process by obviating the need for separate initial conversations with every team.

SAMA essentially monitors a school’s entire application portfolio then identifies which items are prime for modernization tasks — and it’s all done as an automated process, so IT leaders can get a macro-level view into their software updates, quickly and affordably.

The process begins with CDW engineers installing and configuring a virtual machine to run the SAMA tool in a school’s environment. SAMA then gathers data from the institution’s code repositories, covering more than 40 languages as well as applications on mainframes or in the cloud. This work is all done on-premises, never remotely. SAMA then looks for tasks that have been completed around modernization by monitoring that changes were made in the application portfolio.

DISCOVER: What happens when K–12 leaders consolidate their educational technology tools?

Assessments Accelerate the Application Modernization Process

Although schools are able to manage their digital ecosystems — with 79 percent reporting they are adequately staffed to maintain applications in CoSN’s 2024 State of EdTech District Leadership report — they tend to put manpower into doing so manually.

Only 29 percent use a third-party tool to manage their technology contracts (including software and data privacy agreements), according to the report. Manual tracking is nearly as high, at 28 percent, with 20 percent of districts using spreadsheets to track technology contracts.

Conducting a typical assessment of an organization’s codebase manually can take roughly 12 to 18 months, Peters says. However, with SAMA, IT leaders can get an automated assessment completed in just two to three weeks.

SAMA scans applications’ metadata and source code only and does not scan databases or agents on organizations’ networks. The assessment gathers data, determines whether applications can run in the cloud and detects anomalies in code. It also evaluates the security level of each application.


The percentage of school districts using spreadsheets to manage contracts, including software and data privacy agreements

Source: CoSN, 2024 State of EdTech District Leadership, April 2024

Following the assessment, SAMA produces two automated reports. One has assessments of every application’s suitability for modernization. The other is an executive summary that has a heat map of the complexity of the portfolio, assessments on the personnel needed to support the applications and other high-level findings.

The Outcomes of a Strategic Application Modernization Assessment

SAMA essentially gives IT leaders the “keys to the kingdom.” They can query all the data the assessment produced and get guidance on how to prioritize software changes based on the district’s needs and objectives, Peters says. Typically, CDW recommends IT teams prioritize either applications with major infrastructure or security issues or applications that are relatively easy to modernize.

There are many benefits to using the SAMA approach to application modernization. For one, it helps IT leaders “get the information needed to make the decision faster than they could before,” Peters says.

The assessment can also provide a benchmark as IT leaders achieve more of their digital transformation goals. “Our clients continue using SAMA to monitor changes in their application portfolio as they modernize” Peters says.

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