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Modular vs. Monolithic for UI Modernization

In larger more complex systems, modular is the perfect choice.

By Mark Mayfield, Sr. Software Implementation Manager, Catalis Regulatory & Compliance

As you plan for your modernization, or the revamp of your modernization, the size and complexity of your Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits system needs to be considered. If it is simple and small, a monolithic architecture might get you by. But if it is large and complex, a modular architecture is most appropriate. From my point of view, most UI systems I have seen are incredibly complex and big. So, in my opinion, modular is the clear path to take in modernization. And it seems I’m not the only one who believes this. The Department of Labor (DOL) UI modernization team, in the recently published IT Modernization Strategy, calls monolithic systems currently in use by most state UI agencies “brittle and inflexible, designed to operate as one big chunk rather than as a series of independently managed parts.” They go on to say that “the challenge with monoliths is that while they may be easier to implement initially, they are more difficult to maintain because the various components of the system can’t be easily changed or replaced without affecting the system as a whole.” Modular systems, on the other hand, are relatively easy to maintain and upgrade because they reuse what’s already there and integrate newer technology through APIs that link one best-of-breed solution to the next. This allows for increased speed in implementing new DOL guidelines and decreased IT costs. This is a win-win.

Unfortunately, far too often I see “new” modernization efforts just replacing the same old monolithic system with a newer one, a repeat of what we all saw about 10 years ago. We seem destined to simply repeat our modernization efforts every decade until we break the cycle. Why is this? I believe that one reason is that it’s easier to deal with one vendor as opposed to several – in the case of multiple best-of-breed microservices. This is not just a feeling. It is easier but at what cost? Another reason could be the fear of integration issues. Or data integrity loss. But in fact, these risks are easily mitigated and can be helped greatly with an IPaaS (Internet Platform as a Service) layer in the cloud – we will expand on this topic in a future article.

When I worked in state UI, it seemed like we were putting one band-aid after another on our benefit system, just to keep it running. But those were days when there was no money available to us. Today is different. I cannot remember a time when so much money was available through various grants for integrity, Tiger Team recommendations, and modernization. Not to mention equity and accessibility and so much more. If I could deploy a module in a couple of months that worked seamlessly with my legacy system through APIs, and I could watch my core performance measures going up steadily in a matter of weeks, I would jump at the chance. And that is just what modularity allows us to do. Are you ready to break the cycle of repeating modernization efforts every 10 or so years? Are you ready to take advantage of the best UI specialty tool on the market without having to replace your entire system?

Still have questions about why modular solutions are the best choice when it comes to your UI modernization strategy?

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