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When Congress moves faster than your CIO

14 June, 2023 | 3 min read


4 Key Benefits of a Modernization Project

Want to hear a dad joke? If 'pro' is the opposite of 'con' what is the opposite of 'progress'? Congress!

Get it? The United States legislative body is known for being slow – filibuster-filled, laggard, sluggishly slow. In fact, they were designed to be that way.

But when it came to modernizing their 30-year-old technology stack, the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress moved fast – shockingly fast. Their modernization project was 10x faster than the modernization project of most enterprises, and I’d be willing to bet it will be faster than yours…

That’s because most enterprises manually build their APIs, which eats up developer’s time and energy, bottlenecks the modernization process, and adds to the project’s time and cost. Not great.

But development teams manually build APIs because they believe it’s the only way it can be done, like when people traveled by horse and buggy or when offices shared memos by fax. Now we are in an era of self-driving cars and generative AI, so why not modernize the modernization process?

Companies that lean into low-code APIs or API Automation are reaping the benefits of faster time to delivery (months instead of years-long projects), lowered costs, and greater scalability to match new and changing demands.

How automation changed the House

Andrew Doyle, the Director of Legislative Applications for the U.S. House of Representatives is responsible for architecture that manages all of the data for the legislative branch of the government. Which means he’s responsible for the integrity and the timeliness of all the data associated with proposed bills, passed bills, provisions, amendments, and floor activities.

Their tech stack was very outdated and was making it painful for their developer team to maintain and deliver new features and updates. So they had to make a change – “All in favor of modernization, say ‘aye’… the ayes have it!”

Modernization, much like a deadlocked House of Representatives, can be a daunting thing. But when Doyle and team decided to automate the API building process, they completely unlocked a new level of speed. That’s because API building is rife with manual coding and repetitive tasks, and it’s at the heart of every step of every modernization process.

By eliminating that manual code writing, you drastically ratchet up developer productivity and free up their time, energy, and resources for other tasks. This was a huge advantage for the House’s modernization project.

As Doyle explains, API Automation “got us out of the business of writing data access APIs and allowed us to focus on our business logic.” It became much easier for them to connect to their databases, get instant access through GraphQL, and create fast, data-fetching APIs.

But it wasn’t just about speed – that increased focus on business logic led to a cascade of other critical benefits.

  1. Simplified authentication and authorization
    Congress is a government institution, which means they work with sensitive government information. Data security was crucial. Automation allowed them to work quickly while still ensuring their data was secure, reliable, and of the highest integrity. Role-based permissions maintained the right levels of access control so only authorized individuals could access the data.
  2. Easy integration with ASP.NET Web APIs
    The department used ASP.NET Web APIs for their backend, so they could wrap their business logic around their existing REST API endpoints. This enabled them to map it to the central GraphQL API and make it easier to consolidate and encapsulate their business logic.
  3. Undisrupted Operations
    It’s the federal government – they can’t afford downtime. The department was able to use incremental adoption, which eased the transition to a modern architecture, all without disrupting their present operations. They could gradually modernize their systems while still using their legacy APIs and REST endpoints, ensuring a smooth, timely transition.
  4. Scalability and Adaptability
    As a result of these other benefits – the speed, reliable authorization, no downtime, and updated business logic wrapped around their existing REST APIs – the U.S. House of Representatives was not only able to modernize their 30-year legacy system but help future-proof their architecture. They can automatically grow the number of users, applications, and data calls without having to think about the number of instances, cores, memory, thresholds, etc. Over time, this will allow for greater flexibility and scalability, ensuring that their architecture adapts to their evolving needs.

Based on the success of their modernization effort, the Legislative Applications department plans to implement similar architectures for other applications they manage. They will continue to optimize their tech stack and meet the demands of their users.

If the government can modernize its old monolith – quickly and on budget – what are you waiting for?

Click here to hear an exclusive Q&A with Andrew Doyle and his engineering team.

To learn more about the U.S. House of Representatives modernization project, including challenges, architecture diagram, and additional benefits, click here.


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