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Insights from ICF: Modernizing case management for the Surface Transportation Board

Brian McCormick, Senior Director, ICF
May 26, 2021

Many agencies that handle mission-critical functions still rely on outdated and legacy software applications that have evolved into complex and costly solutions over time. These legacy systems sit at the heart of daily business operations—and have a negative impact on efficiencies, stakeholder satisfaction, and overall mission outcomes.

While most stakeholders agree that modernization is needed, they also know it’s a complicated undertaking. There is no “one size fits all” solution. Many organizations have attempted big bang approaches to modernize and have failed due to inadequate planning and lack of a proper strategy up front. So what’s an agency to do?

An agency with a bold modernization vision

The Surface Transportation Board (STB), an independent federal government agency charged with the economic regulation of various modes of surface transportation, primarily freight rail needed to update an aging system that could not keep up with evolving agency needs. The STB required a ground-up rebuild of their existing suite of legacy applications, as part of larger systems modernization initiatives.

The STB contracted with ICF and selected Appian as the modernization backbone of the new case system. Goals included:

  • Replace legacy Lotus Notes based collaboration and case management capabilities with a user-friendly, cloud-based, FedRAMP compliant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
  • Integrate a cloud-based low-code solution with advanced search and business process automation capabilities.
  • Create a publicly accessible search on the Board’s website that allows access to filed case documentation, along with legacy case management content.
  • Build a separation between public information that will be accessible on the Board’s website and non-public confidential and internal deliberative documents.


Overcoming obstacles

Before beginning the modernization work, we needed to overcome some key technical challenges, including:

  • Migrating critical regulatory documents into a modern database structure.
  • Enhancing the public’s ability to search against the text of documents online.
  • Scaling the platform to enable alignment and integration of multiple workflows across departments.
  • Providing secure, cloud-based access to STB personnel.

We scoped, designed, and implemented the Appian-based application in planned incremental releases, delivering essential functionality from the MVP initial release in November of 2019. We ran ongoing, continuous legacy data and document migration efforts in parallel with incremental application development to ensure that all new application modules worked seamlessly for both migrated and new records.  Highlights of the solution:

  • Hybrid architecture that leverages Appian’s industry leading low-code platform with IaaS versatile and self-scaling capabilities.
  • Website content management application hosted on the public cloud and custom React web-app to expose approved case related data to public users.
  • Public access storage service to provide full-text search capabilities to the STB users.


Strong results

This modernization project allowed us to create a highly robust, adaptable, and dynamic case management solution (DCMS) to support the STB’s mission of addressing rail regulatory matters. DCMS brings modern, cost-effective features that are more secure, scalable, and flexible—enabling the Board to better track documents. DCMS also captures user needs from all STB organizational units.

By adopting an Appian-centric platform-based approach, STB is achieving standardization, efficiencies, improved development velocity, a common user experience (UX), enhanced quality, and stronger security of their mission-critical business processes.

Disclaimer: The Surface Transportation Board, as a government agency, does not endorse products or services.

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Mr. McCormick is responsible for leading the day to day operations, strategic direction, and business development for ITG's Appian Practice.  He has extensive experience as a hands on Business Process Consultant/Developer as well as successfully leading business development efforts.  Mr. McCormick has developed the practice's core competencies in Appian BPM Implementation & Consulting, Systems Development Integration, and Cloud Solutions.  He is an ITIL V3 and Appian Certified Consultant and holds a Bachelors in Business – Marketing Information Systems from James Madison University.