merging legacy systems

Merging legacy systems with modern technology

The engine of the world’s economy has shifted from manufacturing to project-based, people-centric services businesses.

These organizations rely on project-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications to manage their financials. Automating processes like quote-to-cash, resource and talent management, and time capture and billing. And allowing real-time visibility that improves efficiency and effectiveness.

But their adoption is being frustrated. Often, it isn’t culture, management, or poor change processes that prevents the adoption of new technologies, but the technology which firms already use.

In many large established organizations, legacy systems frequently rely on technology that’s over 20 years old. This creates problems like workflow bottlenecks, processing errors, and lost data. And unlike fine wine, software does not typically get better with age.

1. Legacy systems depend on outdated operating systems

Perhaps the biggest problem with your legacy ERP is that it needs to run on the operating system it was originally designed for. Occasionally leaving businesses reliant on obsolete platforms like Windows NT or even DOS.

These older OSes often can’t utilize all your workstation’s features. Multi-core CPUs, hard drives measured in TB, and RAM measured in GB simply didn’t exist back then, so your legacy software may have you wasting money on computing power.

2. Security flaws

The older your software gets, the more likely it is to have known security flaws. This is typically corrected by upgrades. But even the most enduring software eventually reaches “end of life.”

Microsoft Windows, for example, maintains a comprehensive calendar of its lifecycles. Once they stop supporting the version of Windows you’re using, you’re at even greater risk of a breach.

3. Inability to Pivot

Technologies like big data analytics and cloud computing are transforming the way organizations work. And your legacy systems most likely can’t support them. This makes it difficult for you to pivot when the time comes. A good recent example from the US is many state governments having to track down COBOL programmers to process stimulus payments during the Covid-19 outbreak. (An instructive example as almost all banks worldwide rely heavily on legacy systems!)

Time to move on?

These issues lead many to look to modern solutions. In fact, research shows that the top new technologies currently being adopted by professional services industry CIOs are:

  1. Big Data Analytics
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Machine Learning, App- and Web-Enabled Markets, Internet of Things (a three-way tie)

However, while these modern technologies make huge efficiencies and innovations possible, legacy systems can often make implementing them impossible.

Dealing with an unwanted legacy

Unfortunately, divesting yourself of an obsolete system is rarely easy. Bill Gates isn’t as rich as he is because Microsoft was the best solution on the market. He was just the first to realize how difficult it is to retire a system once people come to rely on it.

But there are steps you can take to make the process easier. And with the right software installation, it can be possible to merge legacy systems with modern technology like cloud, AI, and IoT into your legacy technology platforms.

First, pick the right time to make a move. As a rule of thumb, you should adopt new technologies as soon as it becomes obvious your current platform is outdated. For example, if your PSA software isn’t built for cloud-based automation, you’re behind the curve.

Second, build a strong case for retiring the system. This is as much for you as it is for the board, as it will force you to consider all use cases (official and unofficial) and to consider the implications for retiring or migrating business data.

Third, if your plan is to leverage emerging technology to create efficiency, you’ll have to make some important strategic choices. How will your new system integrate with others? Will you partially automate routine functions, or completely automate them?

Different choices will require different levels of investment. Generally, the more completely you wish to automate, the more integrated your systems must become, and the higher your level of investment (both time and money) will be. Ultimately, the path you choose will depend on your organization, budgets, and individual needs and use cases.

Measuring the success of your upgrades

Technology is meant to boost productivity and quality. It should remove barriers, let you complete tasks more easily, and scale up to any volume.

Ultimately, any business is looking to generate revenue. When your new software is installed, you should be reducing costs while enabling your team to generate more revenue by working faster and more efficiently.

The real measurements of a successful software implementation are growth, profit, quality, streamlined operations or reduced administration and rework. If you can show significant progress in any one of these, you’ll be well on your way to a successful project.