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Legacy Systems: Options & Opportunities

Liberty Technology Advisors

Liberty Technology Advisors

• Do you have software from a vendor that is no longer in business?

• Are your software systems not currently supported by your vendor?

• Has your software vendor made your ERP system an "orphan?"

• Do you have software systems written in older languages that are not documented or integrated with your legacy ERP solution?

• Do you have trouble finding skilled resources to support your legacy applications?

If so, you may have a legacy system. Legacy systems are outdated computer systems, programs or other methods that are still being used despite their outdated functions and lack of vendor support.

Legacy systems typically share the following common traits: They are unsupported, undocumented, costly to maintain and written in an old programming language. They utilize older database management systems (if they use a database system at all), have not been upgraded for years (if upgrades are even available), and don't use common Windows interfaces. Mining data or information is prohibitively difficult and expensive. Their technical resources are scarce, their ability to integrate with other systems and productivity software is complicated, and developing additional functionalities with them is difficult and expensive.

Many times vendors go out of business because they are acquired by another vendor that does not develop, enhance or "move the product forward," or they no longer support the legacy system being used, leaving the user in the dust. While many business owners fear the unknown of implementing upgrades, it is important to know that there are reasonable and affordable ways to update and/or replace legacy systems, all while making sure your business doesn't skip a beat. Read on to learn about the options and determine how your business can best manage its legacy system.

Keep – While keeping a legacy system doesn't require costs upfront, it poses long-term financial risks to businesses. Not only do legacy systems restrict businesses from taking advantage of the most up-to-date and innovative processes, functionalities and technology improvement opportunities, but they become more difficult to maintain because their resources (manpower who know these "older" solutions) are usually scarce. For instance, vendors go out of business, systems are no longer developed, technicians do not receive the proper training to support them, and upgrades or enhancements become too advanced for the legacy system to accept or process. There are fewer resources who know "COBOL and Fortran" programming languages. When businesses' legacy systems providers are no longer available for support, their profits are likely to suffer.

Enhance – Systems enhancement allows businesses to update their current systems without having to replace them altogether. Although it can be costly, this method is an excellent option to choose when businesses need an updated solution and the business model is very stable. The enhancement program is usually less costly than a full replacement. Systems enhancement works best when businesses are dissatisfied with their outdated and restrictive systems, own the source code to the system, and have the funds and resources to revamp them. A significant amount of research must be conducted to ensure the vendor still has the capability to support the system and the business requires little or no improvements to its business processes.

Upgrade – Businesses upgrade their legacy systems when they are not ready to buy a new system, but are still in need of major improvements. This option allows businesses to purchase an upgraded system from a previously used vendor so they can reap the benefits of an upgraded system without having to establish a new relationship with unfamiliar software vendors. Most businesses pursue this option when they have continually been on "maintenance and support" programs with the vendors. This option works best when businesses have a modest budget to spend on their system and still have the option of purchasing software from their system's original vendor. With the upgrade path, businesses can take advantage of new systems and improved functionality and technology. This is an important budget item and must be planned out in detail. Performing a "technical" upgrade, or implementing the most recent version of the software, will not improve business performance. Together, a technical and business process upgrade will improve business operations. This path has been successful for many of our clients and is more affordable than a "complete" replacement of an ERP system.

Replace – While reinstating legacy systems is an option and possible solution in many circumstances, it may not always be in the best interest of the business to pursue. This is usually the case when the needs of the business have far surpassed the functionality of the legacy system – at which point it is time to consider replacing the system altogether to ensure it delivers and is scalable to meet the current and projected business needs. Although replacing legacy systems can sometimes prove costly or time consuming, it is a worthwhile investment that can help speed up business procedures, make business processes more efficient and ultimately increase profitability and revenue opportunities.

LTA can be your guide and help determine which path will best suit your business's needs.

Discover how Liberty Technology Advisors' expert ERP and project management services can help your business select and implement a personalized legacy system solution. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, visit our website or call 847.509.9140 to learn more.

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