Legacy Systems Evaluation
The operations of many companies, both large and small, are
dependant upon package software that has been customized to their specifications
and needs. Some other companies
may be using software that was not package based but completely written
or customized for their use. Quite
often, the customized parts of the system embody a company’s edge, the
specific way of doing business that enables it to beat its competition. That is the good news about customized software.
There are, unfortunately other factors that affect the ongoing
effectiveness and value of such systems.
The challenges of customized software fall into several areas:
Cost of Ownership – There is an added cost of keeping current to the
latest version of the underlying package.
of Support - If a company chooses not to upgrade, they may ultimately
be faced with depending on a package that is not supported by the
Incompatibility - Many companies have several packages, installed
at various times, operating in different functional areas. If any of the installed packages have
been customized, it is likely that all, or some of the packages “do
not talk to each other”.
Incompatibility – Over time, a customized package that has not been
kept current, may develop problems working with the operating system.
The solution is to replace all or part of the existing package
or packages. This solution carries
its own set of concerns:
It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” – A company may be operating, day-to-day
without any problems. What
benefits will new software bring to outweigh the cost and disruption
of the conversion? Which pieces
of the legacy system are to be kept, which pieces are expendable?
Technology – Package software embodies many current “best practices”,
some of which may be able to replace some of the customized parts
of the legacy package. On
the other hand, some of these included “best practices” may represent
a step backwards from a company’s operating edge as codified in the
customization of the legacy system.
and Implementation – The average user, a shipping clerk for example,
only wants to get his or her job done.
They are not interested in most of the benefits management
expects from the new package. The
more the new package looks, feels and functions like the current package,
the less disruption there might be due to the new implementation. Conversely, a new package that looks,
feels and functions like the old package may not deliver as many benefits
to the company.
Finally, a company that has committed to replacing its existing
package may also be faced with an entirely new vendor. New vendors can also present management with
another set of concerns:
of Objectivity – When a company seeks information from software package
vendors, they are not likely to receive unbiased opinions.
– It is extremely important that any new vendor understand a company’s
business. This is doubly so
if the project will entail customization of the new package.
Myopia – Very few of the technicians employed by many software vendors
posses an in-depth understanding of business concepts. This again can be a problem if customization
Training – Because of “technical myopia”, many vendors provide training
that focuses on the operation of the package rather than how the package
functions within the business.
The service package described on this page is designed to
help companies address all of the issues mentioned above.
We will work jointly with our client’s management, IT people
and internal or outside consultants and ultimately the selected package
or Replace, Partial or Complete – In the position of “devil’s advocate”,
we will assist our client in determining whether or not they truly
need to replace the software currently in use.
Functional Selection Criteria – We will help a company develop a classic
selection matrix that is based on business functionality (ie: support
for customer-item sensitive pricing) rather than software features
(ie: GUI interface).
the Selection Criteria – We will help prioritize the selection criteria,
paying particular attention to the essential processes and features
that are key to the company’s continued success.
Alternatives – We will work to identify as many credible, viable alternatives
Selection – We will assist our client to select a course of action. Our purpose at this stage is to bridge
the gap between the technical and business sides of this process.
We will help:
package ease of implementation and training.
and specify potential areas of customization.
potential changes to company operating procedures.
possible departmental re-organizations necessitated by new packages.
Planning – We will help plan the implementation and installation of
the selected package. Again,
our purpose is to “translate” the technospeak into biztalk:
an implementation plan considering:
on on-going operations.
functions absolutely must be run in parallel, which are not necessary
and which cannot be run in parallel.
time-table based on a realistic training schedule.
a Realistic Training Schedule – to include not only vendor technical
training, but also internal functional training.
Implementation – We will help with the actual implementation of the
selected package as follows:
Progress Against the Implementation Plan
Vendor Training With Internal Training
Why You May Benefit From Our Services In This Area
if your company has all of the necessary expertise in-house, does
your organization have the excess capacity to effectively accomplish
a project of this size and importance in a timely manner?
you suspect that your existing packages are not allowing you to benefit
from today’s new technologies, such as ad-hoc report writing?
you have multiple packages installed, some of which do not “talk”
the packages or custom software you are using coded in an older programming
language? Consequently, are
you experiencing increasing difficulty locating programmers who can
maintain and extend your software?
your existing package support modern networking capabilities? In other words, for example, would it
be feasible for your sales associates to access your company database
via the internet, and would this access be secure?
your existing package no longer supported?
you use software that has been customized for your company?
you get the impression that the potential software package vendors
you are talking to do not quite understand why your company is successful?
it been suggested that “you’ll run in parallel for a few weeks/months
and then simply cut-over”?
it seem that the potential vendors are over-promoting “ease of use”
rather than focusing on training your people?
you have difficulty translating the technical features of proposed
software into enhanced business capabilities that will provide real
benefit to your company?
there the potential for an internal “turf war” caused by the possibility
of organizational adjustments due to the new software?
you answered yes to any of these questions you will benefit from
We believe that most small and mid-sized businesses will benefit
from an outside, un-biased eye looking at these sorts of issues. Further, this outside source needs to function
as a translator between the technical and the functional sides of these
complex matters. Our unique
experience puts us squarely in the right place with regard to the questions,
issues and concerns discussed here.