Breitband Consulting, LLC

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:


  • High Cost of Ownership – There is an added cost of keeping current to the latest version of the underlying package.
  • Lack 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 original vendor.
  • Package 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”.
  • System 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:


  • “If 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?
  • New 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.
  • Functionality 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:


  • Lack of Objectivity – When a company seeks information from software package vendors, they are not likely to receive unbiased opinions.
  • Compatibility – 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.
  • Technical 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 is involved.
  • Technical 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 vendor to:


  • Keep 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.
  • Develop 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).
  • Prioritize 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.
  • Create Alternatives – We will work to identify as many credible, viable alternatives as possible.
  • Package 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:
    • Evaluate package functionality.
    • Evaluate package ease of implementation and training.
    • Evaluate and specify potential areas of customization.
    • Evaluate potential changes to company operating procedures.
    • Evaluate possible departmental re-organizations necessitated by new packages.
  • Implementation Planning – We will help plan the implementation and installation of the selected package.  Again, our purpose is to “translate” the technospeak into biztalk:
    • Develop an implementation plan considering:
      • Impact on on-going operations.
      • Business seasonality.
      • Which functions absolutely must be run in parallel, which are not necessary and which cannot be run in parallel.
      • Realistic time-table based on a realistic training schedule.
    • Develop a Realistic Training Schedule – to include not only vendor technical training, but also internal functional training.
  • Package Implementation – We will help with the actual implementation of the selected package as follows:
    • Monitor Progress Against the Implementation Plan
    • Manage Package Customization
    • Coordinate Vendor Training With Internal Training

Why You May Benefit From Our Services In This Area


  • Even 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?
  • Do you suspect that your existing packages are not allowing you to benefit from today’s new technologies, such as ad-hoc report writing?
  • Do you have multiple packages installed, some of which do not “talk” to others?
  • Are 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?
  • Can 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?
  • Is your existing package no longer supported?
  • Do you use software that has been customized for your company?
  • Do you get the impression that the potential software package vendors you are talking to do not quite understand why your company is successful?
  • Has it been suggested that “you’ll run in parallel for a few weeks/months and then simply cut-over”?
  • Does it seem that the potential vendors are over-promoting “ease of use” rather than focusing on training your people?
  • Do you have difficulty translating the technical features of proposed software into enhanced business capabilities that will provide real benefit to your company?
  • Is there the potential for an internal “turf war” caused by the possibility of organizational adjustments due to the new software?


If you answered yes to any of these questions you will benefit from our services.


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.

© 2003, Breitband Consulting, LLC