With the pace of change in the technology industry today, systems that were once the latest, greatest thing for boosting productivity and performance can very quickly become a legacy system of the past. In an increasingly digital world, it’s often your software and systems that can make or break your ability to adapt, grow and remain competitive.
Performing to new expectations rests in part or in whole on the capabilities of your underlying business systems. Over time, even an excellent piece of software or a computer system can slowly but surely become less capable and more of a hindrance.
After all, software development, information processing techniques and computer hardware evolves at a breakneck pace; something written in COBOL running on a mainframe, for example, is probably no match for software designed for, and taking advantage of, the internet.
There are, as always, exceptions to the rule. In some cases, old software is still fit for purpose – for example, the USA’s nuclear arsenal is controlled by 1970s computers. They can’t be hacked because they aren’t connected to the internet. But in our industry, we should aim for collaboration and shared data between departments, for improved efficiencies and more accuracy.
Recognizing legacy systems
The first question is how to recognize legacy systems. Standards against which you can gauge the situation include: Is a system based on outdated technology? Is it siloed, isolated or incompatible with current systems? Is it no longer available for purchase? And the big one: Is it even supported by the developer or vendor?
Note that the age of a system doesn’t necessarily have an impact on whether it’s considered legacy. This cuts two ways; in some cases, even relatively new software can fall into the definition of legacy.
Less objective evaluations will include assessments of the impact legacy systems have on your business. Does the system cause errors? Is it unreliable? Is maintenance and support a challenge? Is there key man dependency, with a single person (with specialized and probably outdated) skills who runs the application or system?
And importantly: are there better, more efficient and more accurate ways of doing things available now, that your competitors might be using?
Spotting and driving out legacy software isn’t a simple matter, but it is achievable with a plan.
Modernizing your applications
Independent advice is always a good idea when it comes to assessing your technology environment and the introduction of new systems. Some applications can be brought easily up to speed through modernization through rewriting and reconfiguring. This makes it possible to integrate the application with other systems, whichcan help eliminate errors and costly data input tasks.
In many instances, a more comprehensive upgrade to your business systems might be necessary. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning solutions cover most aspects of the business: general ledger and related accounting functions like accounts payable/receivable, sales, logistics, distribution and warehousing, customer relationship management and more. It’s worth looking into these systems because they deliver huge gains in efficiency, while delivering visibility across your business.
Then, of course, there’s the very core of the window and door business: design, estimation and fabrication, which we’ve seen recently move into the cloud, offering major benefits. Cloud software is updated regularly and automatically, effectively sidestepping the legacy trap.