What Should You Do With Your Legacy ERP?

Legacy ERP usually has the connotation of being obsolete or no longer meeting today’s needs. The usual solution is simply to replace that system with a modern ERP. But any ERP upgrade is expensive, as they take a long time to acquire and implement. Businesses are also exposed to a great deal of risk during this transition.

A Balance of Views

In a literal sense, legacy is a form of inheritance. It is something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor. The person handing it down must see value and the person to whom it is handed should look for and understand that value. On the one hand, the ERP is too complex and has been customized too heavily. And on the other hand, users in the past worked hard to create the rich content included in an ERP that met their needs. The challenge with any decisions regarding legacy ERP arise when assessing this balance of views.

Common Shortfalls of Legacy ERP

It could be that the legacy ERP shortfall is only cosmetic. Enterprise software user interface and experience has undergone huge changes over the past decade. These changes, coupled with the commercialization of IT, have lead to high user expectation. If these expectations are not met, user adoption will be low and process efficiency will suffer. Does our existing vendor offer an upgrade that covers user interface improvements, or are we looking at a system upgrade?

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Another common issue with older systems is data extraction. The ERP has captured transactions well for many years, but it came with a report writer that is no longer capable of handling data throughput. Could we integrate a modern reporting system that can easily extract the information we need from the mass of data?

One one side of the fence, you have a team that will stoutly defend the value of the legacy system. On the other? A team of disillusioned users who are desperate for new system capabilities.

The business itself might have grown in ways that were not anticipated when the current ERP was chosen. If the original business is intact, that ERP might serve that business segment well but fall short for newer departments and processes. This situation can be a nightmare for system change initiatives. One one side of the fence, you have a team that will stoutly defend the value of the legacy system. On the other? A team of disillusioned users who are desperate for new system capabilities.

One possible action is to run two systems in parallel, but this can quickly fall down due to integration challenges. Another possible action is to select and implement best of breed modules, where available, to cover new processes that are not supported by legacy ERP. If a robust warehouse management system or a workhorse manufacturing execution system is the answer, get the software needed and integrate it with the existing ERP.

Rich legacy content is valuable, but if the ERP is too hard to manage, change is probably on the horizon. Having said that, unless there is a need to replace the legacy ERP right away you should take the time to truly assess your requirements that extend beyond the legacy ERP. In many cases, legacy ERP can keep a business going until it is ready to make a change and this considered approach will give your system upgrade a greater chance of success.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller