How to Properly Phase Out a Legacy System
Trying to build an ERP system on top of an existing and actively used legacy systems is a recipe for disaster. If you’ve never had a legacy business system holding back your company, you are among the minority. Countless businesses cite issues in phasing out old systems as a primary reservation when it comes to adopting a new platform for business operations.
If you’ve been stressing over how to get away from your legacy platform, fear not. It's not as difficult as you think.
Where “Legacy” Turns Pejorative
When you are looking at your system, you may wonder why "legacy" is such a dirty word. You used it for a while, it worked fine. So why is it so important to replace it? Why is continuing to use what once worked such a bad thing?
While your legacy system may work for the time being, it is often a matter of time before the lack of update support, or other limited usability caused by the system’s age or inherent functionality, end up harming your business.
When a legacy system can no longer support the load of work you task it with, or when the vendor who sold it to you has gone under, legacy becomes a problem. When your outdated hardware is running outdated business software, security is compromised by a lack of security updates. Slow fulfillment and turnaround times can be weighing on your company’s finances, inflating the cost of ownership of your new system. When maintenance of the system becomes more expensive, or when the system fails to meet your changing needs, that’s when legacy becomes a bad thing.
Through the outright elimination of this system during ERP implementation, your business platform can be consolidated, increasing efficiency and potentially saving you money. Herein we will discuss just how you should go about doing away with a pesky legacy system.
Grasping at Your Old System
The removal of your legacy system might seem like a headache; it's not uncommon that such an undertaking seems both complex and challenging. Among the biggest challenges faced in this undertaking is getting your organization to remove the legacy systems from daily use, and getting staff to move onto the greener pasture. It seems obvious that when the system no longer has what it takes to support your organization that it should be removed, yet it seems inevitable that someone or some department will insist on using an inferior option because it is familiar.
Sure, it can sometimes make sense to keep a legacy platform in place during the implementation of the new system; someone might need access to historical data that you opted not to move to the new system. Unfortunately, doing this increases the required amount of support time twofold and makes for a nightmare of IT complexity. We as humans tend to grasp onto the things we're used to. Unfortunately, sooner or later the time to let go will come about, and when it does, knowing what it takes to do so is key.
Why Release the System?
Somethimes there are many reasons to be rid of your legacy system, but it is sometimes unclear why the legacy system needs to be replaced at all. One of the first and more obvious reasons to remove the legacy system is that your company has begun the process of introducing a new system that (hopefully) meets your needs better than the old system. And using two systems at once can lead to problems.
The other reason we see for the phasing out of a legacy platform is that the system is no longer supported by the manufacturer, potentially causing stability issues and reducing expected functionality and customer service. Eliminating this either redundant or otherwise unsupported software platform can fix several issues faced by those who opt not to fully rid themselves of redundant and expensive legacy systems when by all rights they should move to a new platform entirely.
Matters to Address
There are a few factors to be certain of when choosing to fully remove the legacy system. First, it's critical that you have a holistic understanding of the many ways your staff use the legacy platform to complete their daily tasks. It's inevitable that your staff members have come up with their own ways of using the system over the years. Ensuring that you are aware of the ways your old system was used allows you to ensure a comparable level of functionality is offered in the new ERP platform. The bottom line is, if the system you have adopted doesn’t outperform the old system, you will never truly be rid of the thing. This can be avoided by taking careful notes of your staff’s needs and ensuring that the ERP platform replacing your current system is rich in functionality and reconfigurability.
The Disconnection Process
While it can be a daunting and scary undertaking to remove the legacy platform, it often simply must be done. When it comes to going about this disconnection process it is worth keeping in mind that planning is the first step to a successful removal. To begin the planning process it is important to analyze the interactions that exist between the business systems and the legacy system being replaced. Addressing these interactions helps guarantee an easy transition.
Then it’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of determining your strategy for removing the legacy system. This strategy is inevitably going to be situational, requiring careful development with your team. You need to work with your new vendor to ensure that your needs are being met by the features they are offering. Finally, it’s critical to engage your employees and explain what is to be expected of them in the move, and offer them an explanation on how the new system will be able to handle the tasks they throw at it.
Once you’ve ensured that you’ve accounted for the requirements of your staff, and have thoroughly planned the removal of the legacy system itself, you’re ready to test your tool of migration (ideally including a test environment with data representing a holistic sample of your core business data). Only once the plan is in place and the migration tools have been tested can you then begin the process of moving your users to the new platform.
Similar in many respects to the migration of your users, the next step is to ensure that your existing business data is properly uploaded or archived. Pertinent business data like customer contact information, inventory items and inventory levels should be moved into the new system. Furthermore, data deemed less critical should be archived with the rest of your important but rarely needed data to be restored later if necessary. During this time, it is also wise to make a full backup of your legacy system data so that it can be reacquired at a later date. Only after all of these steps have been completed should you look to remove the legacy system from your operation.
A tip to keep in mind is to ensure that the old platform is closed to new transactions after the new ERP platform has been set in place. By doing this you allow your staff access to the information within, allowing them to fully commit to just using the new platform. This can further be accomplished by carefully monitoring how often your staff return to the old system for information or functionality. Over time, returns should become less and less frequent as the information transitions to the new platform and users discover how to better navigate and operate within the platform. As time goes on then, you can slowly remove the legacy system from the view of your staff, eliminating it from the most accessible menus.
Setting up for Phase Out Success
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the removal of your legacy business system requires the same care and attention as you give to the implementation of the new system itself. It can’t just be met as it comes; it needs to be planned for, budgeted for and scheduled.