10 Signs It's Time to Replace Your Legacy Software

“It’s time we did more with big data.”

“When are we going to start using predictive analytics in decision-making?”

“I’ve heard IoT technology can give the ability to keep tabs on unused assets or maintenance needs. Can we do that in our company?”

When statements like these start popping up in your business strategy meetings, your business is starting to think smartly about innovation. And that’s a good thing…

If your software is ready to carry the load of that innovation.

It’s easy to get excited about technology trends like data analytics, virtual reality, AI, and the Internet of Things. Every time we go to a conference, we come away with buckets full of new ideas for innovation.

I’m betting you do too.

But what if your current software has been hanging around since the ‘80s?

Or maybe you’ve updated your system more recently, but it’s still not keeping up with the latest technology advances. Must you scrap it and start over?

Not necessarily. Anybody with an iPhone knows there’s always something bigger and better coming out in the tech world. Maybe you’re one of those people who always pre-orders six months in advance so you can have the biggest, baddest technology on the market, but that approach doesn’t work with enterprise software.

When you’re talking about a significant financial investment, you have to demonstrate that you need it, that it’s worth it, and that you can pay for it.

So how do you know when it’s time to give your legacy software the boot?

You Know You Need New Software When…

We love new software (obviously), but if you don’t need it, it can be a drain on your bottom line. So how do you know when your old software isn’t cutting it any more? You can start by reading case studies like these to see what’s working and not working for other companies. Then, you’ll need to analyze your own software and look for areas where it’s not getting the job done.

Here are 10 signs to look for.

1. The software lacks the functionality you need

Need is the operative word here. Does your current software perform all the necessary functions to keep your company on track? Can your employees do their jobs efficiently? Can they find the information they need? Or does the software lock them into inflexible procedures that hinder productivity?

2. It runs too slow

Slow is a relative term (we all remember dial-up). But there comes a point where your software runs so slowly that it affects your ability to conduct business transactions. That’s not only frustrating for employees and customers, but it can also keep you from landing new clients or closing a sale.

3. It doesn’t support actionable business intelligence

Robust business intelligence forms the basis of good business decisions. Your software should give managers, executives, and end users the data and analytical function they need to develop smart strategies for the business. If it doesn’t, decision-making will be slow or relegated to guesswork.

4. Employees use workarounds because they can’t do tasks within the system

Are your employees using third-party software or cloud solutions to perform critical tasks at work? We don’t have anything against using supplemental tools. But if your employees should be able to perform a task within your software and they can’t (either because the functionality isn’t there or it’s just too much trouble), it’s time to find a replacement.

5. You’ve lost business because of your software

Poor functionality in your enterprise software can cause lengthy lag times or difficulty accessing necessary information. And that translates into a customer service problem. Poor user experience and outdated processes can leave your employees in the lurch when they’re trying to serve customers. And clunky customer-facing software undermines any competitive advantage you might otherwise have.

6. You can’t access the information you need

Old systems often consist of multiple modules that can’t talk to one another, so data becomes marooned on technology islands. Data may also be in a form that’s incompatible with other parts of your technology stack. When you can’t access your data, you can’t do your job. Productivity tanks and profit suffers.

7. Operating costs have skyrocketed

Old software is more expensive to run because it requires more maintenance, more support, and more upgrades. If the software is no longer supported, you’ll pay even more to hire someone still knowledgeable in the language and system requirements.

8. You company is growing but the software can’t scale

Your software may be designed for a limited number of users or data records. When your company grows beyond those limits, it can be cost- and labor-prohibitive to scale the software. You may spend all your time tracking down bugs and squashing them, or you may run into constant troubleshooting bottlenecks.

9. Your software isn’t compatible with current business practice

As companies grow and evolve, they run into technology hurdles. It’s part of the technological circle of life, and it happens to everyone eventually. New processes and technologies break into the market, your competitor starts using them, and suddenly the old way of doing things isn’t cutting it anymore. Customers want a different user experience, employees can’t meet the demands of clients, and business leaders get frustrated because they can’t find the information they need. Your system limitations have hamstrung you so you can’t keep up with the competition.

10. You keep records in Excel

We love Excel as much as the next person, but it’s time to stop storing critical records in spreadsheets. If your employees can’t do their jobs within the system without having to hop over to Excel, your system is hampering productivity and collaboration. After all, if that critical piece of data is stored on Bob’s laptop and Bob is in Paris, how are you going to move forward?

So What’s the Next Step?

All the things we discussed above are symptoms of the problem. But you’re still going to need a diagnosis before your boss will sign off on paying for a new system. Here’s how to check the vital signs of your legacy software (for a fuller explanation, check out this article from CIO):

Gather Requirements

Start by creating a prioritized list of software requirements for your organization. Go broad (all the departments and processes that use the software) and deep (get as much detail as possible). Reverse engineer features from your current processes to form the basis of your requirements list, and then fill it out with any additional functionality you want or need.

Rank your requirements in order of priority. Determine which ones are must-haves, nice-to-haves, and wish-list items.

Compare Your Old Software Against Your Requirements List

Requirements gathering is the first step of any software project, but in this case, you can use it as a benchmarking tool. Compare your legacy software against your requirements to gauge how well it meets your current business needs. It’s also wise to take a look at how well the software will meet anticipated needs within the next five years.

If your software didn’t make the grade, it’s time to start doing some homework. You already have your requirements list completed, so take the next step and start building your business case. Then consider what approach—new software, new add-ons, or something else—will get you where you need to be with the right ROI.

You must have a secure software foundation to attempt technology innovation. So evaluate your software regularly (starting now) to make sure you can move forward when your business uncovers and opportunity.

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