Getting More Mileage Out of Your Legacy Software

There is Obvious Disruption Replacing Legacy Systems but There are Ways to Extend their Life through Third Party Solutions

By Mark Engelberg, TimeLinx

As the world moves forward and technology disruption continues in the software marketplace at an alarming pace, some of your older software systems may get left behind. Before you know it, that 5-year-old system is now classified as a “legacy” system. So, what to do? Replacing software is time-consuming, risky, costly and disruptive to the users and the business.  However, replacement isn’t always necessary as there may be third-party products that can breathe new life into your software, improving the technology and/or improving the feature set.

What is “Legacy” Software?

The definition of Legacy software is any technology that slows the working process of your business down by restricting you from growing or adapting, or no longer has sufficient IT support. Gartner’s IT Glossary describes it this way:

“An information system that may be based on outdated technologies but is critical to day-to-day operations. Replacing legacy applications and systems with systems based on new and different technologies is one of the information systems (IS) professional’s most significant challenges. As enterprises upgrade or change their technologies, they must ensure compatibility with old systems and data formats that are still in use.”

Third Party Solutions

Once you have established that your software is in need of modernization, you may experience the overwhelming urge to sit in a corner and weep at the extent of the task ahead of you. So, the first step is to identify what you are trying to fix:  Is the user interface (UI) out of date or difficult to use?  Is the functionality lacking?  Are there bugs you can’t escape?  Is the vendor unresponsive to cries for help?  Perhaps the issues are your server or other hardware or desktop software, or a lack of system memory (RAM).  Because the world seems to have moved to SaaS (Software as a Service) applications, you might believe that your older desktop systems have a disadvantage.  They do not unless the SaaS version of the software provides new features.  I’ll write about SaaS subscriptions vs. Desktop software in a future issue, and who really wins in that battle.

If the issue is a lack of features or functionality, then look either at an upgrade in the vendor’s latest version, or perhaps finding an add-on product that will add the functionality you want. There are many options on the market for increasing the functionality of installed software and you may find that what you’re attempting to fix does not require a complete system replacement.  In the ERP/accounting world, you’ll find shipping, manufacturing, scheduling and many other options.  In the CRM world, you’ll find add-on options for deduping or cleaning your data, producing quotes, website integrations to funnel inquiries leads into the CRM, and email marketing.

Bolting software add-ons to your legacy software may give you a few more years before needing a complete replacement. Of course, the time will come when that may be a necessity but if right now is not feasible, especially in today’s economic climate, then updating your existing system to better suit your needs is a very viable option.

What Do Third-Party Solutions Do For My Legacy Software?

In some cases, an add-on solution can change the whole picture of what you already own into something new.  In the case of TimeLinx, what was once a CRM system to maintain, monitor, and improve relationships among your customers and prospects, becomes a full-fledged project and services management system for managing the work that you need to do for them, after they become a customer.  Voila, without discarding your CRM, you now have a project management system just by the addition of new functionality from within the same user interface.

If you are used to having a CRM system for managing those relationships and sales opportunities, TimeLinx will take that relationship beyond sales into the delivery of services.  After all, relationships don’t end when the customer says “yes”.  Salespeople need to stay involved, even more importantly, once work begins.  Watching and staying in touch with the customer is even more important when work is being performed because when salespeople can’t see the activity and stay connected with both the customer and the delivery team, things can go wrong very quickly.  Furthermore, if sales provides a quotation and the customer chooses to go forward, should sales have to re-type the same CRM information into a document or a spreadsheet to produce a quotation?  And pull part numbers and pricing from various sources including standalone price catalogues?  Then, should a project manager need to use yet another application to create a project and all the tasks and work assignments, copying from the quote?  Wasn’t most of that information already in the quote?

The same is true for most add-on products regardless of whether it’s your accounting system or your CRM system – significant new functionality can be gained without needing to trash what you already own or force users to learn new software.  If you can’t find an integrated application that works from with the existing UI, you can  now integrate different applications more easily with numerous tools on the market that let various products talk to each other.  It’s not as clean as a fully integrated add-on where the UI doesn’t change, but at least the data can be passed from one application to another, and back again, without retyping.

So, before making a wholesale switch to an entirely new software, be sure you’ve fully explored what you can do with your existing system.  The cost and disruption, and false starts, are usually underplayed by vendors that want to make a new sale without explaining all that can go wrong. They rely on you to find out the bad news.  In other words, do your homework.

It’s why some applications, such as TimeLinx, are already fully integrated into the UI of the Sage and Infor systems we support, so it’s easy to use and integration is fully baked in from day one. Your accounting software, your project management software and your timesheet software are quite likely totally different systems. Getting them to integrate and share data is not a possibility. Today’s modern 3rd party solutions such as our own TimeLinx, offer an integrated option. TimeLinx strives to make everything easier by having only one system that tracks everything, allowing you to keep your existing legacy software and just add one third-party app to do it all.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.