Modernize Your Legacy Systems – ERP Software Blog

Today, many leaders find themselves at a crossroads: what’s the best path forward for improving our business technology? Should we find new solutions or modernize our legacy systems?

Whether you’re considering updating an ERP, accounting system, or another business platform, it’s not an easy decision.

Choosing the first option means you have to research, select, test, train, and implement entirely new software. This can be beneficial: modern solutions are native to the cloud and have sophisticated Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). They offer the ability to easily integrate with multiple platforms. Product maintenance is usually kept up to date by the platform vendors.

However, it may be wise to extend the life of your legacy systems instead. You will not need to invest as much in training and reading. Operational disruptions can be avoided. New technologies can be applied to your tried-and-true systems. Think Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML); or low-code/no-code platforms that make data available through mobile devices.

In this blog, we will explore the benefits of taking this second path.

What Is a Legacy System?

A legacy system is a computing system or an application program used to carry out fundamental business processes, even though it may be considered obsolete technology or no longer serviceable by the original manufacturer.

Certain legacy systems may be monolithic or hard to modify, but not always. In fact, businesses continue to use legacy systems because they’re reliable and familiar. Leaders resist replacement despite more modern options.

Two primary reasons companies continue to use legacy systems:

  • Competitive advantage: the system may offer a competitive advantage over any modern equivalent.
  • Cost: Replacing a legacy product can carry significant financial costs. Most legacy systems have been fully depreciated and fully capitalized (or expensed) over the life of the system.

Examples of Legacy Systems

Government agencies and financial institutions are notorious for relying on legacy applications. These systems were most often developed in COBOL or FORTRAN languages, originally programmed in the 1960s and 1970s.

The problems of relying on legacy systems became obvious when the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. Many institutions were not able to withstand the strain of increased user need. For example:

The ongoing conversation about the future of Microsoft Dynamics GP is near to our hearts here at Mekorma – and to the community we serve. This popular Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system has been used for decades and has quite a devoted user base.

While considered a legacy ERP for its age, Microsoft continues to release software updates and support users. Many companies are in the midst of deciding whether and when to move to a more modern, cloud-based ERP.

However, Microsoft Dynamics GP is an example of a system that can continue to be used by applying modern technologies. This gives organizations some breathing room before or during a disruptive, costly migration to a new ERP.

Paths for Modernization: Evolution vs. Revolution

In addition to the competitive advantage and cost-effectiveness of remaining on a legacy system, you also have the advantage of familiarity. Your staff knows how to use the system. Sometimes that can be the best reason to evolve your business technology rather than change it entirely.

The application of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Low-Code/ No-Code platforms can operate on the legacy system to optimize the user experience and promote better interaction with business data. Let’s look at each of these.

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Automating the Human Touch

Robotic Process Automation aims to automate routine tasks that may occur across different platforms or applications. Businesses can remove the human element when it makes sense – software bots accomplish certain processes more efficiently.

Legacy systems often have clunky user interfaces that force users to perform repetitive work. Additionally, a considerable number of legacy products do not offer an API or provide APIs that are no longer maintained. As an example, imagine that a staff member has to retrieve a currency exchange rate from the web, copy the exchange rate using the keyboard or mouse, then paste and save it in Microsoft Dynamics GP. This simple operation is not efficient and takes up valuable time.

RPA can streamline actions like this. It improves the way a user interacts with the software, handles manual tasks automatically, and performs integrations with data and technologies that are newer than the current system.

A couple of the more popular RPA tools on the market include UI Path and Automation Anywhere.

For an example of a Dynamics GP-centric RPA solution, Mekorma Payment Hub‘s Action Board allows Accounts Payable teams to automate the routine tasks of payment processing, and link to third-party platforms for outsourced payment options.

Beyond Human Intelligence

Legacy systems typically store a wealth of data but lack the tools to make effective use of it. Artificial Intelligence can help by extracting and making sense of the data, contributing to the overall business intelligence.

Examples include:

  • Text analysis – AI infers information on content and keywords.
  • Decode data – AI can solve problems like document management, or image and object recognition.
  • Apply predictive scenarios – based on historical data, AI is an excellent tool for creating business intelligence reports to guide decision-making.

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AI often works together with RPA. Software applications that combine the two have the potential to transform business – from back-office functions to financial modeling to sales and marketing initiatives.

Microsoft’s AI Builder is a great example. Along with the other elements of the Power Platform, AI Builder can insert Artificial Intelligence into workflows and apps development with Power Automate and Power Apps respectively.

Low-Code/No-Code Paradigm

Historically, when a business needed a software solution, it required long-term development cycles. By the time the project was completed, it may not be needed in exactly the way it was developed.

Recently, there has been a profound paradigm shift: “low-code/no-code” development platforms. Instead of requiring highly skilled developers, low-code/no-code platforms put business users in the driver’s seat. These “citizen developers” can deliver solutions that meet user needs quickly.

Low-code/no-code technology empowers users to create workflows, apps, and intelligent reports, rather than consume professional development cycles or IT resources.

Microsoft’s Power Platform and Betty Blocks are examples of low code/no-code development platforms. These product platforms offer automation capabilities, integration with AI tools, app development, and more.

What Do Business Leaders Need to Consider?

When deciding whether to adopt RPA, AI, and low-code/no-code technologies to enhance your legacy systems, there are several considerations.

First – these technologies are designed to make things easier, but they’re NOT EASY. Implementing takes planning, education, and having the right people in place.

Second – Not only do you have to have a solid strategy internally, but it’s critical to understand the platform vision and long-term market strategic goals of the vendors you select. You must ensure the solutions you choose can deliver the outcomes you want and will be there for the long haul.

Third – You will need strong IT buy-in and support throughout the implementation. Especially with user-driven solutions, clear governance and internal controls must be established to ensure that security and data privacy is maintained.

Summary

There are many effective solutions in today’s market that can help you modernize your legacy systems. This delays the huge financial and time costs of switching to new software.

With careful planning, you can have the best of both worlds – all the benefits of automation and Artificial Intelligence alongside the rich capabilities of your legacy solutions.

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