• Integrating Business Systems - Part Two

    Welcome to the second part of my three part series on Integrating Business Systems.
    Through these articles, I'll try to give you some pointers to help you develop a plan, which will be based around the following topics:

    1. Developing a sound reason to integrate, a business case and an efficiency (or quality) issue to resolve.
    2. Making the decision on whether to upgrade your ERP or Business System.
    3. Mitigating the risks of an ageing ERP or Business System.
    This time, let’s look at the second issue.
    PART TWO : Existing Business Systems - Upgrade or Not?
    If your business system has not been maintained and is now considered legacy, then you have a problem. Potentially multiple problems.
    1. Lack of support.
    2. Lack of functionality - which means you could become un-competitive against your competitors.
    3. Cyber Risk (plus Data Protection as mentioned in part one)
    4. Integrations may be throwaway.
    So, you have to find a way through! 
    My first question is, have you recently managed a large-scale business change? If not, then please think twice before you consider a new and replacement system. IT / ERP systems implementations are very disruptive projects and serious investments, and when you have little or no recent experience of a major change throughout your business, it could be a huge risk to the continued operations.
    Change Management is a discipline in itself, and this is more of a challenge than implementing the technical system. It includes taking your best people away from your day-to-day operations and dedicating them to the new system design.
    If you have now recently managed a large-scale business change but have some remaining drivers that will force you to change system, I would be recommending what is known as a technical upgrade - moving to the latest version of your systems. This has a number of advantages such as maintaining consistency for your staff (and so less business change), it will open up new functionality to give you efficiency (to consider introducing AFTER the upgrade is completed) and give you the opportunity to integrate. Also, a partner should be able to lead this migration with less difficulty. However, the same rule applies - your best people will need to dedicate time to the system testing. 
    But why would you not integrate and get efficiency first?
    Well maybe you can choose one or two of the Cases identified above, but we should verify that the method of integration hasn't changed for future versions of your system so that you don't waste your money. Imagine implementing some great efficiencies, then doing an upgrade and finding you have to pay for them all again!
    Another message to repeat from Part One is to plan for the costs and resources to maintain whatever system you might move to. Otherwise, the whole cycle repeats itself. This includes monitoring for patches that need to be applied to both the application, the servers and everything that surrounds your system.
    What are the answers to managing this burden. Two common solutions are Outsourcing and migrating to the Cloud. Neither mean you can forget about it though - you need to be sure that the processes are followed as it is your business that will suffer.
    Outsourcing the Management of the Platform: 
    There are partners who will manage this for you but be careful to select one that is rigorous in its approach and will not be shy of telling you what you need to know. This includes advice for change, flexibility for both periodic and emergency upgrades, audited backup and more. The scheduling of out of hours upgrades is also important.
    Moving to a Cloud environment is more than just fashionable. It can be cheaper, better for the environment and more secure. However, again you must be sure of the service definitions including backup. Data retention may be very limited and failover in the case of interruption of service needs to be paid for if you want it. Remember, when it comes down to it, the cloud is actually a bunch of servers in a managed Data Centre.
    Being on the latest platform for whatever you use will come with another whole host of benefits, including new functionality and some level of "off the shelf" AI badged solutions to aid efficiency. However, it's yet another role - to have someone focused on the new releases and updates to assess how the releases of functionality might help and whether to adopt for business advantage.
    Next time, I’ll be covering the third and final issue in this series - Mitigating the risks of an ageing ERP or Business System.


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