Technology vendors often have fostered a bias for innovation. The term “legacy system,” for instance, is never used as a compliment. In some conversations, calling out a “legacy system” will produce immediate agreement to throw the software out and replace it with the latest and greatest. Certainly, a software dinosaur may stifle your growth and innovative momentum, and it can be a budget drain as well as an IT administrative pain. We work hard to protect our clients from innovation simply for the sake of innovation. Any change has to deliver meaningful business value for long-term ERP or CRM projects. Many times, moving away from a “legacy system” can provide tremendous long-term value for the business, but only if the proper software solution is selected.
Avoid costly traps
Tossing out a not-so-new software and starting over with a different solution can be extremely expensive, so it’s important to select a system that will be future-proof. Today, you can more easily find a solution that includes out-of-the-box best practices and also provides the opportunity to change those processes to better fit your business today and into the future. For instance, in long-term CRM systems such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 – in the cloud as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Edition – you can customize to suit your business and be assured that you will be able to upgrade to the most current version when you’re ready to do so. With NetSuite, upgrades happen automatically twice per year, bringing forward all of your customizations. As a result, all NetSuite customers are always on the most current release. Even better, the products are backed by roadmaps that provide for gradual, consistent improvements and innovation. Events like changing tax rules or new regulatory mandates for your industry should never require customization; those should always be supported by the platform vendor and included in your upgrades and patches.
If it’s not strategic, it’s not long-term ERP or CRM
When you implement an ERP or business management system, it pays to think about the life-cycle management of the product for years to come, including customizations. Often, by using recommended best practices, standard extensions, or simple configurations, you can keep customization to a minimum. As you evaluate possible customizations, we recommend setting the business requirements to bar high, because they can add to the initial implementation cost and extend the schedule. Potentially, depending on the solution you selected, they might complicate solution upgrades and IT management forever after. We encourage our clients to determine whether a customization truly supports one of the company’s strategic differentiation, especially when measured against the competition. If so, it may well be worthwhile. If not, you might be better off using the solution standard with its built-in best practices.
What’s more, when you take advantage of proven consultant expertise on a dependable, versatile cloud platform, customizing doesn’t have to be complex. Recently, we created a new a significantly changed sales order workflow for a client, an extensive customization that met their unique process needs. Since then, they have undergone several solution upgrades with these same customizations intact, without running into any issues or incurring additional upgrade costs.
Solution viability and business insight in the cloud emphasized in Forrester whitepaper
A recent Forrester whitepaper provides a sound orientation on the cloud and its advantages for companies of all sizes. When you adopt a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, subscribing to solutions and computing resources in the cloud, it becomes much easier to keep your applications viable. Typically, upgrades take place promptly and automatically in a non-invasive manner. Both Microsoft Dynamics 365 and NetSuite provide you with a vast foundation where you can benefit from robust, steadily improving, standard functionality and have the option to introduce those few customizations that are unique to your business and make a difference in your competitive distinction.
When you commit to a business platform in the cloud, of course, you want to make sure it meets your current and anticipated requirements. You should also take a close look at the vendor’s investments and innovation in business intelligence. More than likely, your business will generate more data than it does today, and your insight and analytics needs are going to increase. It’s to your advantage if usable, powerful analytics is embedded and easily available in the cloud platform.
Enable user experiences that increase employee loyalty and productivity
In choosing your business platform, you assume responsibility for many people’s everyday user experiences. At Sikich, we agree with Forrester guidance that prioritizes the critical role of the user experience in organizational productivity. When you move to the cloud, no matter whether it’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 or another platform, your employees will enjoy the flexibility that comes with accessing cloud-based applications from any location, anytime.
To serve customers more effectively today, they also should be able to work securely and effectively on mobile devices. Tomorrow, those customers, as well as your business partners and employee teams, will expect that the company knows how to incorporate virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in its processes and products. Both technologies are rapidly maturing and beginning to find use in such relatively complex areas as collaborative product development and design, project-based manufacturing, and proactive maintenance management, but also in warehousing and logistics. These developments are right around the corner, so it’s the right time now to prepare for them, starting from a platform that fits your business. We can help you plan and implement the right technology in a predictable, strategic manner that avoids costly distractions, but keeps the value of your systems high as you benefit from the innovation that matters.
This article began as a discussion of two recent Forrester Research whitepapers which you can download and read: Digital Innovation Shapes the Future of Business Applications and The New Way to Choose Business Applications. We would love to hear your ideas and comments once you have read them.