Research Hub > Where to Begin When Replacing Legacy Software

October 20, 2021

Article
6 min

Where to Begin When Replacing Legacy Software

New core business software can make a world of difference for the way your organization works. Read on for our best tips for developing RFPs, earning executive buy-in and keeping a large development project on time and within cost.

What's Inside
  • Evaluate Business Requirements

    Making the business case for why your legacy software is insufficient is one thing, but you’ll also need to consider what features your organization can’t live without and what features every end user will be thanking you for.

  • Executive Buy-In and Top-Down Communication

    Depending on the scale of your project, executive buy-in and top-down leadership involvement can be one of the best ways to ensure your project goes smoothly.

  • Prepare for Contingencies

    Unfortunately, when you’re developing software, especially at this scale, anything can go wrong.

  • Money, Money, Money

    The main question for any project of this scale is how it can be done at cost.

Replacing any sort of core business software can be a headache, but it is possible to do it at cost and with minimal issues — if you have the right plan. 

Evaluate Business Requirements

Whether it’s an enterprise communication platform or a new CRM, replacing legacy software that’s core to your business is something you want to get right the first time. Making the business case for why your legacy software is insufficient is one thing, but when shopping around for new software, you’ll need to consider what features your organization can’t live without and what features every end user will be thanking you for.

Map Your Business Processes

Now is the time to stretch that Lean Six Sigma muscle you developed from that LinkedIn webinar that one time. Dig into the ways every line of business is currently using the legacy software. From sales to marketing to finance, every department will have a different way of working, and different needs that are satisfied – or not – by your current platform. What capabilities can they not afford to lose? What functionality do they wish they had?

Here are just a few of the capabilities you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Multi-Channel Experience: How will your users be accessing your software? On what devices? How will they be receiving alerts from the software?
  • Integrations: What other software needs to work with the new platform? Do you need features like artificial intelligence? Do you need to connect it to external websites or other systems within your infrastructure?
  • Business Functions: Who’s using it, and for what purpose? Sales and marketing might need access to the same customer data for different reasons. Multiple departments might need notifications about task assignments or customer touchpoints. For cases such as a CRM, the platform may also need to be customer-facing with chat or service portals.
  • Reporting and Analytics: How are you getting data and insights from your new software investment?
  • Security: How easy is it to keep your data safe?

Take the time to find stakeholders in each business function that can communicate their needs. Map out any common themes and make a list of any functionality that your organization currently has, would like to have, or technically has but it just isn’t working. When your map is finished, you’ll have a list of features for your organization’s ideal software at your fingertips.

Of course, finding the perfect platform to match that ideal is a different matter.

Prioritize Features

Core business software, much like a marriage, is all about compromise. Your company will be married to the new platform for at least several years, so it’s important to lean on your business stakeholders to help figure out the deal breakers. Ask your stakeholders to rank any capabilities they noted or asked for by order of importance to their job responsibilities. From there, you should be able to take stock of what capabilities are most important to the most departments, and begin your search for the software that most closely matches those.

At this point you might find that you have a shortlist of new software candidates. It’s Request for Proposal (RFP) time! Your vendors should be offering product demos and pricing options at this point. Outline how many licenses you’ll need and exactly what features you want to be using. It’s okay to be stingy with the RFP accounting upfront so you don’t end up with surprise costs later. Estimating the long-term Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) can be key to earning executive buy-in, as well.

Your stakeholders can still help during the RFP phase. It’s a good idea to have at least one representative from every department committed to attending the product demos and rating the software on how it meets their needs and how easy it is to use.

Somewhere in between evaluating software functionality and evaluating cost, a front runner will finally emerge. You found your perfect match! Read on for a preview of how to build a smooth core business software implementation process.

Executive Buy-In and Top-Down Communication

Depending on the scale of your project, executive buy-in and top-down leadership involvement can be one of the best ways to ensure your project goes smoothly. Executive sponsorship provides a face for the RFP process. Approval from business leadership can build confidence in a project that is likely to affect everyone’s ability to get work done. And people across the organization are less likely to ignore communications from the heavy hitters of your company.

It’s important to communicate key steps of the project and milestones as you go. But it might also be a good idea to use communications to generate excitement for the project. Work with corporate communications for company-wide initiatives or with department leaders for smaller ones. Get an internal email campaign going, and get creative with your messaging if needed. It may seem silly, but top-down communication increases user awareness, and that is your best chance to increase software adoption right off the bat once your project is implemented. It’s business software, not a Beyoncé album. You can’t just drop it at midnight and hope to go platinum.

Prepare for Contingencies

Unfortunately, when you’re developing software, especially at this scale, anything can go wrong. The more you develop your project, the more likely you are to discover factors you didn’t consider in the RFP stage, or find that certain systems just aren’t integrating well. An experienced implementation partner can help you get over those hurdles and keep your project timeline on track.

One of the best ways you can keep your project on track, though, is soliciting user feedback throughout the process. Engaging your user base in testing helps you iterate as you go and ensure you have the correct functionality in place for each line of business by the time your project is complete – and saves you time and money on updates down the line. Have your business stakeholders nominate someone from each department to be committed to a user feedback process, and take their feedback into account at each stage of development.

Money, Money, Money

The main question for any project of this scale is how it can be done at cost. As mentioned before, extensive accounting during the RFP process can help keep the upfront costs in check and allow you or your executive sponsor to immediately challenge any unexpected costs from your vendor.

But some of the main money challenges come in the implementation phase. Adopting an AGILE development style can help you assess exactly how much work is being done on your project in a given period. By working in shorter sprints, your developers are more easily able to iterate, adapt to user feedback and stress test any functionality, fix bugs, deploy code – and ultimately shorten the timeline of your project.

AGILE is often a new way of working for most IT organizations, but it goes a long way toward being able to build applications at the scale and pace both internal and external customers demand. CDW has a team of multi-skilled, full-stack developers on hand that can teach your development team the skills they need to work in an AGILE methodology for all future projects and save your organization development costs.

 

 

Undergoing an extensive IT project like replacing legacy software is stressful, but with the right plan in place you can completely transform how your organization works. But it’s also okay to ask for help if needed. From the RFP to software integration, CDW consultants and technicians can design and build a core business software solution that scales with your business and delivers huge returns on your investment.