The best approach to tackling legacy systems


Deciding on the best approach to tackling legacy systems is one thing, but a major hurdle that needs to be overcome is building the business case for change. However logical it seems to a technical person, senior managers are rarely just persuaded by arguments that a new technology is better.

Other than a straight-forward decommission, all of the options for taming legacy systems will have a cost associated. Senior managers will want to know what they get back in return for investing the required cost. Many people try to justify the cost in terms of the efficiency savings that will be made. For example, replacing our legacy CRM system with CRM 2011 will save at least one hour per day for each sales team member.

Be wary of relying too much on this approach as it is hard to prove that efficiency savings really exist. Even if you can put the data together most senior managers know that efficiency savings don’t become reality. For example, you rarely reduce costs on the back of efficiency savings as something else comes along to spend the money on.

From my experience it is better to focus the business case on risk and reputation as key arguments for change. As any browse across the internet will show you there is plenty of high profile IT disasters that have ruined reputations. Whilst your legacy system might not be on this scale it is easy to lose the company money with unnoticed system problems.

So any business case that substantially reduces the risk of losses, either financial or reputational, will always be given serious consideration by senior managers.

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Thomas Coles co-founded MSM in 1998 and is the largest shareholder with 44.7%. His key achievements so far include growth from 2 to 40 FTE; high levels of customer satisfaction and retention, as well as surviving the sector downturn from 2001-2003 and growing the business in the 2008-2009 recession. Thomas’ business acumen was apparent from a young age. As a child (aged 8) he was already budgeting his pocket money on a spreadsheet. His passion for technology was also evident, as, aged 10 he was writing programmes for his Amstrad. Thomas started the MSM business soon after graduating with his father, who remains a non-executive director today. A strong believer in applying common sense to any situation, Thomas says his objective is to continue to be criticised for being too honest. Away from the office Thomas enjoys family life with his wife and three children and likes to take part in half marathons, going to the gym and watching Formula 1 motor racing. Thomas is also a trustee of a local charity.