Manufacturing Tomorrow


Signs It’s Time to Check the Health of Your IT Infrastructure and Update Legacy Systems

Apr 24, 2019
By: Dan Miller
Manufacturing and Distribution

Only a few short decades ago, most companies still managed the majority of their operations manually, whether that was in the front office with sales, billing and customer service, or on the plant floor assembling products. Today, it’s nearly impossible to succeed in a highly competitive market without the use of modern technology. 

In those early days of computing technology, innovative organizations invested in what was considered state-of-the-art software and hardware at the time. Fast forward 30 or more years later, and many of these same companies now feel like prisoners of their legacy systems, still deeply dependent on them to run critical business functions yet unable to modify or scale them adequately to accommodate market change or business growth. Even systems purchased as little as five to ten years ago can be problematic if a company has outgrown its technology’s ability to keep pace with a changing business climate. 

Outdated technology isn’t just an inconvenience; it has a direct impact on profitability. It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, businesses are losing $120 billion in wasted time, resources, duplication of effort and missed opportunities. 

Why Updating Legacy Systems Is So Difficult

The use of home-grown legacy systems in today’s fast-paced, technologically driven marketplace can be likened to watching movies on VHS versus Netflix. Can you make it work? Sure. But that old technology is a dying breed and can’t keep pace in today’s landscape. Times change. But sadly, many organizations haven’t or, perhaps more accurately stated, don’t believe they can change from their legacy systems. 

Complicating matters is that many companies have applied stop-gap measures to their old systems incrementally through the years to the point where they’re so customized and complex that they’re almost impossible to replace or duplicate.

As a generation of IT professionals and mainframe engineers who “grew up” on legacy systems and acquired skills to support them exit the workforce, manufacturers are finding it difficult to find qualified support technicians and developers to take their place.

Because of these and other factors, it’s not easy to replace a legacy system. Something as simple as transferring data can become a major obstacle. Changing systems and processes can result in significant business disruption and downtime, and it requires an entirely new mindset among users, leadership and technology departments. 

When to Make the Switch to Updated Technology 

Ideally, an organization reaches the conclusion that it’s time to switch or transition to updated software and hardware before reaching a critical breaking point. A major sign that it’s time to act is if your company begins to lose market share due to an inability to support global commerce or, perhaps, customers lose confidence in your ability to serve their needs efficiently and reliably. 

Another consideration is whether the cost of your existing system and its support staff becomes unsustainable. It’s not uncommon for companies that rely on legacy systems to employ large numbers of IT professionals and invest in expensive “fixes” to maintain them. Additionally, many legacy systems are housed on on-premise servers and are backed up with antiquated and often unreliable tools and processes. If a natural disaster or a major outage were to occur, a significant amount of data, or entire systems, could be lost and, potentially, unrecoverable. 

Not to be underestimated is the real threat of cybersecurity and data breaches that result from a reliance on internal systems and resources and is compounded by cloud computing and connected devices. Many legacy systems weren’t built with today’s risks in mind, and keeping them protected requires extraordinary vigilance, effort and expense. 

Steps to Help Ensure Successful Migration

The need to update legacy systems is inevitable for most businesses, or they risk an equally inevitable demise. Making the transition requires significant communication, executive and user buy in, financial and human capital, project management, planning and, just as importantly, change management to guide everyone on the journey and build a culture that looks to the future and is open to doing things differently.  

Before embarking, however, you must ensure existing systems are stable and secure as you develop your strategy. Take time to fully assess and understand your current systems to better facilitate future migration. Evaluate and document your business requirements, now and what changes will be needed to support your strategic vision for the company. Most companies will benefit from working with a technology partner to help them objectively assess the health of their IT environments, document business requirements and provide recommendations for the future. These partners are experienced with identifying and overcoming the challenges associated with system migrations and can increase the speed at which implementations can occur, mitigating risk throughout the process, minimizing lengthy implementations, disruptions and cost overruns. 

An IT consulting partner can also strategize with you to develop a technology roadmap, select the right systems, and create a migration plan. They can help drive change management, mitigate risk, provide training, and provide support before, during and after implementation. 

As an example, manufacturer Fox Converting utilized Wipfli’s managed services to assess their environment, develop a roadmap and ease the burden on its IT staff. As a result Fox’s server count was reduced by 60%, saving nearly four days in maintenance each month

If you’re ready to start the conversation and explore options, contact Wipfli to request a complimentary consultation today.


Dan Miller
Senior Manager
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