Upgrading Your Legacy ERP Systems

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Shawn Windle, ERP Expert, is joined by his wife and co-host Erica Windle, Principal Operations, to discuss the hardships of staying with your troublesome legacy software. Filled with dating analogies galore as they detail the steps to dumping old, underperforming software for newer, younger cloud-based products.

When it comes to legacy ERP software, it can be a daunting task for leaders to determine if they need to simply upgrade their current system or make the change to a new ERP software platform completely. The most common reasons for considering whether to upgrade or select a new, younger ERP include:

  • Customizations prevent taking an upgrade, forcing brand-new implementation of the current product.
  • Previous upgrade was skipped, necessitating a new implementation of the current product.
  • New feature functionality available in newer applications could replace manual or disjointed processes.
  • Improved user experience of new applications can provide soft benefits which enhance morale and employee retention.
  • Opportunity to integrate to other systems presents a case for better availability of data across functional areas. 
  • Stakeholders, including executive support (or lack of support) for any change may dictate one direction or another. 
  • Accommodating the company’s strategy for future functionality needs may provide a compelling reason to move to a newer, more modern system.
  • Synergizing separate business units onto less ERP applications could reduce redundant systems and staff. 

What are your reasons for considering the change?

It is vital that companies consider why they want to evaluate the software they are using. Have operations outgrown the system they are on? Are employees calling for a change? Or is the company hoping to save money?

These are just a few examples of the dialogue leaders must have when determining their software future. When there is a need for an upgrade, examine whether the cost and disruption will be on par to implementing a new product. If so, it may be time to shop around and evaluate if there are newer, better options than your current software. If the current system is meeting all needs, maybe pump the breaks on making a change. ERP software upgrades are time consuming, as well as financially consuming, and require employees to buy in to the mission, so if there is no need for a complete change, then taking the upgrade on your current software probably makes sense.

Occasionally, companies attempt to save money by changing to a new product to get out of a bad contract from the past, but they neglect to research the all-in resources required to implement new software. Of all the reasons to change software, saving money rarely is enough of a driver to make the case, especially if users are mainly satisfied with how their software works.

In all, ensure that the reason for upgrading will drive real benefits and outweigh the costs, otherwise, do not do it.

Have key employees across the company bought in to the change?

Human capital is one of the most important resources to a business. Big changes, especially in operations, can heavily affect organizations and the people within them. 

Organizations must always consider the impact software changes and implementations can have on employees of the business. Some employees will be unwilling to change from the system they have been using their entire career. It can make it difficult to leave old habits behind – people don’t “want to have their cheese moved.”  Other staff may be worried a new system will make their role obsolete. Few of our clients are able to rationalize a reduction in headcount with their ERPs, so a good change management plan may allay those kinds of fears.

Ultimately, though, if the change is warranted yet some folks are unwilling to get onboard, management must be prepared to lose some of the resistant employees. Conclusively, if those individuals are not on board with the company’s greater good to expand, then it probably won’t be a real loss anyway. 

There are many benefits to upgrading your software.

An upgrade may be a necessity in an ever-changing business landscape. Benefits for new systems are wide-ranging including better automated reporting, dashboards, reduced manual processes which eliminate error-prone spreadsheets, automated workflows for basic processes like purchasing and accounts payable and better integrations to other enterprise applications like Financial Planning and Analysis, Configure Price Quote, CRM, eCommerce, banks and EDI.

Heavy customizations prevent any future software upgrades to the existing legacy product.

Companies may find themselves needing to upgrade from their legacy software due to limiting customizations making it impossible for them to accept the upgrade of their legacy system. In this case, you will find you must re-implement the existing product if you wish to continue the upgrades and maintain annual support.  If there isn’t a clear business case to migrate to a newer ERP, then do realize that a brand new implementation will require data migration, setting up integrations all over and either rebuilding the previous customizations or adapting manual processes to prevent a future state of over-customization.

Required upgrades due to missed updates.

Organizations also find themselves at an impasse when they miss a previous update on their legacy software, either intentionally or unintentionally. Missing an update can prevent you from buying premium support options.  This creates a scenario similar to the previous one where you will have to re-implement the same software all over again, starting from scratch with a “vanilla” configuration, rebuilding your customizations, integrations and migrating your data.  

Improved user experience

Modern systems tend to be extremely user friendly, contributing to better user adoption, with employees adapting to the improved user interface, increasing employee retention due to having better tools to do their job. 

Merger and acquisition synergies

We see heavy demand for systems which can synergize functions across disparate business systems which occurred from merger and acquisition activity.  Sometimes there is a case for merging all businesses onto one system that can accommodate sales, orders, inventory or services, manufacturing and distribution activities.  Yet in other merger and acquisition models, owners are creating a universe of brands and related services to offer to the same customer base. in that case, it is not an obvious decision to merge small distributors on legacy ERPs onto the same application as their sister manufacturers who have a different legacy ERP.  Depending on the requirements will depend on the right direction for leveraging new software solutions.  Some clients have opted for a sophisticated financial tool to consolidate financials information from dozens of global entity’s ERPs while other global companies opt for an all-in-one solution to handle everything from human resources, payroll, services, invoicing accounting and financial reporting.  

There are resources to help when it is needed.

In all, when there is a need for change from your legacy software, there is a myriad of possibilities for growth and expansion, but it can take numerous steps to get there. If at any point a snag occurs, please reach out to ERP Advisors Group for independent and objective advice on your software strategy.



How to Know If You Need an ERP Upgrade - Free Download

Announcer: This is the ERP Advisor

Introduction: Today’s episode: Dumping your legacy software, for a nicer, younger ERP system.

Juliette: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's webinar: dumping your legacy software for a nicer younger ERP system.

Shawn Windle is one of our speakers for today. Shawn is the founder and managing principal of ERP Advisors group based in Denver, Colorado. Shawn has over 20 years of experience. In the enterprise software industry, helping hundreds of clients across many industries with selecting and implementing a wide variety of enterprise solutions. His podcast the ERP advisor has dozens of episodes with thousands of downloads and is featured on prominent podcast platforms such as Apple and Spotify.

Erica Windle is our special guest joining us today. Erica is the principal of operations at ERP Advisors Group. She heads up sales while also overseeing all administrative staff and managing back-office processes, including HR, accounting, sales and marketing.

She and Shawn recently celebrated 10 years of marriage and over 350 ERP projects together. Quite a feat.

On today's call, Shawn and Erica will discuss the hardships of staying on a legacy software system as well as the benefits of transitioning to the cloud. Shawn and Erica thank you for joining me.

Shawn: Hello!

Erica: Thanks for having us. Thanks for having me. I'm usually in the background, kind of overseeing marketing and making sure we have a production happening so.

Juliette: I'm happy to have you join us, for sure, definitely.

Alright, well, diving right in talking about legacy software. We have covered this topic many, many, many times through our years of webinars and conference calls. But honestly, it's such a big topic to tackle because so many find themselves on old, outdated, underperforming, sunsetting, what have you, software products, but taking the leap to a newer younger cloud-based product is a little daunting and overwhelming and quite frankly probably expensive, right?

So, with that said, Erica, I know you get a lot of these calls from companies that are looking to change from their legacy applications. How do you know that they should look at dumping their old software?

Erica: Yeah, that's a really good question, and those are definitely things that I'm looking for in terms of is this an initiative that we can actually help with, because if there's a certain reason for changing software, might not be a good fit for having ERP advisors group assisting. But the most common reasons that I usually find for companies changing is A. The software was implemented maybe a really long time ago when the company was very different and now, they have  new business lines or new locations, or they've done acquisitions of different companies. And so the software platform is not really flexible enough to easily accommodate those new elements that need to be automated with the software for their current business scene.

So that would be definitely a major reason to consider upgrading off of the legacy software, and that's what we help with ERP Advisors Group into determining is if there is definitely a business case to do it, because we don't want to do something disruptive and expensive just because maybe only one person wants the new software.

Probably another really common reason, and that I would say I'm seeing a lot of this right now is software salespeople they get the similar calls, but I would say is, I would like manufacturers who implemented some kind of software 20 years ago and it's not really upgradeable anymore.

They have their own in-house development staff and they can't take the upgrades for whatever the product is, and they've probably grown a little bit too, but the software is working well enough, they just cannot keep up with the changes that the software even needs, so instead of reimplementing whatever they're on with, which probably is more of a legacy product and technology and maybe lack of integrations to common channels like for E commerce or EDI or trading partners or things like that, it is a good chance to say well what else is out there.

And I have to remember, I’m supposed to be bringing in the dating analogies.

Shawn: Yes, all that blah blah blah stuff. Bring in the fun things!

Erica: It's like, oh, you know, this old software isn't as good as it used to be, and is there something that's a little more flexible and easier to look at? Better user interface? Anyway, integrates with the other things in my life better.

Shawn: That's right.

Erica: So that's definitely another really valid reason to consider switching. And then I would say like another really top reason is that there's a developer who's been caring and feeding for maybe a custom system on some AS 400 program or maybe I even met with somebody recently, the owner themselves keeps the software running and it actually won't even work on computers that are 64-bit computers, which I had to look up goes back earlier than 2003, so that means they're running their business on software pre 2003 machines.

So, we don't necessarily want to throw out a good working piece of software just because it's old, right?

Shawn: Are you talking about me? Wait a minute. I mean the software, that's right.

Erica: You know, but we want to get a chance to see, is there something that could work with the way the business works better now? And let's face it, it is prettier and easier to use and in this job market when you have to retain staff who are not going to tolerate working in a place where they have to use a Dos system and they don't even know what Dos is because that went out of fashion before they were born.

It might be to the companies, it's definitely one of the soft benefits you get from changing software because you have a workforce who's used to being able to do everything on their phone and not to come to work and I don't even know how to interact with this software so, there's some real soft benefits that we see just from being able to retain a better workforce that is willing to use the company systems.

Juliette: Right, right, that makes perfect sense. And we've talked about this before. It's just like getting your team on board and willing to change from something that they've known for a very long time is kind of a hard buy in for some, right?

So Shawn, you have talked about this as well in the past is, you're very open to people about telling them that they don't need to upgrade their software and they don't need to change and can you speak to an instance when an organization absolutely should not leave their old application for something newer and younger.

Shawn: That would be Erica Windle.

Though it is kind of funny because over the years I've done all these dating analogies right and HR has corrected me several times so my mind is just going crazy right now. Like one of our one of our marketing ladies actually came up with the topic for today, which again I'd be, I can't say that, but it is true that like in any relationship, right? The grass may seem better on the other side of the fence, and maybe it is you don't know and you don't want to make that leap too soon everybody, right? You want to make sure that what you have today with your enterprise software, or whatever, is if you want to find out what's really going on, right like what's really, really happening. What are the real problems that we're experiencing?

We've had a client years ago that was, well, we'll just say sort of, affiliated with oil and gas, so a kind of natural resources industry and they hired us.

They were ready to switch software and we said OK before we do that, we're going to come in and check out and see what's really wrong. And very quickly we start doing our analysis. It turns out that everybody who was involved in the implementation is no longer there. So you have this brand new team that's using this application, and of course they've been trained on it, right, because they've been using it for a year.

Actually, they hadn't been. They're just trying to sort of struggle through with what they had, and so it's like don't, let’s not throw out the whatever with whatever here, let's just stick with the current software to get some training right.

So gosh, I can't think of any analogies…I can think of 20 of them…but you know, it would be like you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a girlfriend and girlfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend, whatever, whatever that is that the other person, we’ll call them your significant other, starts to, I don't know, Erica leaves the toothpaste off the toothpaste course, but we we've already handled that problem, but I'm trying to think of something real, but not too real.

Let's say there, well you, you work more than I do. I guess I'm just perfect I don't, I can't think of anything that honey you would be struggling with with me, but I'm sure there's something you could think with.

But let's just say, just kind of kiddingly, that there's something about the other person that drives you a little crazy, right? Or the other software drives a little crazy. Well, the first thing you do is, ask, say, knock it off right. You can ask in a lot of different tones.

Hey dear, could you do something for me? Could you take a look at maybe possibly, potentially, you know, not blowing your nose so loud. *That’s a good one* Right that way, or like stop it, you're driving me crazy whatever it is, right?

Same thing with the software vendor. Go to the software vendor and say hey I'm worried about the fact that you haven't invested in your software in 10 years. I almost threw out a name, but I won't. But what are you doing about that, like what are you really going to do about that? Because it matters to me, and I would like to know for real like what? What are you going to do to invest in your EDI integrations? Because we're getting hit by all of our wholesale customers are telling us to do this, and we don't know what to do. And we're doing all this manual stuff like I need some help here. 

And they could say “Oh my gosh, we're in the middle of developing something. We'll have that right out” all the way to “I don't care. We have changed our market focus and we work with government agencies now, so sorry distributor ecommerce company, your stuff doesn't matter to us, right?

I mean so have that discussion first for sure with the implementation partner, software vendor, to say “Hey, here's the problems that we really have now, what are you going to do about it?” Right?

And then the second thing I would say is, and I think all three of us can talk to this, is that that change, oh, it's expensive! And you live with it for the rest of your life, so even, I'll go back to software now.

Like even we decide to switch software solutions, well, what about all that legacy data that's in the old app, right? Are we going to pay to bring that over? You know, we have some clients that we actually do that service with because it's so hard. They don't know how to do it. They don't want to do it. They don't have the time, so they pay us to do it, fine.

We have a client right now that owns multiple businesses and they have multiple different applications that they want to bring in the data over for and there's just so much to do, right? So, maybe we could just keep an old copy of the old application there and then get a new one.

And then we got to still maintain with child support and alimony…oops, I mean maintenance on the old software for our cloud-based kids as we call them, little too personal there. But seriously that you have you have the old app, maybe it's not like a total like complete change. Forget it, cut, shut the door and go to the new. And maybe you do keep something around from that old legacy application that you can always get to and so you can get to legacy data keep that there, but then go to the newer app for your kind of current business processes so there's a whole slew of things in between there for sure, but I think that's the key point.

Juliette, like you said, is don't just go to something that's newer, younger, prettier. Whatever.

Erica: What are you saying? It’s because I had a big birthday 2 weeks ago.

Shawn: That's right, you did. That was great. We had a great party for you, so it was great, it was amazing.

Juliette: You're aging out, Erica.

Shawn: That’s right, but it really is important that it does seem, and we do, I think Erica really talks to a lot of people that are like I want to change. I'm ready to go. And it's like, wait a minute, let's just really think through all the implications to this and it still might be the right thing to do, which again, you got to kind of think through what's going to happen, that's the key.

Juliette: Well, I think it's like with anything it's the devil you know versus the devil you don't know right?

Shawn: Well, you know, sometimes the devil you know is a really bad devil too.

Juliette: Yeah, that's right.

Erica: True, so true.

Juliette: True, true for sure.

So, Erica, let's assume a company decides unequivocally that that it's time to move on. Like what do they need to do next? What are the next steps for them that they should consider?

Erica: I would say that most of the companies that we talked to their midmarket sized companies or maybe small mid-market emerging and so it's not like when you're in a small business and you just go out and decide to buy Salesforce for your two sales people, I mean you have to get a lot more people agreeing to what you're going to do and so, and there's different layers of getting that agreement. Parts of the agreement are definitely going to be whoever is going to be writing the check that they're going to agree to spend the money.

So, what do they need to know, in order to feel comfortable with this, so that's where we usually help out is on that upfront strategy work. But if you're doing it on your own, these are just some of the things that you should plan with is like how are you going to help ownership or the board or the president? To understand the need for investing in software because most organizations, they invest a lot in the sales and marketing side or if they're a products company, definitely in their product lines and improving those. And accounting is usually kind of like the redheaded stepchild of most organizations because it's not really seen to be making money for the company. So, paying for accounting software to some very entrepreneurial companies or the owners like they don't really get it, so you're going to have to make a case to them. Why they should, why is this software not good enough? I can get the information I need

So, that's the first thing is think about who's paying for the bill for the software, but you cannot neglect the other side of the equation, which are the users of the software. And so if you, we have definitely seen many failed implementations over the years, not ours, but people we meet to get help on their implementations, where one or two in the company go out and pick the software and here you go! IT picks it or maybe some poor controller picks it and then doesn't realize that all the other people needed to agree to it or they didn't get to have any say and well, this doesn't really need my needs or I wasn't included in the decision, and how come you never looked at this. So, you have to gain consensus across the people like your key users that are going to be the owners of those business areas. And if you fail to do that I mean you can definitely buy the right software and you can even get the right implementation partner, but you can still have a failed implementation because they're like, they don't own it. That's not my, I didn't make this mess or I'm not going to be responsible for this.

So those are probably the two most people want to dive right into requirements, which is great, right? Like most companies we talked to, they've already done some level of gathering up the requirements or organizing them, or getting a list of requirements from some third party so fine, do that and getting some organization into that and understanding what the footprint of software is before you start talking to the vendors. Because if you just go out and start looking at products, that's the thing to not do, when you've decided that it's time to switch. Don't just go and expect the software vendors to educate you. You have to go with a story to them so.

That's really the third piece, is you have to have the story you have you driving the discussion. You're telling them what you need the software to do and let them tell you how their software can cobble together the solution. Maybe it's not all out of the box. Maybe some of it's customized. Maybe it's a third party, built in component, or maybe they're like, no, we just don't do that. You'll have to get that from another piece of software.

Juliette: That’s a lot of information I mean, that's a lot to consider, but isn't it kind of that like crawl, walk, run like they have to know like what their needs are like, what their wants are? And then maybe what their long-term goals are. Right?

Erica: It sounds dating!

Shawn: Dating just as an example, it's like dating and it'd be like, you're like OK, time to go, do whatever and then you like go to the bar and you meet some people, and you're like, “Oh my gosh, you know Mr. or Mrs. right. Mr., Mrs., right now!” Whatever it is for you, it doesn't matter.

I can just go right up to the line HR with this call but, but it really is the same thing like, woah, what do you want out of life like? Where are you going? How do you sort of live in? What do you do with the toilet seat? All those questions that should be asked up front in a relationship, and sometimes we do, we don't, whatever, but it really is, it is the exact same thing like you can almost look at here's where I'm going with this organization: Non-Profit, government group, fire department, for profit, manufacturing. It doesn't matter who it is, this is where we're going. This is how we see the software fitting in, vendor, how do you fit into that? How does your solution fit into that?

We just talked to somebody yesterday who's been out talking to a bunch of vendors, and I think making a lot of really good progress and got down to the short list of who to talk to and then they called us, and it's like good, right? Because they sort of knew there's some gaps, there's some holes, we're not sure if we can fill them and, you know, sometimes, men I'm going to throw us under the train a little bit here, sometimes men, maybe women but mostly men could say, “Oh, I could do everything!” Same with software sometimes, right, where it's like, oh yeah, we can handle your time entry specific to geofencing and handling California rules for construction companies, right? But we don't, we can't, show it to you, but we can do it. Oh OK yeah I so I can take you on your word, right? Oh, of course you can and then you see him kind of ooh, right?

So it is, it's really important that you really do kind of figure out like what is the direction and then tie that in I think. I think Eric and I did a good job of that ten years ago, actually, where I sort of gave her my goals and she was like you're crazy, but I kind of like it. Little did she know.

Juliette: She gave you a chance and look at you today. Right? Here you are.

Erica: There's a good point there like don't over, you know,  you can't like make-up all the gaps. Say the software can do a couple things really well. Like I love these accounting financials and multi company currency, international language, oh, it's amazing, but it doesn't do so good over here on the manufacturing. So, I mean if it has to do the manufacturing you have to confront that. Just like if maybe they have cute little kids and your cute little kids match up but maybe there's this other big hairy thing. It might not be overcome able. 

Shawn: Right, the ex-legacy system. You got to know what you're getting into, because the other four one this also right because what's cool about these calls is we not only have the people looking to create the new relationship with the software, but we also have people from the software companies on this call, right?

And it's the same kind of flow there too, where  it's sort of heed the warnings, right? Where you don't want to set an expectation that's too high, and then they buy your software and they will hunt you down and they will find you, and that's not a good position to be in in life. Nobody wants to do that, whatever kind of relationship it is.

So, to go back to what Eric has said, set realistic expectations. Look at what the long-term fit is. And yeah, maybe you give up a couple deals in the short term, but man, when you nail it when you like hammer like man, the customers happy and they will sing your praises. I mean, there's tons of books on theories on this that  if you have one, one good, one good customer interaction or a happy customer will tell ten other people, but a very unhappy customer will tell like 100, right? You sort of know as the salesperson, whether an implementation partner or the software vendor, will your software work for them or not. Don't play stupid, don't play ignorant.

Well, I don't know find out that, right? This is why your solutions consultants are like gold because they really know how these applications work and they know what the customers’ requirements are, and they've worked through all this stuff. You really listen to those people for sure. You know, it's sort of like a friend, who's like, I really don't think you want to, fill in the blank, with that particular person. But don't do it, right. We all are fortunate that we have people like that in our lives that we need to listen to. They keep us on the straight and straight.

Juliette: That's right, that's right. Well, continuing on in the respect of changing and not changing, Shawn, and you did mention this earlier about the grass being greener, can you talk to us or give us an example that you have personally lived through, like with a different client or what have you that changed when they should not have changed their software?

Shawn: Let's see. So, there was a client recently where they're on a legacy application. It's ugly and it doesn't meet their needs and it's not evolved to the point it doesn't handle a lot of the customizations that they did. They can't upgrade those customizations, so they're like OK, time to go someplace else, right?

Good, so we sort of come in and kind of look at what they've got going on and we sort of assess the people as much as we look at the software. We also look at the people, to Eric's original point about making sure the key stakeholders are on board, and then this one instance they have a really key person who controls the purse strings, who's saying, “Well, I think it makes sense to upgrade. Everything else doesn't make sense to me.”

So, I think that's partly why they hired us, right? Because the other people in the organization are saying we need to look at some other stuff here, but that person says, well, that's fine, but not really, right, we just want to upgrade because it's cheaper and there's less risk and I get that for sure, right?

And so, we sort of are we've done sort of our, we call it the needs analysis. We go out and say what do you really need? What's in the market? What's it going to cost? What are your change management risks? What's the roadmap? Pretty much, there's a couple other things Carly and Grant are probably working on twenty of those presentations right now, but we go through all that stuff and I sort of just got this feeling because you know when we do these processes, we're very, very interactive with our clients to see how they're responding. What are their indicators, what's going on with it, right? And as watching the dynamics between these three leaders, basically the operations IT and finance and the way that they were interacting, I could tell that, but one of them was kind of squashing the others very honestly, and it was a little bit like, whoa, this is not good, like if there's any problems later, if we don't do what that person said, that guy is going to tell everybody I told you so. So, in that instance, the recommendation is sort of like, OK, let's go to selection, because you need to, but if we can't get this person on board with any other app, even if there's demonstrable benefits of another application, just do the upgrade and you'll be fine, it's better than nothing, right?

Well, but what about this and I want that…it's like too bad you don't get it as long as that person is on your team, it's not going to happen. You really have to look at the people and you have to look at their willingness to change, is what I would say, and some people are like, ah, fine, whatever, we'll just work our way through it and kind of, take out the machetes and chop down whatever tasks we got to do. Other people are like, I'm not doing it, I'm too busy. I don't want this, and I'll do the upgrade and that's it. So, it is kind of it's very apropos to this discussion, because you may have the ugliest app ever, you can put a little lipstick on it, maybe it's a little bit prettier, right? But if it doesn't fit the need, maybe the upgrade is the easiest thing to do. It represents less change, even if it's like a whole new system. Sometimes people just think it's less change and so do the upgrade, right? Versus bringing in a whole new paradigm. Because software is a lot like people, it really is like if you have Unit 4, Agresso and other apps that are out there. In instance of that Unit 4 deployment at one company could be totally different at another, completely different.

You're not comparing apples to apples here. It's really trying to say like, OK, if we go to a brand-new application, it's like a whole new spouse, like everything is the same right? And it is kind of funny because with what we do, we really don't want people to change. We really don't. Even though when they do, we're around. We got great data guys. Great PM's and you really want to change only if you have to and there are instances of doing it but when you make that change you better damn well make sure everybody’s on board because it's going to be hard.

It's like going through a divorce. Oh, bring up the topic, but it's hard for you, it's hard for the kids, it's hard for your friends, it’s hard for your family, and sometimes you just got to do it like I got to do this, it’s the right thing we're going for, right?

There are other times where it's not. You got to figure out OK, what are you doing and make them confess what they're doing and vice versa and say, OK, we'll be better and here's the plan to make it better. And then you actually work on it and you're like, Oh my God, that saved so much time and energy. Or again, no, we're not going to upgrade the software, we're not going to do the integrations you need. Or yeah, we're just getting smaller and smaller as an organization.

We have one client major client that's very, very vital to the Denver metro area where the software that they run right now is run by one guy and there's hundreds and hundreds of people that rely on this application every day. And, it's like, we can't do this anymore. We've been trying to make it work. We have to go through that change so anyway there you go.

So basically, Erica don't divorce Shawn. That's what I'm saying. There are no younger whatever blah blah blah people out there for you. There probably are tons of them, but…

Juliette: Oh my gosh, well Erica, can you speak to the younger, newer, different types of software that are out there? If people really are in the market and need to change?

Erica: Yeah, and I would point out like this past summer we did a whole series on what the legacy applications are. Maybe some people don't really even know what that means. You know, it's generally the products that are not the go forward product for a software vendor, so when you think about like a Sage 100, the older sage products, not like Sage Intacct like that would be a newer one. Or NetSuite is a very common one. I think everybody's heard of NetSuite by now. The ones that are the sass based ones they look, they have the feel like doing your work on the Internet and all the Internet based things that that you do on a day to day basis. Some teams really end up liking that interaction with their software for everything they have to do for their job all day.

So, there's products like NetSuite and Intacct that are similar look and feel. When you say younger and newer, I mean they were created less years ago than the other products, so they aren't technically younger. I would say my survey, most demo participants would say they're prettier than the legacy things they're coming off of.

So other newer ones, Epicor has like a newer product with the their kinetic and while Microsoft Dynamics, you wouldn't necessarily think of them as like one of the sexiest ones out there they did leave AX and SL and the vision behind and then they came up with business central and financing supply chain, but it still looks like Microsoft. If you like Microsoft Office, you will probably be happy with the interaction with the Microsoft products, so the business, central and finance and supply chain, those are definitely newer, they were created not that long ago, relatively speaking, and they have like a sort of refreshed user interface, right?

And then I'm sure I'm forgetting several, my Chem 4 has there's an Infor product that does really well with our clients. The cloud suite industrial, it's some people might consider that a legacy product because sight line was kind of the older version of that, but then cloud suite industrial sort of the remade version of that, but it doesn't look quite as like Internet oriented as, say, net sphere intact, so you'll have kind of different groups of people that gravitate towards one versus the other if all other things are equal with the functionality. Those are the ones that come that probably…

Shawn: Acumatica is another right that we're seeing quite a bit and then there's several others for sure, some Unit 4 stops newer like we've got some Oracle stuff you know, a lot of these sort of legacy vendors are coming up with kind of their next generation applications as well.

Erica: Workday would be another really prevalent that users really like the look and feel and the usability of it, compared to its predecessor like PeopleSoft or JD Edwards or something.

Juliette: Yeah, so Shawn, let me ask you this. Do these shiny new applications really provide that much more than like an old stalwart like reliable software platform can't.

Shawn: I like the reliable stuff for sure. Right, honey?

Erica: I like reliable stuff too.

Shawn: There we go. Thank God.

You know, there's a tradeoff, just like everything else, right? There's a tradeoff where if you go, if you have a vendor that you've done business with and you've been relying on for many, many years, decades, right?

I'm thinking of another client right now that basically built their business on this one software solution, and so they said, hey, we got to upgrade, we’re on old servers just like Erica said with this old version these customizations, we trust you. Let's go, let's go to the next version of your software, great.

So then they started it, $400,000 later called us and said we shouldn’t have done this. We missed a couple gaps in their functionality that we need today and so we made a mistake. And it turned out when we got in there and really dug underneath the covers, that vendor is just not investing in the product like some of the other vendors are, they're just not. I'm not going to say any names, even though I want to. You can have that you can text me or call me later and I will tell you who it is, because we don't really do business with that firm because of that, because it's their business model is more about aggregating legacy applications and getting the maintenance stream off of them and not investing.

Erica: I would point out like the opposite scenario. The opposite scenario of a client that happened this past year, Juliette to answer your question was, and this is like kind of a little bit of a red flag to me when a client saying they need to switch. Well, the person on the phone saying but they kind of don't believe it because they're being told I need you to save us some money on the software and this company had a pretty big footprint of lots of things integrated. And while it's not like the most, it's not like the go forward product for Oracle. They had the whole business built on it and it's working fine. It was actually working, completely fine, but this was just an ongoing thing from the private equity, we need you to save money on the software, so, we want you to switch to this other brand that we think you should just go switch to, and fortunately their  IT VP was really savvy and didn't just cave into that and they did find us to come in and help do a business case for where are we going to save money is just if this is the only reason. I was kind of like, oh, that seems like a pretty expensive thing to do just to save some money, maybe a little bit each year. 

After doing a really deep dive on what they're spending and then versus what it would take to replace all that functionality and with a new product. Shawn, maybe you can speak to that, because I don't know exactly, but I know they didn't switch software.

Shawn: Right. And especially when you consider the cost of all the new process analysis, the data migration, even new soft, like new hardware, sometimes even if it's like going from on Prem to cloud data center cost of hosting, if the vendor doesn't actually do that for you like there's a ton of costs just to do the change. And then there's the cost of the new software and the implementation, onetime fee, and so we basically came back to them. I think we even sort of looked out ten years and brought back the present value of the cash flow and were like, you're crazy if you switch. Plus, nobody in the organization wants to do it. If there would have been a driver for you, like wow, this is, you know, hampering us, some of the things Erica has said, we're hiring folks coming in and they don't like to use this old software and they're quitting because of the software. We've had clients actually say that to us, by the way, literally, like I'm losing people because they won't us my software or even order processing people or CSR or customer service representatives or whoever, manufacturing people are like this thing is terrible, I'm out. Oh my God, don't go!

Anyway, in that instance, though, we basically said don't do this for the money. First off, the savings isn't there. And then, secondly, you're going to get into software that the second there's a problem in the implementation, everybody is going to hate VP of IT, don't do it, and he was like I agree, like he knew. He knew for sure, but sometimes having the consultant report that says here this is what's real based on tons of experience, helps people to do that.

Juliette: Having justification or validation for the decision you've made right.

Shawn: Exactly.

Erica: You know, the old, gray mare might be expensive to keep up her habits and routines, but guess what? Those new ones, they're even more high maintenance, that's it.

Shawn: There you go, that’s what I hear.

Juliette: And more expensive, right? So funny. Well, through the years, that even just that I've been working with you guys like I have learned that ERP implementations are challenging. I mean, they're a huge commitment and the fact that you guys are married, and you work together and your partners in ERP Advisors Group and have been through literally hundreds of implementations with clients, can you give some advice on anyone that is in the market to either change their software, or they're getting ready to go through an implementation.

Yeah Erica, would you like to take it first?

Erica: Well, usually Shawn isn't the PM on the project, but sometimes things happen, and he is, and we had a rare little Labor Day weekend vacation scheduled and we had a client with a really important go live. And guess what he was up at 7:00 in the morning, every day, checking on the go live so, they're depending on which flow you're talking about. If you're the team that's implementing that go live, man, you need to clear the decks. That's all I can say, and I know that sometimes the go lives get pushed and you can't plan every contingency around, you know, I thought we were going to go live two months ago, and I got pushed and I already had this trip scheduled or whatever. You don't want to be that one person that made the go live push because of something, so maybe you go to your boss and you ask for an extra bonus, like I have a family trip planned and I'm going to have to send my wife to the spa because she's going to be so mad at me. If I got to be on these calls, you're going to have to send me a little extra love but they probably would, because if you push that go live again, you're going to lose your implementation team.

And sometimes when you push it one month, you might not be able to go live for two or three months, because now you've washed your resources so, if there's any way you can protect that, go live and keep it in yes, and the people around those who are doing the go live, give them some extra love, extra treats, extra meals. Cut them some slack because it's one of the hardest things they probably have to do in their career, is pull off that go live.

Juliette: Shawn, is there anything that you can add to that?

Shawn: I would say from maybe from my perspective as the husband, definitely like Erica said, set the expectation with your significant other and say hey this is happening do it really early, like Oh yeah, the implementation is planned for nine months from now and it could be busy and it's going to probably require a lot of work at that time, and so I'm going to ask you for forgiveness in advance, right?

OK, that's and I think whether you're a male or female, you should do that. Just set the expectation with your significant other and go live like it's going to be a lot. Then as it gets a little bit closer and it gets a little more real, say well, remember how I told you, you know, six months ago? Well, it's looking pretty good, this is going to happen and I'm going to be really busy.

You're really, really, really busy. Like we have one client, I don't know how the hell we're going to do this. We have four days to convert, 10 years of data, and there's multiple layers of data and it's going to be crazy, right?

And so, you just set the expectation in advance with your family. I guess that's what I'm trying to say for sure. And then when it's done, you go and treat them for sure because they are sacrificing for you for this project and I think that's kind of why Eric and I and do what we do from an ownership perspective is a ton of risk in our business. And we have tons of clients relying on us and the reason why we do that is for the people that go through this that we really, really, really want to help. And it's the time to ask your family for some help. For those around you, ask for help. This is what's going to happen. Hopefully, we don't do this for a long time, but it's the right thing to do for the organization and I need to be a part of that. Like you got to honor your own integrity and your own honor to do it, but ask for forgiveness, right?

Tell them in advance this is going to happen and then when it's done after you get a chance to sort of catch your breath, it is a great time to take them on vacation for sure, right? But I would wait till about a month after go live to do that and like Erica said, sometimes these go lives, they do frequently change because we're not quite ready, so get refundable tickets.

And even if the if the plans do change, maybe you do talk to your employer and say look I had these tickets, I need your help with covering this right? I'm doing this for you too because they should ante up on that as well.

It is a lot of risk that individuals take on in these decisions and there are impacts to people around you, so just be aware of it. Don't kind of plow through it and get so busy and everything else that you're like whoa, where's my family right now? Don't do that, but do just think in advance, look at what's going to happen. 

The funny thing about ERP projects is when they're right, when they're really the right thing to do, everything usually goes pretty well around. If it's wrong and you start, you just run into all of these problems. You really need to stop and say why isn't my family supporting me with this? Oh, they don't understand that are  we're changing to functional currencies because we have five different countries now and blah blah blah. No, no, no, like there's probably some other stuff going on is what I'm trying to say, so, might not be just the ERP project, but bottom line is just be aware of your family and the best thing to do is to bring your spouse into your company so that they're working with you side by side, day in and day out, and then they drive you to say what are you doing, it's 9:00 o'clock, why aren't you working on that presentation?

Not that that happens with us. Just kidding that that we're kind of an anomaly. And we really do get along pretty good, I think. We were at a dinner the other night and this lady kind of pulled Erica aside and she said are you to married and Erica said yeah, we are and she said I have never seen a couple talk as much as you guys did over dinner and I think it's great.

Little did she know we're talking about, like how to handle these ERP projects and problems that our clients are going through or whatever. So that is the other thing I would say is  a lot of people say to us like oh I could never work with my spouse, right, and I'm like why? Why is that? What am I missing?

No, but the one thing I would say kind of kind of to the end of this point is do explain to those in your family what's happening, and you don't have to again talk about how you need to have more reporting dimensions and change your COA to something new.

Don't go into that, but you can say, hey, I'm a major part of this organization, I think this is the right thing to do and we're going to go for it and it's going to require some of my time, and I would appreciate your support with this and then duck when the pan comes at you.

Erica: I would just say just one quick point to that, because I've seen this on the sales side.

Sometimes owners or management says we do need an ERP and you controller, just why can't you just go do it? And then they won't really kind of back them up with any help. So I have met folks who've like, “I've been through this before and there's no way I'm going to do it on my own. I have to have a consultant. I need an advisor because I've already sacrificed my life a couple different times on a couple of other implementations.”

So this word is the word of the wise. If you have a team or you're in a company that's considering, just think about that, that the team does need some extra backup whether you backfill or bring in an outside PM or an advisor like us because they do have really your key people, I mean especially in this environment they are busy already and you can't and you don't want to push them past the brink that they say I can't do a project and do everything else. I mean, we've heard that recently.

Juliette: That's great advice, great advice so well, I think we've come to the end of our time. Thank you, guys, so much. Erica, we're going to have to have you back more often. That was a lot of fun so thank you for that.

Happy early Valentine's Day to everyone. Which is something fun to look forward to for sure so.

Yeah, all right. Well thank you everyone for joining us for our webinar today. Please let us know if you have any questions, we can help in any way you can call us, email us, whatever works. We're happy to help.

Be sure to join us for our next ERP advisor webinar scheduled for Thursday, March 3rd : ERP strategies for M&A. We will discuss the many options for defining and implementing the right ERP strategy for your M&A investment. Please go to our website erpadvisorsgroup.com for more details and to register. 

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