Why replace? Reasons include frustration with the current software vendor, the system is not functioning as desired, technology advances, new integration requirements, changing business rules, and the vendor discontinuing support.
What to do? Well you can wait till the last minute, get a bunch of demonstrations, and pick the vendor that looks the best.
Unfortunately, studies find that 10% of new systems fail, with another 40% being mediocre in functionality (not meeting the needs of the users, customers, auditors, and/or regulatory agencies).
Failed and mediocre systems can result from thousands – to millions – to tens of millions of dollars in damages, wreak havoc with your operations and customers, cost the jobs of those responsible for planning, and be downright embarrassing.
Why do systems fail? Lack of design before vendor purchase and implementation (not identifying exactly how the system needs to work), unrealistic user expectations, improper budget, unreasonable implementation timelines, inadequate testing, and lack of vendor implementation oversight (holding vendors accountable).
So what is an approach that works?
- First, hire an independent consultant who can work objectively with your teams to examine the current computer system, define current and future organizational needs, develop requirements to hold vendors accountable, identify cost/benefit, and assess vendor abilities to meet requirements.
- Second, establish a realistic picture of the work, resources, budget, cost/benefit, and timeline required to replace your current complex computer system.
- Third, include executives, managers, staff, legal and records departments, information technology, and customers in the discussion.
- Fourth, define guiding principles (what are the current and future business rules that the new system needs to support). The older system was developed to support rules from years ago, many of which are not valid today. Don’t spend money making the new system function as the old system, if the old system will not work in today’s world.
- Fifth, identify replacement options, including extending the life of the existing system, porting, assessing off-the-shelf pre-developed (COTS) packages, and if required custom build solutions.