A common question on any upgrade project is ‘should we upgrade or re-implement?’, but what’s the best option?

When working with a legacy system that has been in place for several years there inevitably reaches that point where a refresh is required. This can be driven by many reasons but usually technology has moved on and so has your business.

Something newer is the best way to improve your team and productivity. Upgrading a solution can be a daunting task and selecting the correct route can greatly improve the delivery time, cost and outcome for many projects.

Assuming you want to stay with the technology stack you are currently using you are normally faced with two options depending on how out of date your system is:

  • Upgrade;
  • Re-implement.

For upgrades, most systems require you to upgrade to the next version and won’t allow you to jump between versions. For example say you are using Dynamics AX 2009, to upgrade to the latest solution Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations you would need to upgrade to 2012 RTM, 2012 R2, 2012 R3, and Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. You are effectively upgrading 4 times as part of this process and each upgrade requires preparation and pre- upgrade steps to ensure that the changes are successful.

On the other hand, if you choose re-implementation you skip all of the upgrade steps and effectively start again with the newest version available. During a re-implementation you carry out a data migration activity and you look to extract what you need from your old system and input this to the new one. Re-implementation is not normally as popular because:

  • Users are familiar with the data and processes in the current system and are by this. Approaching any upgrade with a view to improve and build on the current business practises rather than considering a new approach, instantly limits the potential benefits of the project.
  • A belief that the data held in the system is valuable and something worth keeping. Data gets out of shape and in legacy systems, without regular care and attention, there will inevitably be a lot of bad data.
  • To continue to see value from any customisations, an investment into a bespoke customisation normally leaves businesses feeling they need to hang onto it for as long as possible to improve the ROI when, in reality, it makes sense to re-review business process or to adapt to default functionality that can replace the customisations at no extra cost.
  • Past investments in technology, including server and internal IT, are the biggest challenges when moving to a more modern system like SaaS or PaaS. Even though the legacy is slowing down the business and you never know when it’s going to fail next, the thought of spending money to switch to a better business tool to save money in the long run, stops people in their tracks.

A re-implementation represents the best opportunity to future proof your investment and deliver real business transformation. The whole process changes from understanding what you do and what functionality you have. To how you should do it and the options available in the tool. For many organisations the value in their data and customisations is much more limited than they think.

So what are the key benefits of a re-implementation?

  • Reduced data storage and storage costs – for data migration, a data cleanse activity occurs resulting in a reduced storage footprint of the system going forward, essentially only migrating data that is essential.
  • A system designed for the future not the past – by simply replicating your legacy system and processes on a new tool you continue to focus on the past.
  • Rethink business processes and discover new ways of working
  • Embrace more of the system – use additional features that the technology offers rather than being limited by just the features the previous version offered.

Embracing new technology is a great driver for change in an organisation and, no matter what route you take, it will help your organisation transform and grow. Although not usually the most popular route, a reimplementation, once an initial investigation has been carried out, normally represents the smoothest upgrade path and the best way to plan for the future.

The great thing about getting onto a new system is almost all of them are cloud based subscription models which likely means it is your last upgrade, ever!

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