Thursday, 14 July 2016

Is Your Legacy Software Holding You Back?

For many businesses, legacy software is a core component of their business infrastructure. Often, outdated and obsolete applications are entrusted with some of the most critical tasks that the business undertakes. Providing there’s support for a legacy system, and an understanding of the risks, there’s nothing wrong with continuing down this path particularly as many legacy systems benefit from stable platforms due mainly to their limitations and lack of flexibility.

But what happens if you lose the one support engineer that knows how to manage these systems or support is terminated as the product is deemed EOL. And what about that lack of flexibility could your legacy system be holding you back?

Catastrophic Consequences 

Our banking system is built on a foundation of legacy software. Many of the applications used to process transactions were coded more than four decades ago. As banks start to digitally transform their businesses, and as consumers rely on more on electronic access, some of these applications are creaking under the strain.

RBS has suffered a brace of IT problems, including downtime that has locked customers out for days on end. In December 2013, RBS customers were unable to use their debit and credit cards for hours on Cyber Monday - the busiest online shopping day of the year. This is one very clear example of legacy IT being unfit for purpose, and putting the core business at further risk.

The lesson here is that legacy systems need to be well maintained, with a full support package of maintenance with skills on tap and a very low level of understanding in order to achieve any kind of integration, if achievable at all, required to deliver to the demands of todays market. If this doesn’t happen, they are at best a ticking time bomb at worst a dinosaur, huge, cumbersome, eating up resources. The least agile solution you can endeavour to utilise and meet the latest consumer demands.

Unlocking the Potential of Transformation 

Automation and transformation requires different systems to be joined so that data can flow freely between them. Often, it isn’t possible to integrate a legacy system; either it isn’t designed for integration, or the process of integration would expose the legacy system to risk.

As such, legacy systems can hold back attempts to digitally transform a business, and they prevent it from exploring opportunities like process automation.

When you have one system that is isolated – often by necessity – you have a situation where data is going to be siloed, which also introduces compliance and data quality problems. There are three routes out of this trap: spend money on replacing the systems you have, migrate the systems to a new platform, or spend money recruiting people with the rare technical skills to continue as you are, treading water and getting left behind with the service levels and cost savings your competitors will be equipped to achieve with a more agile solution.

Embracing Change 

In July 2015, Microsoft discontinued support for Windows Server 2003. Businesses had to decide whether to pay for expensive, customised support packages, or invest that money into new systems.

Smart businesses use this as a driver for innovation. Many upgraded to Server 2008 or 2012, and treated the expense as an opportunity to improve the application, while others used the situation as an opportunity to move systems into the cloud.

Another group of businesses chose to place servers in a quarantined state. While this is certainly the cheapest solution on paper, those businesses continue to be frozen in time, unable to take advantage of transformation opportunities.

Retaining knowledge, and acquiring new skills, is a tall order. We’d certainly argue that digital transformation pays dividends long term. If you’re at a crossroads, contact OneFit for advice about your next move…it may not be a scary as you think with expertise in the latest technologies whilst understanding and able to offer quick routes for data transfers wherever possible to minimise the impact of implementation you may be surprised how quickly you can get an ROI from taking that important and innovate step into the future.

How to Deal With a Cashflow Crisis

Almost one-quarter of SMEs have come close to insolvency due to the plague of late payments. According to a survey commissioned by Tungsten in 2015, 23 per cent of businesses came close to financial disaster. 22 per cent of the companies that were surveyed said that large businesses owed them money, while 8 per cent were chasing debts from their public sector clients.

Late payments are a drain on resources, and create a nuisance that most SMEs can do without. But when late payments actually threaten the existence of a business, the fragility of their cashflow becomes clear. As many as 50 per cent of startups go bankrupt within the first 5 years, but a proportion of them could have been saved with better planning.

Good Habits 

Many large businesses have developed habits of paying late to make their own accounts look better. Some will pay after being chased. Others will hold out longer and make excuses. We only have to look at Tesco’s “unreasonable” practices to see this practice executed to an extreme.

SMEs are reluctant to rock the boat when chasing their largest customers. They know that they need the client more than the client needs them. But being paid on time is crucial to avoid a crisis that can eventually shut down a business.

Good habits extend to both sides of the equation. Late payers should certainly be brought to account. But suppliers also need to put measures in place to prevent a crisis, and choose software that will nurture a healthy financial position.

Crisis Point

If your clients aren’t paying, and you can see trouble on the horizon, acting quickly is essential.

Clients with a habit of paying late should be closely monitored for signs of insolvency, and if they continually pay late, you need to consider pausing their work for that client. This can protect against a situation where one client’s debts climb over several months, which is one of the biggest risks to supplier cashflow.

Once invoices are late, late fees and interest need to be added, providing you have given fair warning. This is your right in law. Short-term business loans can also bridge cashflow gaps, but should not be used to prop up a business that is not managing its cashflow proactively, since the interest payments could generate a secondary burden.

Future Proofing

Many payment problems can be prevented – or at least curbed – by using the right software to handle accounts. Your accounting tool should track everything, from your sales and purchase ledger right through to your late payer details, and it should pull in your bank controls and activity so you always have a complete picture.

Credit control functionality is also an essential, because it boosts your chances of getting paid without requiring extra resource from your team. This is particularly crucial in a small business, where one person will be covering multiple roles and is likely to be feeling the strain. The more focussed and informed the credit controller is the quicker credit is managed and cashflow becomes healthy. Automating credit control routines to minimise effort whilst increasing the return is crucial.

If your business is struggling with a cashflow crisis, OneFit’s accounts solutions could help you to deal with client debts more effectively. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.