Business Strategy

How to modernize your legacy enterprise software

The need to modernize software is becoming more important than ever for both security and productivity purposes. Your enterprise software is a vital part of your business which is why you’ve depended on it for years. 

However, updating this software is just as important to your business. Modern software products often promote more flexibility by not being reliant on intranets or on site servers, making it easier for work at home or remote work. 

Updating your software may seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t necessarily require building a new product. Approaching it one step at a time, such as adding a web based front end, a custom mobile app, or building out integrations, it can open up your old software to new technical capability.

Start with basics

Before you begin adding or integrating software, let’s start with updating your software. There is no best method to determine if your technology is updated. However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure your software is operating in its best form. Start with examining what your software was built with.

Is this a current version of a language? If not, why isn’t it up to date to cover any possible bugs and or exploits it contains? As long as the language or framework is actively being supported, it’s time to look at an update. By doing so, you gain access to new features, prevent features from eventually breaking, and mitigate the risk of exposure to old exploits. Nevertheless, if your software is very out of date, it’s likely updating may cause some features to break. When this is the case, it’s best to ask for a technical review of your software to better understand how updates will affect what you’re using.

What authentication is part of your system? Does your product offer two-factor authentication? While not the only way to secure your sign in process, it makes it a lot harder for anyone to infiltrate your user accounts. It’s also straightforward for users to set up.

Mobile is critical

The majority of time people spend with technology is dominated by mobile phone usage. As a result, mobile apps have become one of the most dominant ways for people to engage with software. These apps are designed to be appealing to both the user’s experience and make it simple for them to achieve the goal of that platform.

When considering what to augment your business with, consider the impact design will have from both a desktop and mobile perspective. The product you build needs to be optimized for both these platforms.

Push notifications

Push notifications have become essential in software over the last few years. These quick reminders can let you know when something is going to ship, when materials are expected to arrive, or when you are running low on a product. They can be a challenge to implement in a way that is useful but not annoying, but they will save you a lot of time as you won’t need to be constantly checking on little tasks throughout the day.

They can be used for both mobile and web applications, but while web applications require you to be in your browser to receive them, mobile notifications can be received at any time. Mobile push notifications become very useful for getting users involved immediately and reminding them about different actions such as cart abandonment, purchase receipts, or issues with their orders.

Cloud-based solutions

Your software currently is probably sitting on a local or remote server. Data storage with these methods was popular in the 1990s and 2000s, but cloud-based solutions have simplified how database management is handled.

Cloud-based solutions allow a business to function remotely, determine where a shipment of goods is or if find a particular material from their inventory at any time, anywhere – without requiring a login to a local server. Amazon Web Services, Digital Ocean, and others have made it easy to purchase ample server space and manage all business needs. 

These solutions are regularly backed up for secure, offsite storage, and it becomes easy to increase the amount of cloud storage required by increasing the plan purchased, allowing quicker scaling. As a bonus, work offline is possible, and any changes can be uploaded to the cloud server upon reconnecting to it. Finally, a cloud-based solution still has privacy and data encrypted protection with a plethora of providers able to offer their services.

Machine learning

Another feature new technology can incorporate is machine learning, which can start predicting how users of the system could expand their use of the software. In action, this may involve suggesting what item may be of most relevance to the user, how an item might be labeled, or where an item will be sent to.

A more advanced feature would be sending a notification of when the next shipment will arrive and calculating if you have space for it or offering options of where it can be placed. When push notifications are combined with machine learning, the capabilities and time you save keeps increasing.

Licensing vs Proprietary Software

Should your software be out of date and have no clear path to patches and or updates, you may consider whether you should buy another product or build your own. Licenses for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems and IMS (Inventory Management Systems) amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, which can fund a substantial amount of custom development.

There are advantages to an off-the-shelf solution as it comes with features built in and can be used immediately. You can request custom features to be built, but you will be charged for them on top of your subscription and these may end up sold to another consumer who has a similar need. In the long term, however, you have invested into a product you can never profit from.

Software is an investment. Depending on your use and needs, proprietary software may be the best decision you can make despite the size of your company, especially an application you can own after its completion. You can maximize your profitability by selling it to other companies or increase your efficiency by sharing it internally. The features it has are unique to what you decide to pay for and can continue to be customized. You decide what’s best for your business and you deserve software that reflects it.

Look for APIs to add to your product

APIs also save a lot of time when developing a new product. Why build an SMS solution from scratch when you can integrate with Twilio’s API? The same argument applies to an issue management solution, which can be solved through an integration with Zendesk’s API. Taking this kind of approach when updating a product will save time which equates to less hours and saves you money.

A common integration we recommend to our clients is software that will provide analytics about your product. For example, Google Firebase provides a significant amount of data on how a mobile app is used. With this information, you can figure out what is going within your app and how your users interact with it. 

Another integration to consider is one that makes it easy to send automated emails to your users. SendGrid for instance has a well documented API that makes this simple and allows you to spend less time in your inbox and more time doing what matters. These are only a couple examples, but they highlight how a combination of tech integrations can improve your company.

How can analytics help?

What data are you collecting? Analytics are the only way you’ll be able to understand how your product is working. These will give you insights on how people are interacting with your product and what isn’t working. From here, you will glean further information about who your customers are and why they might use your product.

We recommend prioritizing user privacy and separating personally identifiable information from traffic metrics. Anonymized device IDs help measure behaviors without associating them with specific people. You can even target specific audience behaviors with push notifications without personally identifiable information about each user. 

You can also help protect your users’ privacy by analyzing trends instead of individual users. Measuring events and their sequence can provide more valuable insight than linking a particular user with their precise actions. When you understand the habits of your users, it becomes clear what direction your product should develop and what partnerships may be valuable in the future.

How to act on analytics and integrations?

Let the data guide you! The integrations you added should save you time with other aspects of your business or help it develop. Meanwhile, you need to sort and organize the analytics you’re receiving and make them meaningful. Perhaps your customers are ordering at a particular time of day. How can you incentivize users to engage at other times?

The data you read about your app could suggest there’s a feature essential to the user experience that’s absent. Can it be added via an integration or do you need to build it?

What comes next?

There are a lot of features customizable in software being built today, but it’s important to acknowledge which features are most critical to your business. Whether they save time or generate more revenue for your company, there’s a cost associated with their inclusion. Consider what your company really needs, discuss it with your team, and write down your thoughts. You don’t need to craft a comprehensive list, but have an idea of what you’re going for as you browse the market.

Then, find someone to consult with who can give you honest feedback so you can start investing in technology that suits your needs and enhances your company’s potential.

We understand the challenge updating your software may pose, but we’re experts at helping companies transition from legacy software. We’ll use our expertise to guide you through this process to make it manageable and avoid costly mistakes.

By Vaughn Hunt