For the younger folks reading, this is a serious question. The metrics range in estimation, but there is an estimated 100,000 companies still running iSeries or AS/400 platforms. We get calls nearly every day from executives and IT managers questioning if it’s time to move from their legacy systems to one of the top-ranked ERP systems.

The answer to this question is generally “yes”, but this is not always the case. The software industry’s cloud ERP hoax has led many customers to prematurely rip out their old systems – software that may not be perfect but may work just fine for their business needs.

Let’s consider a few reasons why you may not want to replace your legacy system, just yet:

  1. They simply don’t break: Like your Grandad’s 1992 Honda or Swiss watch, the thing will pretty much run forever. The technology behind the old IBM mainframes is simple and sturdy, and as long as it is cleaned and maintained it will work. Cloud ERP systems, on the other hand, are only as reliable as your users’ internet connections.
  2. Your business has not changed: We find many scenarios where companies have been doing the same thing for 30 years, and with good reason. Consider a company that manufactures a niche supply part for an industrial manufacturing segment. It may be specialized enough that the barriers and cost of entry is too great for competitors to chase and they have consistent clientele. With no desire to expand, there may be no reason to change what’s working.
  3. Risk: Implementing a new ERP system is not easy. It consumes resources, costs money, and can lead to operational disruption sooner than it delivers meaningful business benefits. In addition, organizational change management is particularly difficult for many organizations, which further increases the risk of ERP failure.
  4. The technology is still being updated: The original AS/400 was released back in 1988, however the operating system is still being updated, as recently as 2019. Cloud integrations have been built, storage options have expanded, and the rebranded iSeries and Power Systems are still being sold today.
  5. They are highly scalable: While we don’t recommend keeping your legacy environment if your business is changing or you need current applications, you can scale your legacy IBM technology as much as you will ever need. Combine this with point #1 above, and you have a recipe for a solution that could potentially fit the needs of large organizations.
  6. General Security: Historically these systems are safe and secure and have been used for this very reason by insurance companies, banks and other organizations with critical data and cybersecurity Although there has been recent exposure to hacks and breaches, as with any system, with proper security protocol and monitoring they are very tough to crack.
  7. Flexibility: Like a detective who has been on the force for 30+ years, the iSeries has seen about everything. It can handle just about any program language and is upward compatible. What this means is that anything developed in earlier platforms can be supported on a current Power Systems server without recoding.

This is not a push to recommend that every company on legacy technology stays as they are, and there are some very strong reasons why it may be time to replace your green screen. However, if any of the above factors hits a nerve when the next SaaS (Software as a Service) ERP salesperson knocks on your door, feel free to question if timing is really right.

As always, we recommend reaching out for help and engaging independent ERP consultants like our team at Third Stage in evaluating your technology options.

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