In the financial industry, legacy IT systems are a common point of contention. Legislative and legal implications mean financial institutions must keep data for six years from the closing date of the last financial year before changing to a new system. While such legislation is designed to offer many aspects of protection, it can also keep financial businesses trapped in an enforced limbo between two or more IT systems, making reporting a nightmare.

The financial industry is in a state of flux, with new disruptive FinTech appearing almost every day. A recent report by PwC looks ahead to 2020 and beyond, concluding that: “The overriding principle is that financial institutions and their IT organisations must be prepared for a world where change is constant.”

The adoption of new technology can be business critical if organisations are to keep up with market trends. But how can financial businesses avoid the headache of lengthy and complex reporting, if they must maintain legacy systems while also implementing the inevitable new systems as well?

The answer lies in overlaying legacy systems with a business intelligence reporting system that can connect, access and present data wherever it’s stored, allowing it to be used in a meaningful way with minimal disruption and cost.

Why Legacy Systems Present an Ongoing Problem

It's not uncommon for businesses, as they grow or restructure, to switch their ERP or GL system. Sometimes it's because they've been acquired by another company and have to transition to the parent company's system. Or, in the case of larger organisations, they may look to eliminate disparate systems in favour of a uniform one.

Most commonly, organisations switch systems to drive efficiencies, maintain their competitive edge or to be able to offer better customer service in a market that grows more crowded every year.

The biggest problems with changing systems stem from financial regulations, such as statutory HMRC requirements forcing businesses to retain historical data for a defined period to aid reporting and auditing. If that data is stored on an old system, the system has to be retained as well. This often requires keeping the old system on premise, either on a server or an old desktop, so that the historical data can be accessed when needed.

Some trying outcomes occur as a result of this:

  • It’s time-consuming and often difficult to keep an aging server running with dated operating systems and software that keep it useable.
  • There may be a cost involved in paying for licensing or maintenance fees for the legacy system software, which isn't even actively used anymore.
  • Creating uniform data sets that make sense when combining data from the legacy system and the new system is a challenge.
  • How do you allow auditors ease of access to the necessary data from both the legacy and new system, when they are stored on separate servers and locations accessed via different interfaces?
  • Most new systems are implemented with the summary level financial data. This makes drawing detailed transactional data into the new system a challenge.

All of the above creates a headache for companies just looking to consolidate their data and create comprehensive reports with ease. But what's the answer?

Goodbye to Legacy Systems?

For some businesses, implementing a whole new system might well be the best choice. There will be cost and disruption to contend with but a great end solution will mitigate any teething troubles. But what happens when this system too becomes outdated, or a restructure means yet another system to onboard?

The best way to banish legacy software nightmares is to pre-empt them. The best way to do this is to invest in a BI and reporting solution that can access data across multiple systems and allow you to use it in a meaningful way for reporting. The best solutions should allow you to collate data from across legacy and current systems, providing expertly formatted, comprehensive and standardised data sets.

How is this achieved?

Your reporting and BI solution should be able to access data contained in your legacy system directly from the database and collate it with data stored in your current system. The only requirement is that your IT department maintains the databases on which your legacy system's data is stored.

Selecting the right solution for your business

The first step in selecting the right BI solution for your business is to understand which solutions are compatible with your legacy platforms. While many solutions are limited to integrating with the most popular business systems, some solutions are advanced enough to access just about any data source.

You are aiming for enterprise wide data access, so it’s important that your chosen solution offers this if you are going to generate comprehensive reports with minimum effort.

Once you have narrowed your list of possibilities, it’s time to look at the detail:

  1. Rapid Implementation Turnaround Time

How much impact does downtime have on your business? Wasted time means lost profits and can lead to frustration amongst your teams. A robust reporting solution should be up and running rapidly, with minimal disruption to your everyday operations.

  1. Pinpoint Accuracy

The point of using a BI solution is to remove duplicated effort and streamline your processes. Achieving these things means you have to be able to trust the data you’re accessing is accurate, every time. Ask about data integrity and security – you need to know that your data will be kept clean and up-to-date.

  1. Real-time Data Access for up-to date Reporting

Generating comprehensive, standardised reports is perhaps the most problematic process when you’re dealing with disparate legacy systems. The best solutions offer real-time reporting features so that not only can you access any data, from anywhere, at any time, but it is kept up-to-date for maximum accuracy.

Can you present your data across mobiles, tablets and desktop browsers? There’s no point in replacing a clunky old system for a clunky new one. Look for a solution that uses mobile technology to make your life easier.

  1. A User-friendly Interface that Supports your Security policy

Ideally, you will find a solution that works ‘out of the box’ and is easy-to-use. Customisable dashboard views should displays data in multiple ways relevant to the user, in real-time. It should also keep your data secure by limiting user access to a need-to-know basis. Auditors, for instance will require a deep level of access to your system while your staff will have differing access needs. A good system will maintain this security hierarchy automatically.

Need more information on how a good BI solution can help you and your business? Why not join one of our upcoming reporting and business intelligence events. Alternatively, feel free to contact us at any time, we would love to chat with you!

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