Legacy time bombs tick under apps

Von Julian Bajkowski

Dying skill sets for outdated legacy systems coupled with stiff new compliance requirements present legal hazards for unwary enterprises, according to the IT demand manager for Philips Medical Systems Australia (PMSA), Ray Evans.

Having just completed a major systems consolidation and migration project after PMSA rapidly acquired five new companies over just 12 months, Evans said a recent migration of historical line data from an Astea Unix-based ERP platform revealed a scary scenario for a company legally required to archive data for at least 10 years.

"By the time we finished, there was only one person left in the world that knew our install. It was move it or lose it, the knowledge was dwindling," Evans said.

Put simply, because Philips Medical Systems makes, sells and maintains hospital equipment, maintenance and testing data for machines including Magnetic Resonance Imagers (MRI), Electro-cardiograms (ECG) and other critical-care monitors, the data has to be legally available in a readily accessible form for a minimum of a decade.

While the actual Astea integration took only six months, preceded by a two-month scoping period, Evans says just orchestrating the switch took around 18 months to cover other applications, including financials, logistics and inventory systems.

Historical line data from Astea was moved to an IBM Business Content Manager system, with Philips choosing to remain with SAP for its financials. At the same time, an older, local Philips SAP version needed to be integrated with a new global kernel being rolled out by Philips Electronics, of which PMSA is a subsidiary.

Another challenge included porting data and records from Masterpack, yet another legacy financials and service records system, which Evans describes as "way out of date."

In terms of keeping the project to scope, budget and expectation, Evans said the key elements are internal knowledge of the business, a strong focus on requirements and an ability to ask questions of the business.

"Getting people to focus on archival requirements is always a challenge. One of the prime things is to have expertise in the business. If you ask the user community what they want to archive, the answer will inevitably be everything," he said.

"It was really a matter of pushing back on people - what their actual requirements were on a daily basis. You have to ask: what"s the minimum you need?"

Philips Medical Systems Australia"s trim new look

- 260 employees

- Offices in every state and several regional centers

- Microsoft SOE with Office apps

- Lotus Notes for mail, groupware and databases

- IBM Business Content Manager for archives

- SAP financials and related systems

- Dell for servers and storage