Linking the old and the new

There are several approaches organizations can take to integrate older computer systems

with newer, Web-based systems.

Three approaches being deployed today are:

Enterprise resource planning: ERP software attempts to integrate all departments and functions — finance, human resources and manufacturing — across an enterprise into a single computer system that can serve each department's needs. By running on a single database, an ERP system allows users from different departments to share information and communicate. As possibly the most comprehensive solution for integrating legacy and modern systems, ERP is also usually the most expensive by a large margin. There is no one-size-fits-all ERP solution, and according to industry insiders, no ERP solution addresses all of an organization's problems.

Broker solutions: They may be considerably less expensive than ERP implementations, but broker solutions can still run into the millions of dollars per year without giving organizations all the functionality needed to operate efficiently. Broker solutions rely on bringing in different partners to solve different aspects of the integration problem. They are less expensive than an ERP fix, but they often lack the comprehensive coverage an ERP solution can provide.

Composite approach: A composite approach will allow an organization to keep running all of its legacy systems along with its Web- and Windows-based applications. Composite applications tie together existing systems on a somewhat superficial level, allowing users to work from a single computer screen that links to many applications without deeply integrating the programs. It is seen as a considerably less expensive alternative to ERP implementations or broker solutions.

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