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The Fashion Tech Stack Series Part 3: Legacy Systems

(Image Courtesy CB Insights)

Now that we have understood a little about tech stacks – ERP, PLM, and e-commerce in our previous post, the next challenge becomes identifying the right elements you require in your tech stack.

But wait, what about the existing IT infrastructure already present?

Can’t we look at using that, considering the investment already made, and the fact that it has been in use for several years?

Legacy IT systems in companies can be defined as systems that have been in use for a period of time and form part of the way the company works. These can be either customized systems build in-house or by vendors for the specific company, or they could be existing platforms or products modified to work according to the processes that the company has built.

Modern technology systems work on a microservices structure. Microservices is an architectural style that structures an application as a collection of services that are:

- Loosely connected but efficient

- Easy to maintain, test, and expand

- Independently deployed while working with other systems

- Organized to fulfill specific business capability requirements

As IT solutions move towards a shared product cloud (SaaS) microservices structure, legacy systems represent a significant challenge to be overcome for the following reasons:

  • They are deeply integrated into the way that the company works and replacing them involves changing the entire process and/or infrastructure which was set up with significant investment in the first place

  • Replacing them requires significant commercial and manpower investment, not only in the infrastructure but also in terms of training and teaching people

  • Legacy systems carry a lot of important data and this can be lost in migrating the system

In the earlier systems, most of the IT infrastructure was in-house with captive hardware and custom software. Moving this to a more open and flexible system can be a cumbersome effort. This is why many managements can be reluctant to change their tech stack or look at piecemeal solutions to address immediate concerns while leaving the larger infrastructure set-up in place.

However, in doing so, companies need to be aware that:

  • Technology keeps evolving and changing tech stacks in the future will make it even more difficult and expensive to replace legacy systems

  • Newer systems are designed to work with technology horizons up to a certain point and the transformation is less painful (and less expensive) with relatively newer systems

Current tech stacks for businesses are very flexible and provide a variety of options for companies that need to scale their IT infrastructure as they grow. For example, fashion companies that have invested in web-based solutions for e-commerce found it much easier to move to a cloud-based (SaaS) model as e-commerce boomed thanks to mobile devices and faster connectivity.

Since fashion companies have three distinct tech stacks to deal with – ERP, PLM, and E-commerce – having flexible systems that will adapt to changing norms for speed and efficiency is easier than building custom solutions that will be obsolete and difficult to manage in the long term, as the latter will also make the company uncompetitive in terms of being able to respond to market changes.

The alternatives for companies to manage legacy systems are:

  • Switch over completely to new systems keeping in mind the requirements of the business for the next 10 years at least

  • Use data integration tools to ensure data from the old systems is migrating to the new ones

  • Replace only necessary components while keeping the IT infrastructure intact (sub-optimal as this can make the system less efficient overall)

In our next part, we will look at how to evaluate the various components of the tech stack you’re looking to build and how to ensure they meet your needs, as well as figure out how to integrate legacy systems if it is not possible to remove them completely.

Keep watching this space for more information.

Read Part 1: What is a Fashion Tech Stack?

Read Part 2: Tech Stack Building Blocks

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early-stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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