5 things to consider before starting a FoxPro conversion project

Are you thinking about embarking on a FoxPro conversion or migration project? Here are 5 things to think about which will influence the direction your project.

1. Consider SaaS or other existing off-the-shelf software
It may have been a long time since you had your FoxPro system written and the software landscape has changed a lot in the meantime. There are many existing SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) web applications or off-the-shelf software which could suit your needs. Take some time to evaluate candidate software. It will help you establish a framework to think through what you need to make a good decision. At the very least you are likely to get some good ideas which would further improve your bespoke system.

2. Consider how to deliver the software to your users
So, you’ve established that existing software will not provide enough functionality or will be too much of a compromise. The next question is which kind of computing platform will suit you best. Your current FoxPro system is “desktop” based, i.e. a Windows application which ties you into the Microsoft eco-system. Continuing with desktop software is more likely to provide continuity for staff and need less training. On the other hand, becoming web-based allows you to use a much wider variety of computing devices, from mobile phones through to desktop PCs. There are many options which don’t require you to lock yourself into a proprietary vendor. It is also easier to update and can enable your staff to work from anywhere, anytime.

It is also possible to take a hybrid approach, fusing the web and traditional desktop software together. We have written several applications connecting the web to a FoxPro system. This is often a good approach if you have a large system to convert but you want to start making use of modern functionality sooner. It can make it easier for staff to get used to new software in a longer transition.

3. Review your standard operating procedures
Bespoke software development can be expensive. Reviewing your processes to ensure they’re necessary is time well spent. Work with your developers to improve and refine them. Good developers will guide you, making effective use of computing in your processes.

4. Consider the lifetime of the software and cost of ownership
All too often clients only think about the initial capital cost of building new software. You may make different choices when you take the expected lifetime of the software into account. For example, desktop applications mean that you must include longer term costs of server upgrades, operating system upgrades, and other associated hardware and software. Web-based means that matters less but you have to consider server hosting costs. The expected lifetime also has a direct bearing on the next point.

5. Quantifying the value
Consider the points above to help you understand the value software provides your business. Ask yourself this question about each piece of functionality in the system: “What would we be doing if the software didn’t provide this?” Use this thought exercise to help quantify the value each function currently provides you.

You should also factor in unquantifiable elements such as the amount of hassle or stress that the software relieves or causes. This can tell you what areas need focussing on during the conversion process.

Then, think about how improvements to standard operating procedures and what further efficiencies in the software could enable. For example, reducing the time needed to complete a process by 25% could enable you to save costs by reducing headcount. Or it could enable you to grow the business without requiring extra staff to increase your profits.

When you can quantify the total value, and taking the total cost of ownership into account, you can create a realistic budget that will ensure you see a return on your investment.

We provide consulting services to clients, helping them analyse their needs to make the right decision for their business. If you would like some initial free guidance or would like to engage us to help you, contact us today.

About the author

Andy Henson specialises in practical, yet creative, business solutions. Drawing on his experience, he couples the latest in technological thinking with a sound knowledge of business.