What makes a good migration? How can you make sure that your enterprise’s migration will be smooth and effective? With experience from thousands of successful enterprise migrations to draw on, CASAHL is here to help explain the dos and don’ts of setting up and carrying out an effective enterprise migration.
A good migration requires planning and forethought. The migration process starts well before the actual migration takes place; content and applications, user needs, migration options, and enterprise business requirements all enter into the picture, but successful migrations are built on a foundation of understanding. Here are some key data points to seek out and things to consider while you build your enterprise’s migration plan.
The Foundation: Assessment First
The very first step in a successful migration is to understand what your enterprise needs to migrate. That sounds simple, but it isn’t – a thorough understanding of an enterprise’s migration needs requires that enterprise to have an in-depth understanding of their content and apps, which of those need to be migrated, whether they can be migrated, and whether all the content and apps that their users need have made it into the migration list, among other things. If an enterprise doesn’t understand the content in their legacy deployment and make specific plans to deal with it, the migration won’t go smoothly.
So the first action to take, before your enterprise goes anywhere near migration products or services, is to conduct a thorough assessment and discover what, exactly, your enterprise needs to migrate. Each system your enterprise is going to migrate away from needs to be assessed, although ideally the same migration product or service can handle all of the systems you need to assess so you don’t have to double up on assessment products. The ideal migration solution must offer in-depth assessment and reporting, ideally without making your enterprise pay extra for each additional system assessed.
Once you’ve assessed your legacy systems and discovered what’s actually lurking in those depths, you can use that knowledge to start building your migration plan.
Assessment Part Two: Users and User Requirements
While a thorough assessment of an enterprise’s legacy deployments and technical resources is a critical foundation for any migration plan, a technical assessment alone is not enough. Before you start planning a migration, you also have to understand how your users interact with the existing deployment, and what they’ll need to make a migration successful. In CASAHL’s experience enterprises get the best results when they take a two-pronged approach:
- Solicit user input to find out what users do want, and
- Understand what users do on a daily and weekly basis to avoid massively disrupting that activity during migration, which we don’t want.
If users can’t find their content in the new system after a migration, or if the new system doesn’t do what they need it to, they will be justifiably unhappy. That tends to negatively impact productivity; in especially bad cases users may reject the new system outright, or bypass it by using “shadow” IT, such as unofficial file shares, to get around their problems.
Conversely, when users are consulted and find that their needs have been met, they tend to adapt to new systems much more quickly. Consulting your enterprise’s power users – the most active users in a given deployment – is a great way to get a sense of what your users need, and can even improve use of and comfort with the new deployment by giving users trailblazing colleagues to ease their transition. Communicating with users about their requirements and use patterns is a major, and often overlooked, part of making sure your migration succeeds.
Applied Assessment: Identifying Potential Migration Problems
Once you understand what’s in your enterprise’s legacy deployments and what your users need from a new system, it’s time to use your assessment results to start preparing a migration plan. Having thorough assessment reports to build off greatly simplifies the migration prep process – it’s much easier to get accurate time & expense estimates for a migration when you understand exactly what your enterprise needs to migrate, and having those concrete estimates takes some of the stress of migration off everyone involved. However, especially complex or customized content and applications can potentially throw a wrench into migration plans and cost estimates, so it’s important to identify them up front.
The goal of this section is to help your enterprise avoid nasty mid-migration surprises, like finding out that your enterprise’s legacy deployment can’t actually be retired because not all of the content and apps you need can be migrated to a newer system. That is, unfortunately, one major way a migration can go off the rails; CASAHL is occasionally called in to rescue migrations that have imploded in this fashion. (When this does happen, it’s often partly a feature of the migration partner that enterprise chose not having ways to handle all of the legacy content they needed to migrate, but we’ll talk more about that in the next post.)
Fortunately, this and many other unpleasant surprises can be prevented with proper migration assessment and planning, as described in this post. Applications tend to be the primary culprit for this type of potential migration problem. Some warning signs to watch for include:
- High levels of customization – complex custom apps can pose a problem both because they don’t fit neatly into out-of-the-box enterprise solutions, and because it’s a lot harder to deal with apps that were developed in-house if the original developer has since moved on or changed roles.
- Extreme age – older apps don’t always translate cleanly to modern systems. Lotus Notes applications in particular can be very difficult to migrate, because they tend to be both very complex and very old.
- Reliance on deprecated protocols or systems – some third-party apps for use with database systems are no longer supported by their developers, and some apps that relied on deprecated systems don’t yet have a modern counterpart to pick up the slack.
When in doubt, it’s better safe than sorry – if you’re worried that an app might be part of this problem category, flag it and make sure to ask your migration partner about it before you commit to a migration plan.
While finding ways to migrate complex legacy applications in particular can be difficult, forewarned is forearmed – knowing about potential problem apps and content ahead of time is essential in avoiding expensive surprises and migration delays. We strongly recommend that all enterprises assess their legacy deployments before migrating, but pre-migration assessment and planning are both absolutely essential if you know that your enterprise has difficult content or apps to contend with.
After Assessment: Migration Planning and Estimates
Once your enterprise has discovered what’s in your legacy deployments and identified potential problem content, it’s time to use your foundation of assessment information to build a migration plan for the simpler stuff. An effective migration plan needs to take a lot of different considerations into account; every enterprise’s migration situation is a little different, but the questions below are good ones to ask no matter what your legacy deployment looks like.
Legacy content in particular comes with a lot of questions: now that you know what’s in there, which collections of content need to be migrated? What content will you migrate and what should be archived? Which apps do you want or need to bring with you, and which ones can be retired? Can you migrate all the apps you want and need, or will some of them pose problems? (We’ll talk more about that in the next post.) What are you planning to do about email? If you have multiple systems to migrate away from, do you need one migration solution or several? What will that do to your budget and time estimates?
Other good questions to ask when planning a migration center around users. Have you talked with your users about their usage patterns and migration expectations? More importantly, do you know what your users are concerned about during a potential migration, and how to alleviate or resolve those concerns? How many software licenses do you have for your current deployment, and how many of those are actively used? Based on user activity stats, do you need that many licenses for your next deployment, or can you cut down? CASAHL finds that enterprises typically don’t need use all of the licenses they pay for, especially enterprises with older or more complex legacy deployments, so this question is a good way to see about recovering some money during your migration.
Some of the most important questions, however, are a little bigger-picture. What are you and your enterprise hoping to get out of this migration? Which target system best fits those qualifications? Now that you’ve decided which content and applications need to be moved out of your legacy deployment, how do those fit into the target system you have in mind? If you don’t have a specific target system already in mind, which one would be the best fit for the content and apps you have? Do you need a combination of systems for best results (for example, a combination of SharePoint and OneDrive)? How will the above considerations impact your budget and migration time estimates?
If you’re not sure how to answer any of the above questions, we recommend consulting further with your technical team and management before committing to a migration plan or product. It’s also a good idea to sound out promising migration partners on the ways they would address your potential problem content, if you have any (and if you can do so without incurring expensive consultation fees).
Conclusion: What Next?
While even the best-laid migration plans can go awry, accounting for all of the topics we’ve discussed in this post will dramatically increase the likelihood of a successful project. By building a solid, thorough migration plan, your enterprise can preemptively avoid serious migration problems and recover faster and more effectively from any migration hiccups you do encounter.
Of course, choosing an effective migration partner is a key part of carrying out a successful migration. We’ll discuss things to look for (and look out for) in a migration partner during the next post in this series. In the meantime, check out CASAHL’s assessment and planning products to learn how we help enterprises address assessment and migration planning, and please let us know if you have any questions!