The Soft Side Lessons for Migrations

The Soft Side Lessons of Migrations

Recently Solve was a part of a complex system migration, where an integrated team of IT and operations resources migrated a business unit from a legacy software platform to new system. The dynamics of the system were such that a leisurely transition wasn’t possible – this was going to be a quick “cut-over” – one shot to get it right. Following months of difficult preparation, the cut over occurred! I’m proud of the whole team, in that the effort was largely successful, and the business unit is getting mission-critical work done in the new system every day.

It was helpful for me to ponder some “soft side” lessons for system changes as I reflect on how we can do even better next time.

  1. Enlist the “data kings” from the old system – Usually there are people who have proven their worth in the past by manipulating and managing the old system. You want these folks “on your side” as you bring the new system in. Do what you can to honor the role they played in the past, and leverage their system and process wisdom as you bring in the new system.
  2. Communication makes everyone feel in the loop – People can tolerate quite a bit of interruption and inconvenience if they know what is coming, and feel connected to the effort. Anxiety and stress diminish, and team members provide good will that pays off in spades!
  3. Don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face interaction. Much of the preparation work happened using electronic means and telephone calls because of distance. However, in the weeks immediately prior to the migration, face-to-face time between the migration team, and the end-users was possible. I don’t think we could have been successful without it. Real human interaction was exceptionally valuable to help the business unit personnel feel “on board” with the effort, diminish jitters, and they learned important details to help the whole team pull together for success.
  4. If you don’t understand the business process, watch out for surprises – It is tempting for “system folks” to make broad assumptions that just don’t hold up when it’s “go-live” time. The role of the business systems analyst – who really gets in the trenches with business team members – is just as, if not more important than programmers to the effort. Staff more of these critical analyst team members if you want to be successful!

The joke on the project team was “The next time we migrate this facility we’ll do it even better!”. There won’t be a next time quite like this again for this company. However, we’ll all do system migrations in the future and we can always up our game!

David Fields

Principal of Solve. Directs our Northwest Arkansas team. Works closely with clients to identify, scope, and manage engagements that improve business results through Business Intelligence and Custom Application Development.