IT systems are supposed to support enterprises to enable them to do whatever they do better, faster and more cheaply than if thousands of people were pushing pieces of paper around, right? Yet all too often the systems that were supposed to make life easier are now preventing the business from operating in the way that it desires. IT has become a blocker rather than an enabler.
But, as we survey the rubble of over 30 years of development, we realise that the problems we face are very much like those of the urban planner confronting decades of piecemeal building. While there may be some excellent examples of individual buildings-or in our case, systems-the whole does not function in the way it needs to. In both cases the solution is far from trivial.
Renewing a large enterprisewide IT infrastructure requires a clear vision and deep pockets. Moreover, there is a very real risk that in trying to improve the situation you end up wasting a lot of money without actually delivering real added value. The renewal process can also seriously handicap the ability of the enterprise to function, and eat up large sums while actually making things worse or at least no better. And in the current 24-hour business climate, there is less opportunity to migrate systems and much less tolerance of a situation where applications and data are not available.
At the same time the drivers for IT renewal have fundamentally shifted. In the past, projects were motivated by IT issues, such as replatforming applications in order to decrease costs and increase efficiency, but today the motivation is increasingly due to business issues. The enterprise has rediscovered the role IT can play in helping it achieve its goals and is articulating its desire to gain these benefits much faster. Likewise, it is now unwilling to accept that the only route to these benefits is high-risk and eye-wateringly expensive. And finally, it also wants to prioritise and set the goals for the migration to its new systems, not have these imposed on it by technical constraints.
This change in emphasis is actually a very positive thing all round. Johny Morris articulates the issue very well in his book, Practical Data Migration??: “Data migration is most definitely a business not a technical issue,” he argues. “In the past the IT department was given the responsibility for data migration by the business, but not the power to deliver successfully. The business has requested migrations, but then has not taken responsibility for them. To be successful, migrations must be owned and driven by the business.”
In fact, enterprise application-level migration is a complex mix of business, organizational, process and technical challenges. And not only does it need to be aligned to business requirements, but it needs to stay aligned to these requirements as they inevitably change over time. The migration technology, method and the people doing the migration all have to be able to work in this new way.
So how do you deliver a successful business-driven migration? Well, there are three key strategies that you need to employ:
- Reduce risk-High levels of risk are one factor that has led to enterprises shying away from complex migrations. Risk can be controlled and minimised by keeping data available throughout the migration and giving full visibility of the progress of the migration itself.
- Stay agile-It is no longer acceptable for the business to be told that change is not allowed until the full data migration process has finished. It is critical that the migration of application data is kept separate from the migration of business processes, and to give the business the flexibility to decide when new processes will be used to deliver services to customers.
- Demand faster time-to-benefits-Time is the enemy in data migration, as extended time scales increase the risk profile and the time-to-benefits. The business needs a much faster time-to-benefits and this can be achieved by finishing the migration faster and by providing the flexibility that enables the new systems to be used before all the data has migrated.
A business-driven migration uses formalized, standardized methodologies and flexible tools that can handle any type of migration style and allow you to define and migrate business data sets as distinct from database tables, rows and so on. It enables the business to take control of the migration, defining its priorities according to business and customer need rather than technical constraints, and thereby delivers a better business outcome.
Business Benefits of Better Migration
- Increased revenues due to the ability to launch and support new services more quickly, efficiently and at lower cost.
- Reduced costs resulting from overall lower cost of migrating data and the ability to remove duplicated or expensive-to-maintain legacy solutions and data.
- Better business planning, since the business can plan new product launches based on the knowledge that it will not be held up by data migrations. This is important because project delays mean that lost revenues may never be recouped.
- Increased shareholder value, as an enterprise that can reliably deliver migration projects is demonstrating both good corporate governance and the ability to respond to change.
??Practical Data Migration is published by the British Computer Society (ISBN 978-1-902505-71-8)