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Successful Application and Data Migrations and Consolidations

Minimizing Risk with the Best Practices for Data Management
By Philip Russom, TDWI Research Director for Data Management

I recently broadcast a really interesting Webinar with Rob Myers – a technical delivery manager at Informatica – talking about the many critical success factors in projects that migrate or consolidation applications and data. Long story short, we concluded that the many risks and problems associated with migrations and consolidations can be minimized or avoided by following best practices in data management and other IT disciplines. Please allow me to share some of the points Rob and I discussed:

There are many business and technology reasons for migrating and consolidating applications and data.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) – Two firms involved in a M&A don’t just merge companies; they also merge applications and data, since these are required for operating the modern business in a unified manner. For example, cross-selling between the customer bases of the two firms is a common business goal in a merger, and this is best done with merged and consolidated customer data.
  • Reorganizations (reorgs) – Some reorgs restructure departments and business units, which in turn can require the restructuring of applications and data. 
  • Redundant Applications – For example, many firms have multiple applications for customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA), as the result of M&As or departmental IT budgets. These are common targets for migration and consolidation, because they work against valuable business goals, such as the single view of the customer and multi-channel customer marketing. In these cases, it’s best to migrate required data, archive the rest of the data, and retire legacy or redundant applications.
  • Technology Modernization – These range from upgrades of packaged applications and database management systems to replacing old platforms with new ones.
  • All the above, repeatedly – In other words, data or app migrations and consolidations are not one-off projects. New projects pop up regularly, so users are better off in the long run, if they staff, tool, and develop these projects with the future in mind.
Migration and consolidation projects affect more than applications and data:
  • Business Processes – The purpose of enterprise software is to automate business processes, to give the organization greater efficiency, speed, accuracy, customer service, and so on. Hence, migrating software is tantamount to migrating business processes, and a successful project executes without disrupting business processes.
  • Users of applications and data – These vary from individual people to whole departments and sometimes beyond the enterprise to customers and partners. A successful project defines steps for switching over users without disrupting their work.
Application or data migrations and consolidations are inherently risky. This is due to their large size and complexity, numerous processes and people affected, cost of the technology, and (even greater) the cost of failing to serve the business on time and on budget. If you succeed, you’re a hero or heroine. If you fail, the ramifications are dire for you personally and the organization you work for.

Succeed with app/data migrations and consolidations. Success comes from combining the best practices of data management, solution development, and project management. Here are some of the critical success factors Rob and I discussed in the Webinar:
  • Go into the project with your eyes wide open – Realize there’s no simple “forklift” of data, logic, and users from one system to the next, because application logic and data structures often need substantial improvements to be fit for a new purpose on a new platform. Communicate the inherent complexities and risks, in a factual and positive manner, without sounding like a “naysayer.”
  • Create a multi-phased plan for the project – Avoid a risky “big bang” approach by breaking the project into manageable steps. Pre-plan by exploring and profiling data extensively. Follow a develop-test-deploy methodology. Coordinate with multi-phased plans from outside your data team, including those for applications, process, and people migration. Expect that old and new platforms must run concurrently for awhile, as data, processes, and users are migrated in orderly groups.
  • Use vendor tools – Programming (or hand coding) is inherently non-productive as the primary development method for either applications or data management solutions. Furthermore, vendor tools enable functions that are key to migrations, such as data profiling, develop-test-deploy methods, full-featured interfaces to all sources and targets, collaboration for multi-functional teams, repeatability across multiple projects, and so on.
  • Template-ize your project and staff for repeatability – In many organizations, migrations and consolidations recur regularly. Put extra work into projects, so their components are easily reused, thereby assuring consistent data standards, better governance, and productivity boosts over time.
  • Staff each migration or consolidation project with diverse people – Be sure that multiple IT disciplines are represented, especially those for apps, data, and hardware. You also need line-of-business staff to coordinate processes and people. Consider staff augmentation via consultants and system integrators.
  • Build a data management competency center or similar team structure – From one center, you can staff data migrations and consolidations, as well as related work for data warehousing, integration, quality, database administration, and so on.
If you’d like to hear more of my discussion with Informatica’s Rob Myers, please replay the Webinar from the Informatica archive.

Posted by Philip Russom, Ph.D. on March 11, 2015


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