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5 top tips for successful legacy system migration

5 top tips for successful legacy system migration

If you’re still dealing with a legacy system at your organisation, you’re no doubt starting to feel the strain. Legacy systems are slow, inconvenient, costly to maintain, less secure – and they even “kill hopes and dreams”, according to one article.

But migrating from a legacy system to a cloud solution is not as easy as flicking a switch. You not only have to consider the complex technical aspects of migrating data, but also the huge cultural shift that comes with moving an entire organisation to a whole new way of working. And big changes come with big risks – any mistakes, and you could potentially end up jeopordising your entire organisation. In fact, there’s a good chance you will fail: a report by Crouchbase found that, on average, an organisation will spend $5.7 million every year on digital projects, but 90% of these projects end in failure.

Sounds a bit scary, but with a bit of careful planning and forethought, many of these risks can be mitigated.

To ensure you don’t make any crucial missteps, here are our 5 tips for successful legacy system migration.

1. Do your research

With several cloud computing solutions to choose from, it’s not always easy to know which will be the right fit for your organisation, so it’s important to do as much research as possible. (Our free 7-step checklist How to choose the right software for your business can help make sure you’re asking all the right questions.) After all, the last thing you want is to have to go through the whole process again because you’ve chosen a solution that doesn’t work.

It’s also important to be able to differentiate between a true cloud solution and a fake cloud solution. Here’s what the experts at Oracle Netsuite have to say on the subject:

“True cloud vendors design their solutions from the ground up for the cloud. They code their software to perform better as a fully hosted solution and build talent and expertise around hosting, maintaining, and managing the software across hundreds of servers and across multiple levels of data redundancy in their own multi-tenant cloud environments.

“Despite what fake cloud vendors will tell you, multi-tenancy matters. For example, with a true cloud provider, all customers typically access the same solution from the same cloud. This gives customers continuous and instantaneous access to the latest product upgrades …

“Now take a look at how fake cloud vendors work. Many ERP systems that are billed as running in the ‘cloud’ were designed to run on premise. These vendors typically do not host, manage, or maintain these ‘cloud’ ERP solutions. Instead, they turn responsibility over to a local value-added reseller (VAR) or other service provider. This is very similar to how application service providers (ASPs) operated more than 20 years ago, and there’s a good reason most of them went out of business.”

As Mark Rhyman, co-CEO and chief business development officer at Big Bang ERP, writes, choosing a fake cloud solution could mean “delayed and cumbersome product upgrades, costly and unstable integrations and customisations, unplanned downtime, poor security, limited support and costly capacity extras, not to mention the concerns that come with working with a third party”. And you don’t want any of that!

2. Think ahead and plan meticulously

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is not a good enough reason for a legacy system migration. Rather, it’s important to have a clear vision of what exactly it is you hope to achieve with the new system. As Chris Wegmann, managing director of Accenture AWS Business Group, says: “Despite how obvious it may sound, our advice is to start from the finish line and work back. Look at your business goals, your targets – your most important outcomes, and then decide on what migration approach you want to take. Each business has unique objectives, and determining what they are represents the epitome of a more assured cloud journey.”

Considering what your organisation’s needs will be into the future will also help to determine which migration strategy might work best. For example, will you need to be able to scale quickly? In this case, a rehosting or “lift-and-shift” strategy, where systems are migrated to an infrastructure-as-a-software (IaaS) solution without modifying their architecture, might not be the best option.

3. Work up in complexity

When it comes to legacy system migration, it’s recommended to start by migrating simple applications and working your way to more complex projects. This provides a vital learning opportunity, so when it comes to more high-stake projects, you can minimise the likelihood of making costly mistakes. It’s also vital for getting stakeholder buy-in, as having some early successes can go a long way towards alleviating any fears, uncertainties or doubts (or FUDs), and allowing people to see the value in migration.

As AWS’s Global Migrations Practice consultant Sadegh Nadimi writes: “Put some quick wins on the board. The more your staff becomes comfortable with [cloud computing] services, and the faster your stakeholders see the benefits, the easier it will be to ‘sell’ the vision internally. To do so, you need consistency and transparency, and we see many organisations using a series of quick wins to get there.”

4. Get high-level/executive support

Another vital aspect of successful legacy system migration is having high-level/executive sponsorship. They play a crucial role in helping to secure organisation-wide stakeholder buy-in, as they are able to articulate to the rest of the organisation not just the “what” and “how” of what you’re doing, but, more critically, the “why”. In other words, how will the migration help the business as a whole meet their objectives?

Having them heavily involved in the process from the beginning may also mean that the migration will go smoother, as they can bring their high-level expertise to data migration mapping and provide contextual information that may be difficult to know from the data alone.

5. Engage and educate staff as early as possible

As with any big changes, legacy system migrations can make employees feel extremely nervous. Will they be able to learn to use the new system? Could it end up making their job harder? Or worse, could it make their job so easy that they in fact become obsolete? Keeping staff regularly updated and ensuring them of the benefits of the new system can help to alleviate these fears, which often turn out to be unfounded. As Wegmann writes, “There is a persistent fallacy among IT managers that if they move to public cloud, instead of managing a data centre, their job will largely entail writing code  –  or they will be looking for a new job. In fact, moving to cloud frees them up to do more interesting, innovative work, ultimately adding more value to the entire business.”

Training is also crucial. As Rhyman says, “Take it from an expert in cloud business solutions: There can never be too much training.” Provide as much training and as many resources – self-learning portals and study guides, for example – as possible to ensure that when the plug is pulled on the legacy system, employees feel prepared and ready to jump on the new system with gusto.

Don’t let a legacy system hold you back. Migrating to a cloud solution is guaranteed to transform your organisation, making it far more agile and dynamic, and better equipped to keep up with an increasingly fast-paced world.

Want to learn more about how cloud computing can transform your organisation? Then register now for this year’s Cloud & eGovernment conference @ CeBIT Australia!

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