One of the most important aspects of our work is collaborating with clients to scope and prepare a full specification ahead of any planned migrations or re-platforming. These are lengthy projects that take a lot of time, a lot of financial investment, and a lot of effort to get right.
When handled correctly, a migration to an upgraded software solution, a new eCommerce provider, or a new website hosting company should appear to have a seamless transition. Your external stakeholders should be unaware of the intricacies taking place behind the scenes, and more importantly, you shouldn’t experience any business interruption.
Our approach to migration planning is to ensure that every stage of the migration is carefully thought through. By considering every possible scenario, identifying the potential pain points, and establishing a strong understanding of what you are trying to achieve (and why) it’s much easier to ensure that your migration completes on time and budget.
It may help you to break the planning stage down into five distinct areas: your existing system, your long-term goals, your migration management, your contingency planning, and your final evaluation.
Assessing your current platform
You may be considering a new platform because your existing software has come to its end of life. Or you may feel that an upgrade could help you to work far more efficiently. It could give you greater scope to add new services or enhance your business capabilities.
At the very start of your planning stages, you must undertake a detailed analysis of your existing systems and processes. Try to think objectively about how your system supports your business model. At this initial stage of your planning, we highly recommend that you ask for feedback and opinions from other members of your team, across different departments and different seniorities. This will help you to establish any commonalities as well as learn more about what different departments need to be able to work more effectively.
You could ask yourself the following questions:
- When was my current platform installed and how has the business changed since?
- How does this platform link in with my internal business processes?
- What are the main strengths/advantages of the platform?
- What are its weaknesses/disadvantages?
- What are the current pain points of your existing platform?
- Can you break this down by department?
- What are the current operating costs?
- Does it require any additional software or technology to function effectively?
Looking ahead to your long-term future
Choosing to invest in new infrastructure isn’t just about improving efficiencies for the here and now. It’s about setting the foundations and establishing the basics of what you could anticipate needing in the future. With technology rapidly changing, and entire industries evolving, you need to be confident that any new platform will give you scope to grow your business.
In our view, a crucial element of your project specification is having a cohesive vision for what you want your new platform to be able to do. It’s important that you listen carefully to what other departments have to say; don’t assume that you know what a department could need. If your new software solution is intrinsically linked to every single facet of the business, then you need to make sure that it works effectively for everyone.
- What are the long-term ambitions of the company?
- Are there any products or services that are clear revenue drivers, if so, how can these be maximised?
- How do we anticipate business growth in the next 12 months, five years, ten years?
- Are you looking to scale up the business rapidly?
- How can your software offer a better customer experience?
- How can your software link in with manufacturers/supply chains?
- What elements are included on your “nice to have” vs “must-have” functionality list?
- What will your ongoing spending be? Can you break this down into initial outlay and monthly running costs?
Managing the Migration
At this stage, you should now be much clearer about what you are looking for, and what you need your platform to be able to do for your business. You may have spoken to several platform providers to gain an insight into different software solutions. Or you may have spoken to an impartial consultancy / agency (like us) who can make recommendations on what is right for your business.
As you draw nearer to making your final selection, you need to start to think about the project management of the migration. Who will take overall responsibility for it and what are your timescales and budgets? If you want your migration to be seamless, it’s important to set out clear expectations from the very beginning. Typically, migrations to new platforms or investments in new infrastructure require significant change management. It’s how you plan to factor in these changes, that can make the difference between a difficult project that overruns, and one that remains on track.
- Who will take overall responsibility for decision-making and project sign-off?
- Is there easy communication between the decision-makers and the migration teams?
- Will you handle the migration in-house or will you be seeking to work with specialist external teams? If so, who takes responsibility for finding those external teams?
- How do you plan to facilitate communication between all those involved within the project? As well as the vertical decision-making hierarchy, how will you manage the horizontal hierarchy (i.e., keeping other departments updated with the progress)
- What are your preferred timescales and are these realistic? What happens if timescales cannot be met?
We advocate for incorporating contingency planning into your migration plans because it’s a fact that unexpected issues will arise during the process. We believe that by predicting what issues could occur, you could be better positioned to be able to mitigate those issues and ensure that the project remains on track.
Of course, contingency planning can encounter a variety of facets, from data protection and disaster recovery to staff absences. And post-2020, we now live in a world where the unthinkable could happen and businesses could be forced to transform their entire business models at a moment’s notice.
With this in mind, you must work closely alongside your eCommerce and sales teams, as well as your IT, business development, and marketing departments to feel confident that you are prepared for the unexpected.
Questions to ask yourself include:
Who will take responsibility for the project if a staff member is absent?
- IT Infrastructure
Have you got a backup replica that you can work from whilst the migration takes place?
What will be done with static data that is no longer needed?
Have you got stringent disaster recovery plans in place that can help you in the event of a data loss?
- Impact on other areas of the business
Will any data migration impact individual departments or your wider business processes such as your acquisition?
How do you plan to communicate any changes to your external stakeholders?
Could any timescale delays have knock-on effects elsewhere in the business?
If it involves long timescales, how can you ensure that changing business needs are filtered through to the migration team so that the new platform adapts to the business ahead of the launch date?
Evaluating its impact
Once the final migration is complete, and you have moved across to your new platform, you will need to be prepared to see if it’s working as well as it should be.
This is your opportunity to assess your return on your investment.
Of course, it will be difficult to make an immediate judgment as it may take a while before your sales noticeable increase.
However, you should be able to verify whether the new system has linked in with your initial aims and objectives, whether it’s overcome any of your previously identified pressure points and whether it’s enabled better, more collaborative working between departments.
- Has the new system improved efficiencies?
- Has it overcome your pain points?
- Does it provide a better user experience for customers?
- Are their improvements in your acquisition and your conversion rate optimisation (CRO) strategies?
- Is the new platform easier for external stakeholders such as suppliers and manufacturers?
- Is it easy to use amongst different departments within the internal business?
- What are its strengths and advantages?
- What are its weaknesses and disadvantages?
- Are the ongoing costs more cost effective?
- Is there potential for future growth?
As you can see, there’s much to consider with any migration or re-platforming. We believe that the more you prepare, and set expectations, the easier the transition will be.
If you would like to find out more about how our consultancy services can identify how to maximise the effectiveness of your migration, please contact Matt Sherwen on 01244 340051 or email firstname.lastname@example.org