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9 Roadblocks to a Successful Cloud Migration

Cloud services are now part of nearly every company. RightScale surveyed 1,002 IT managers, and they reported that 89% of their companies had adopted cloud services. With all of these adoptions, the possibility of migration issues increases. Let's start out by looking at what can go wrong and then show you could have done do to prevent the situation.

Problem 1: The data migration doesn’t work as planned

When doing your first migration, it's not unusual to misunderstand how you can transfer your data from your old system to the new cloud. The first read of the documentation reminds you of a previous experience, and you're sure it will work because it did before. Now that the migration has begun, you realize it's not working.

Tip: When you plan your next migration, always assume the first way won’t work. Come up with several contingency methods to migrate the data. 

Problem 2: The migration plan focuses solely on moving the data and doesn't address helping the users migrate

Users will need training on how the cloud works, how the apps work, and more specifically how they should perform their old tasks using the new system. Many migrations rely on "hope" for their user migration strategy. They "hope" the users will pick up what they need to know on their own and will be able to figure how to migrate their tasks to the new system.

They also "hope" users will all adopt the same way of doing each process so any employee can step into their processes and do them the same way as the individual who had been doing it. Like the book titled "Hope is not a strategy," it won't work for your migration either.

Tip: Create a plan that meets all the requirements, both the movement of systems as well as assisting your users to adapt.

Problem 3: Scope creep

A challenge that has caused a lot of projects to crater is the weed nicknamed “scope creep.” Scope creep is when new requirements show up in the middle of a project. It's easy to understand why it happens. The question is what is the best response to scope creep?

The wildest example I ever heard of is the case of building the first Trident submarine. During the fixed priced project the US Navy created 1.1 million changes to the design. Some were as significant as changing out the crews' sleeping area from two bunks high to three, along with the associated heating, HVAC, wiring, and lighting. They requested this change after the two-bunk design was already in place. Of course, the Navy expected the contractor to do it for no extra cost and no extension of any deadline. This same mentality is often prevalent among leadership in companies as well.

Tip 1: Show the economic impact and the scheduling impact the new requirements will have on the migration project plan. Then get leadership to buy off on those changes before accepting the new demands. When this happens too many times, it drives up costs and extends the migration schedule.

Tip 2: Most new requirements showing up late can be prevented by doing a more thorough requirements analysis in the beginning. It costs pennies to change it at the requirements stage, but can cost 100 or 1000 times more to change it in the middle of a project.

Problem 4: Your migration sponsor leaves the company

In today's environment, it's not unusual to have turnover in a company whether voluntary or involuntary. If the executive who has been the vocal champion of this migration leaves, there's a good chance the project will collapse because it no longer has executive support.

Tip 1: Make sure that several executives support the project. Keep chatting it up with the leadership to keep them sold on the benefits to the company for the migration.

Tip 2: When the project gets started, ask the sponsor who else you should be talking to (just in case he/she leaves).

Tip 3: During the planning meetings take note of which leaders show the most enthusiasm and approach them if the sponsor leaves.

Tip 4: Make sure the leaders start using the new system early in the process. They'll see the ease and advantages of the system first-hand and will be more able and willing to step in as the next sponsor if needed.

Problem 5: Leadership loses interest

Leadership will sometimes lose interest in the migration. Sometimes because the project is taking too long, or users are complaining about the system, or they've forgotten the reasons they decided to do it in the first place.

Tip: One of the tricks you can use from the most successful sales people is periodically reminding people what a good decision they made. You can use email, newsletters, or best of all — one-on-one conversations. Talk up the successes and benefits you see as the project goes along. This eliminates buyer’s remorse and helps maintain everyone's attitude through the dip in the enthusiasm that often occurs during a project.

Problem 6: Users lose interest

This is similar to the previous problem. If the migration takes longer than expected or they don’t see the benefits themselves during the migration they can lose interest.

Tip 1: Keep reminding users of the benefits of the migration in the long run.

Tip 2: Give them some quick wins. Early on be sure to implement a new feature the system can provide to make their life easier. Sometimes you might think saving those until the end might be a good idea, but providing users with quick wins is vital to getting and keeping momentum in the migration.

Tip 3: Automate more of the migration to speed things up.

Tip 4: Give them classroom or virtual self-training — it works wonders.

Tip 5: If the migration is going to take a while, training them on all of the aspects of the system might cause them to forget the training during the project. In those cases, training them on a feature just before your roll it out so they can quickly put it into practice is much more effective. It’s less overwhelming and more natural to learn as you go.

Tip 6: Can't say this often enough — be sure to have leadership start using the new system. That fact will spread throughout the organization and improve user acceptance.

Problem 7: The new system doesn’t work as promised

This is a good place to do a root cause analysis. What caused the misunderstanding of expectations versus reality?

Nearly 70% of such expectations come from early stages in the project. Usually, it comes from missing requirements or a miss match between what is required and the system's actual capabilities.

Tip 1: Have a discussion with the cloud provider and see what can be done to resolve the disparity between what was they promised, what you expected, and what was implemented.

Tip 2: Get users involved in helping you find a workaround. Sometimes a simple change in their procedures can resolve the issue.

Problem 8: All the "miscellaneous" other problems

You may run across other problems not mentioned here.

  • The first thing to do is to admit you have a problem(s). Ignoring it because it's unclear or not well-defined does you little good and won't make it go away.
  • Get it out in the open and get your users involved in solving it.
  • Articulate the problem as best as you can. Charles Kettering, the famous former head of research and development at General Motors said “A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved.”
  • Once you can identify the problem, then brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Also, brainstorm criteria for choosing a good solution.
  • Find out which of your ideas fits your decision criteria.
  • Go with that solution.
  • Celebrate every success as you resolve problems.

Problem 9: Not learning your lessons

All too often, when a project wraps up, you're so happy to be done, you quickly move to start the next project.

Unfortunately, that's not a good idea.

You've just paid the price to learn how to overcome some significant problems. Take the time to spend a few more minutes documenting those lessons.

Sometimes the review process is called a post mortem or action review. Get the team together to identify:

  • What went well?
  • What went poorly?
  • What should we do differently in future migrations?

These lessons learned can help you improve each time you're faced with a migration. It should be clear when running a "lessons learned" session, that it's not about finger pointing, it's about getting better as a company.

Call us at 312-448-7406 for a free planning session to see if we can help your migration moving forward and improve the quality of your transition. With hundreds of successful cloud migrations under our belts with companies such as Grubhub, MIT, Salesforce, we've tackled and solved some of the gnarliest challenges you can imagine. Just ask for details when you call!

 

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Originally published on August 08, 2017

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