Considerations in Your Enterprise Platform Migration

November 19, 2020 Douglas Karr

For the last year, we’ve been managing several enterprise implementations that incorporate data migration from other systems, integration to new systems, and introduce a plethora of challenges to companies to consider when thinking about their move to a new stack. We are sharing some of our thoughts here for clients to consider as they select their new vendor, or the partner they trust to successfully migrate them.

There are 6 central considerations when thinking about enterprise migrations:

  1. People – who are your internal and external resources?
  2. Process – how will internal and external processes change? How will your staff handle the transition or overlap?
  3. Period – what is your timeline for the transition? Is there any seasonality at play with respect to your business and when work must be started, paused, and be completed?
  4. Project – what methodology and tools will you deploy to accurately plan and execute tasks, blocks, milestones, and capture the level of effort needed for the migration?
  5. Platforms – what are the capabilities of each system to export historical data, import data, integrate, and evolve? Will your new platform provide the level of sophistication and simplicity internally to win back time while improving your external experience.
  6. Price – what is your budget for this transition – including licensing, consultation, development, project management, and training?

How People Impact Your Enterprise Migration

People are a critical resource in any enterprise migration and where we see a lot of issues. Marketing and technology teams often have an endless stream of work that needs to be done and minimal resources to accomplish that work. Daily demands of meetings, people on vacation, emergencies, and other issues interrupt their ability to work efficiently and effectively on an enterprise migration.

  • Capacity – Your internal resources must be able to do their current work, educate themselves on the new platforms, provide input on any roadblocks they foresee, and then transition seamlessly to the new processes that are put in place.
  • Capabilities – While your staff has the industry and process knowledge, are they capable of learning a new system that can introduce newer, more sophisticated strategies for improving your business? We have seen platforms sometimes outpace the capabilities of the organization – which can put the entire process at risk. Other times, we’ve watched forward-thinking companies hire an external leader that’s lead these migrations and is comfortable teaching, motivating, and driving the transition forward.
  • Comfort – We see companies lose critical talent internally during these transitions. If your marketing team member or developer has spent a good part of their successful career working in a system that you’re migrating away from – there’s a chance that you will lose them as they seek other employment opportunities with the system they’re comfortable with. Other times, employees are often resistant to change or even disappointed if they are left out of the decision process to move to a new system. Losing a key resource during an enterprise migration is painful. Understanding your employees and whether or not they’re optimistic will help you in your transition.
  • Partners – Do your partners understand your business and how you’re trying to digitally transform it? Or are you just using a partner that can do the work, charge you by the hour, and doesn’t really care whether or not the implementation is producing the key business results? Finding a partner who is not afraid to push, pull, or drag you to completion is essential. A great partner will help you maximize the platform’s impact, has experience in the platforms you are migrating from, bring in additional resources as needed, stay ahead of issues, help you with vendor relations and selection, and expose your business to strategies that they’ve seen succeed in other organizations like yours.
  • Professional Development – As a partner, we can find, recruit, train, and acclimate your employees as needed. For some of our clients, we actually hire talent, place them on their implementation pod, and have them trained up and working with their actual implementation. Once implemented, the trained and experienced resource is transitioned to full-time employment with the client (with no recruitment fee). For another client, we’re actually training their off-shore team on their instance and incorporating them into the overall project. We know that enterprise implementations are expensive and finite, so developing the talent necessary to assume internal control is essential to the success of an overall migration and implementation.

How Processes Impact Your Enterprise Migration

Processes change in every enterprise migration. It’s a core reason why companies make the decision to migrate. The ability to gain more visibility into your business, your customers, and leverage the system fully to drive efficiency and a superior experience is why you leave some systems and move to others. That said, processes can be radically transformed and even put your digital transformation at risk if you don’t fully understand them.

  • Current Processes – Understanding each employee and customer process from the top of your corporate hierarchy to the bottom is essential. Your ability to map those processes will help you to identify where you can save costs or improve business results. Unfortunately, more often than not we see that leadership will make a decision without fully understanding the processes that are happening within their organization. More than once, we’ve even discovered critical systems that were left out of the statement of work but would devastate the business’ ability to operate if not included and integrated.
  • Future Processes – Communicating to your team how their current process is mapped and how their future process is going to be easier will gain optimism and adoption moving forward. It will also reduce frustration and roadblocks.
  • Exceptions – Every company has process exceptions. It could be system nuances, key customers, seasonal processes, etc. Exceptions can bury your organization’s ability to digitally transform. A new platform that provides flexibility can be adjusted for these processes OR a strategy to communicate a better process must be planned and deployed.

How Periods Impact Your Enterprise Migration

The timeline of your migration has multiple dynamics, all of which can have an impact on the success of your implementation.

  • Budget Period – Companies often use internal budgeting periods to decide to migrate because the licensing and contracting fees associated can be easily accounted for. Budgeting rarely aligns with other time considerations, though.
  • Seasonality – Virtually every company has seasonality elements associated with internal resources and external demand. Aligning your implementation with availability and downturns in demand are optimal to your company’s success. As an example, we work with health insurance providers that plan around annual enrollment. We work with charity organizations that need to work around seasonal giving. We work with ecommerce companies that must work around consumer seasonal buying habits.
  • Speed – Every company wants a tight timeline that they can hold internal and external stakeholders responsible for. Sometimes, doing quick implementations is in direct conflict with doing the right implementations, though. A shortcut today could lead to a disaster downstream if data isn’t properly mapped or a more sophisticated solution isn’t implemented. We typically push clients, instead, to an agile approach where the milestones are prioritized based on the impact to the business. This may be low-hanging fruit objectives that can be easily implemented and an immediate return on investment is gained. Or it may be developing a complex baseline for which every integration and process can be easily bolted onto.
  • Alignment – More often than not, we work with clients to develop a duration that incorporates their financial and human resources so that we can set accurate expectations, communicate changes, and drive a customers’ success. In other words, associate the timeline with the budget and available… not a random target date that rushes and risks success.

How Project Management Impacts Your Enterprise Migration

Project management is an essential, and often overlooked, aspect to the success of your implementation.

  • Project Managers – Will your company be leading the project management? Will you depend on your partner to do this? Do you have a resource with your vendor that the PM can work with to mitigate platform issues? Having a detail-oriented, multi-task master, and great communicator at the helm of your project is essential to its success. Project managers juggle all the balls and keep the project’s momentum going.
  • Project Management Platform – Are you using your own project management platform? If so, is your partner or vendor trained and will they have access to utilize it? Or will your partner use their own and train and incorporate your staff to use theirs? Project management platforms are critical in communicating tasks, action plans, deadlines, milestones, and other details.
  • Documentation – Companies often have employee turnover or bring new members on board that need an understanding of the project that is underway, on the way, or just completed. Having a searchable document repository that incorporates files, videos, chat discussions, etc. is an essential asset. For instance, we often record and transcribe videos, then upload them to our clients’ repository so they can find and reference them later.
  • Training – Are you training a trainer internally? Training end-users? Providing third-party training resources? Training is critical to the organization so that your employees can transition to the new platform or processes seamlessly. Vendor training is nice… but in an enterprise setting, they often don’t include the nuances of your organization’s processes, third-party integrations, and customizations.

How Platforms Impact Your Enterprise Migration

Unfortunately, we live in a world where platform expectations often surpass the realities of the companies purchasing them. We’ve worked with companies that have bought systems purely on analyst evaluations. We’ve worked with other companies that have been led astray by a sales representative motivated to meet their goals despite whether it’s the right solution. Even when you purchase the best solution that meets your organizations’ needs, there are other considerations:

  • Current – Platforms are often built sticky. Platforms rarely incorporate the ability to migrate away in their product roadmaps. As a result, your ability to export historical data and assets may be a laborious, if not impossible, effort. Understanding your current vendor’s export capabilities are critical as you stand up processes in a new system.
  • Transition – If you’re moving away from one platform into another, there’s almost always a transition in enterprise deployments. Case in point, you can move to a new email marketing platform… but what happens when users click an old email link that was sent from the previous email service provider? You need to have a transition plan that minimizes or communicates the impact to internal users and external companies.
  • Integrations – Unfortunately, companies often overlook the ability to query, extract, or synchronize data. Some of our clients have found out, after the fact, that the platforms they wished to integrate don’t offer real-time data synchronization and require a batch process. Systems are rarely normalized in their data schemas and formats, so third-party extract, transformation, and load processes or services may need to be incorporated. If you work with a good partner, use them in your vendor selection process so that they can help you side-step integration issues.
  • Features and Usage – In your process phase, be sure to identify the touchpoints and features with each system so that you can audit the features and their usage. Enterprise systems often have thousands of configuration options and features that provide flexibility. Having a partner that can help pre-empt these exceptions and implement the appropriate solutions will help you be able to meet current operational goals.
  • Innovation – Observing a platforms’ product roadmap, release schedule, and adoption of new technologies (like artificial intelligence) is essential to your investment. If you’re working with a company that’s not innovating, you may find your investment fall flat and you’ll need to one day migrate again.
  • Reputation – While analyst reports are great, we are often surprised at how companies don’t research how other companies are succeeding using a platform. Speaking to your industry peers is an essential step in the vendor process. We’ve actually helped introduce companies to each other to create support systems for one another to ideate and maximize their usage of the platform. We also encourage customers to check out the support process and overall satisfaction on social media. The reputation of your partners and vendors will provide insight into how frustrating or satisfying the platform experience will be.

How Price Impacts Your Enterprise Migration

Price is multi-faceted.

  • Licensing – We’ve seen many clients lock into an enterprise license that is inflexible and doesn’t offer them the capabilities they need… or has them paying for features they can’t use. A good enterprise sales representative will provide some flexibility in your licensing. They may not let you reduce the overall budget, but they will often allow you to move that budget between features and functionality so that you can realize the platform’s full potential and return on investment.
  • Partner – Getting a partner to assist you is almost always more expensive than the actual licensing agreement but often an afterthought on your investment. Be sure to quantify these costs so that you can accurately budget the project or incorporate additional buckets of time needed as issues arise. We set expectations with clients on what the budget will be, but we only charge for the effort. Each meeting we let the client know where our project is from a milestone, time, and budget perspective.
  • Integrations – There are often limitations to productized integrations and third-party platforms that require custom development. Your partner should set aside some expectations for this and have those resources ready when issues arise.
  • Growth – Platforms are typically priced for usage, so watch carefully as your company integrates and utilizes a system more and what that impact will be on your overall budget. We’ve seen companies over-estimate usage and sign licenses that were far greater than they needed to. And we’ve seen companies under-estimate their use of systems and start growing the budget beyond their expectations.
  • Extensions – If there are delays in deployment, you may need to return to your current vendor and ask for an extension. Vendors are not too keen on assisting you to leave them, so these negotiations can get uncomfortable. The appropriate thing is to leave plenty of room in your contract for the migration to take place and the transition to occur. If you can’t, though, negotiating an extension is something you’re going to need to do. We’ve watched enterprise platforms migrate clients, lose their data, lose functionality, lose support, and pay exorbitant extension costs. Proceed with caution!

Pay Now Or Pay Later

If you’re looking to do an enterprise migration from one platform to another, feel free to give us a call. We would rather be involved in the vendor selection phase than being stuck telling you the bad news after you signed your software agreement. We’ve done dedicated projects and ongoing consulting agreements to assist companies with these difficult decisions. A small investment preceding an implementation can save your company millions of dollars down the road.

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Douglas Karr

Douglas is globally recognized as a leader in digital transformation. He's the co-host of Dell's Luminaries podcast, author of a Corporate Blogging Dummies Guide, is the founder of Martech.zone, and is a member of the Forbes Agency Council. He keynotes and speaks at conferences all over the world. Douglas also trains and develops workshops and curricula in coordination with Butler's Lacy School of Business.