Transition Troubles: Successfully Getting from Here to There

Compelling insights shared at CIO’s roundtable events lead to excellent information sharing and learning among all attendees. During a recent program, attendees shared their collective challenges with visibility into critical issues that vendors often overlook, leaving IT professionals to resolve them. An excellent example is the transition process to new solutions or platforms. Many innovative technology products and services arrive on the scene every year, many making promises that are hard to resist, but as one CIO from Boston asked, “How do we get there from here?”

Technology customers are justified in demanding a smooth transition plan that does not interrupt operations or create new problems that will delay using the new solution. An effective transition plan outlines how all potential problems will be resolved before deployment. It addresses the hard truth that even a successful proof-of-concept project or a working greenfield design can minimize or ignore the greater demands of a complete transition and a production environment.

Ideally, vendors and customers will work together to ensure the transition to the new technology is successful and proceeds apace. Together, they must produce answers to how they will deal with key components of the transition process:

Data-readiness—Extracting and loading data from old systems onto new systems can seem easy enough, but complicated issues need attention. Is the time-sequencing of the source data accurate and consistent in the new solution? Is data with different security classifications being mixed and combined? Are legacy data feeds synchronized with the latest technology? Ensuring that the data foundation is in place, effectively structured, and fully aligned with the new system is central to the success or failure of the new product or service.

Resolution of compliance, audit, and regulatory issues—Naturally, the transition team will focus primarily on the operations of the new platform. Still, it would be a mistake to ignore how sensitive or confidential data is managed, combined, or transferred during the transition. This is particularly important if an intermediate or temporary data resource is created during the process. Another important consideration is whether the data that is covered by various regulatory directives will be anonymized or otherwise changed as it is ingested into the new system. The key is ensuring that risks are evaluated during and after migration to new technologies.

Contingency planning during the cutover—Sometimes, even the best-conceived transition plans will run into problems during the actual transition process. Put a pessimist on the planning team so that the final plan includes options for any number of things that might go wrong. As one vice president of IT operations said during one of CIO’s virtual events, “If we had built in the option to run in parallel when the transition ran into some issues, it would have saved us a lot of time and trouble.” Pulling the plug on a running system can be terrifying. Having a range of insurance policies in place if something does not go as planned can be a lifesaver.

This is not a comprehensive list of factors to consider. Every project will have its own transitional issues and must be evaluated on its own merits. But it is always true that successful transitions are not the sole responsibility of the customer. However, all too often, the details and complexity of the transition process need to be fully accounted for.

Vendors need to play a supporting role, sharing the insights they have learned from experience with other customers and building frameworks to reduce negative outcomes. Only the newest greenfield company escapes the reality that new technology platforms either replace or build on what is already running. An effective plan that leads to a seamless changeover is the starting point for success.

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