'Bite-size' migration better than big IT overhauls

'Bite-size' migration better than big IT overhauls

Summary: Small-scale migration initiatives are preferred against bigger overhauls because benefits can be reaped quicker, and businesses today are pressured to maintain uptime 24 by 7 for their customers.


Customer expectations of round-the-clock availability and response mean businesses today have less leeway with platform migrations while still ensuring their IT environment remains agile, stable and secure. Keeping migration strategies "bite-size" is one option to deliver benefits quicker without needing to slow down business operations.

The expectation of service uptime is "nothing like it used to be", said David Gledhill, Singapore-based managing director and head of group technology and operations at DBS Bank. Long downtimes and big maintenance windows were considered acceptable in the past, but companies now are expected to be available 24 by 7.

This demand means the speed of deployment of any new IT system needs to be much faster, Gledhill noted. "Companies such as DBS need to be nimble and react quickly to get products out to market in the shortest time possible," he said. 

Deploy bite-size migration projects to reap benefits faster, without having to prolong unnecessary downtime.

At the same time, any IT migration project must factor in security, which remains a challenge for any business due to the rise of sophisticated cyberattacks, he pointed out.

This underscores the need for migration plans to be "bite-size". According to Gledhill, it is better to have smaller programs that can start delivering value between 6 and 9 months than multi-year programs that are slower or fail to deliver value.

This approach is part of DBS Bank's lean IT methodology adopted throughout the organization. "As a regional bank, we place great emphasis on process standardization and reference data standardization," he explained. "This helps us achieve greater efficiency and scalability, and easily deploy a new system to multiple [geographical] locations once it is live."

Frederic Giron, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, agreed, noting that platform migration initiatives today have accelerated because there is pressure among end-user companies to do more with less.

Another migration speed bump these businesses face is the rapidly increasing complexity of their IT systems, Giron said. Existing legacy systems are usually already complex and heterogeneous with various application integration scenarios.

But companies are now in the midst of a "perfect storm" comprising far-reaching technology shifts, where cloud, mobility and social are not only considered new enablers of business innovation, but potential threats if companies do not move soon enough to adopt them, he noted.

Embracing these new technologies is no small feat, he said. Besides budgetary issues, migration to these platforms is complicated from an integration and orchestration point of view, the analyst said.

"Strong executive sponsorship and embedding the IT overhaul project, as part of the larger enterprise transformation project led by the business, generally improves the chances of success of [migration] projects," Giron advised.

Vendors offer help to migrate

The new pressures of migration has not gone unnoticed by vendors.

IT software and services companies are putting more effort and investment to make migration faster and less disruptive for clients, according to Giron. For instance, SAP's Rapid Deployment Solutions (RDS) are a range of pre-packaged offerings that aim to accelerate migration from existing SAP or competitors' platforms. Peter Harkin, head of HANA and analytics services for Asia-Pacific and Japan at SAP, said the RDS strategy is aligned with the company's overall strategy for SAP Business Suite powered by HANA, its in-memory database technology.

Harkin said: "The SAP Business Suite will continue to be offered on all currently certified databases. If customers choose to migrate to SAP HANA, SAP and its partners provide services to allow complete or partial migration and implementation of SAP HANA. 

"We understand the reliance our customers have on SAP solutions to run day-to-day business operations and manage critical tasks, and as such SAP is committed to delivering a database migration approach that is non-disruptive and cost-effective."

According to Gledhill, DBS Bank currently does not have the scale and size to build its own systems in-house, so its team of IT architecture experts looks for best-in-class offerings in market. Hence, choosing a vendor with a sound migration strategy is "absolutely key and critical", he said.

"Some of the big things we look for in assessing the various vendors is their multi-year roadmap. How open they are to our input, and how much of partnership we can build with them in delivering future capabilities," he said.

Giron noted from the view of the customer, the winning combination comprises hardware and software migration strategies as well as past experience. The last point is important because it deals with the headache of migration strategies actually being applied to the particularities of each end-user's IT environment, said the Forrester analyst.

Topics: Enterprise Software, IT Priorities

Jamie Yap

About Jamie Yap

Jamie writes about technology, business and the most obvious intersection of the two that is software. Other variegated topics include--in one form or other--cloud, Web 2.0, apps, data, analytics, mobile, services, and the three Es: enterprises, executives and entrepreneurs. In a previous life, she was a writer covering a different but equally serious business called show business.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • BPM projects suported by "adaptive software" may help ease pain?

    All real business innovation is very front end focused the area where historically IT has failed to deliver the necessary flexibility. Good process are assets but only as long as they are adaptable to change. This where the BPM discipline can be applied but does need a new kind of supporting software that can handle complex processes both front and back office. BUT and it is a big but knowledge of what you are buying in the software technology is critical to achieving guaranteed success with such a "BPM" project.

    Here are a dozen questions you should ask of your vendors (or ask Gartner and Forrester….?)
    1. How adaptive is the software to support both iterative build and future change and how is this achieved?
    2. How is the specification handled in terms of both being understood by users and developers and how then translated into build?
    3. How much custom coding is required to build custom applications is it accessible and how is future change handled?
    4. Does the core technology support reusable features to speed up future development and does it support being used as a shared service?
    5. Are process, workflow, rules, state and calculation engines contained in one development tool? If not how do they handle these essential requirements?
    6. How does the user interface present information to ensure all relevant data is available to the authorised person at the right time and that new information is easily entered only once into the system?
    7. Can a working prototype as a first pass of the solution be built quickly to test requirements and engage policy makers and users for feedback?
    8. Is there a method to estimated time frames for delivery of the application?
    9. Can the development environment provide an exact record in a business friendly format what has been deployed?
    10. What capability is there to deliver intelligent applications giving flexibility to users dependent upon circumstances?
    11. How does the architecture of the technology fit to connect to legacy, how does it scale and does it require SOA?
    12. What is the total “file size” of the integrated tool?

    You this means all in the chain on involvement from policy makers to users cannot rely on methodologies or good luck! You will need good supporting adaptive software to make it work. I totally agree do it in small “bite-size” projects that will get interest across the whole organisation wanting change from IT driven projects to Business Technology ones?
    David Chassels
  • 'Agile' IT Strategy

    This sounds like basically applying an 'agile' methodology to your overall IT strategy. I think there's definitely some merit to this, but in order to be successful, especially if the overhaul in question is overdue and particularly dramatic, you need to have buy-off at all levels of the strategy as a whole. Everyone needs to go in eyes wide open, because (particularly at first) the smaller disruptions will not always have enough of an impact to feel worthwhile. Additionally, you need a strong stakeholder to be on board and to champion the process, so that when project fatigue sets in, there's someone reminding folks of what the overall goals are and 'cheering them on' to the finish line.

    Ideally, as well, there would be clearly defined success criteria that is granular enough that it can be measured throughout the process and can demonstrate progress. A well thought out reporting strategy that aligns with the macro- and micro-strategic goals can help alleviate some project fatigue and help all stakeholders stay bought in to the process.
    Chris Huennekens