'Bite-size' migration better than big IT overhauls

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.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

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.

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