Business engagement drives NG data migration success

The emergence of Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) software applications that now run much of a communications service provider’s (CSP’s) OSS/BSS infrastructure, such as network inventory, ERP, CRM, billing and order management, highlight how successfully navigating the data migration journey has never been more important to realize transformation success.
COTS-based applications, and now the promise of service oriented architectures (SOAs), provide today’s CSPs with the ability to consolidate and move to greater efficiency and lower cost models. Successfully moving from existing legacy systems to a new strategic environment is high risk and potentially highly disruptive to the business. What’s more, this new environment has high levels of dependency, complexity and business processes, and all must be supported on a 24/7 basis to ensure successful implementation of new applications.
The migration of people, technology and processes to new applications and the environments they support is highly complex. Therefore the data migration requirements of programs that can last for several years, where failure rates are too high in our industry, need to be planned for and managed with certainty of outcome.
The research and what it told us
The purpose of the research undertaken by TM Forum and Celona at the end of 2009 was to understand what the key drivers, implications and requirements were of CSPs now engaged in what is becoming a regular event in our industry. In fact, the research told us that 60% are now undertaking six or more essential application migrations per year, which is driven by the rate of change in the telecom industry.
The reality is that we also as an industry spend a staggering amount of IT program budgets on an area that often does not guarantee a successful migration outcome and causes much disruption and pain for both the business as well as the IT function. Over 15% of IT budgets are spent on application migration tools and services, which are not purpose built, and many of which never deliver any re-use value.
The biggest success factor by far, as highlighted by the survey, was business engagement. The ability to support the requirements of the business, and therefore enable business agility, is a key success factor to migration: over 70% of surveyed companies indicated that the ability to engage the business throughout migration is fundamental to minimizing disruption and enabling "business as usual" to maintain. Without this, IT ends up restricting the business and operational problems consequently mount. This costs more money and adds yet more time, with risk increasing the further into the journey you go.
The surprising thing in the survey was that over 70% said that they did not use built-for-purpose tools, methods or software when migrating to new applications or systems. This indicates clearly how risk is created. In order to realize the multi-million dollar investments in new applications, the following areas each need as much priority as the deployment of the new application itself: legacy environment assessment, migration strategy, tools and how to manage inevitable change while maintaining old/new world continuity.
From a business enablement versus disruption perspective, 70% of respondents said that their business could not tolerate significant downtime periods when advancing through application data migration programs. Business processes in the majority of cases have to be supported on a 24/7 basis. In addition, a choice of migration strategy is needed to support different drivers and requirements. It is not just about "big bang" anymore. Incrementally migrating business processes, users, sites, regions, products, systems and doing this in a phased manner that suits the business requirement, is the flexibility we now need in the industry.
Implications for CSPs
At TM Forum, we are putting a lot of emphasis on getting application data migration right, as it has a direct impact on the successful outcome of transformation at both a business and technical level. The business must be engaged, supported and enabled throughout the migration journey. Importantly, the migration process must allow for change along the way, which is inevitable, and IT must not restrict and disrupt the business.
Planning for success means putting as much focus on the legacy environment as the new application itself, and utilizing the right tools and approaches to enable choice of migration strategy. Having the capability to manage change and remove critical path risk, which is a too-frequent state in today’s migrations, is also key. TM Forum is developing new best practices in migration to support successful technology and business transformation, and a new best practices whitepaper will be launched at Management World 2010 in Nice this May.
Click here to join the Data Migration group within TM Forum Community and get involved in this interesting and innovative work.
Tony Sceales is CTO of Celona and TM Forum Technical Committee Member
This article originally appeared on TM Forum's Inside Best Practices & Standards newsletter