Due to the current circumstances, businesses are being forced to migrate workloads to the cloud. Geoff Barlow, Cloud Architect at Node4, offers several ways a company can build confidence in their cloud migration project.
Recent events have caused a huge upheaval for many businesses as they face the need to maintain business operations amidst the global pandemic of COVID-19. Enabling remote working is likely top of the list for almost all businesses in the UK as lockdown continues and this means that migrating to the cloud has become an urgent need, rather than a luxury.
For many businesses, running a cloud migration project is a daunting prospect, whether that be to a private or public cloud setting. Regardless of the reason for the migration, there is going to be significant change in the organisation. Key areas such as how IT resources will be managed, monitored and consumed, changes in approach when it comes to risk and security or simply the fact the customer is going to be reliant on someone else for its critical systems, can trigger mild panic.
For all these reasons, the most important aspect of a migration project is confidence building. Whether the ‘customer’ is the wider business, or a business is running a migration project for a different organisation, all organisations are going to need to sell confidence in abundance to ensure a successful migration. This arguably trumps everything else in terms of priority.
There are several ways a company can build confidence in their cloud migration project, even when they are doing it under pressure:
- Keep everyone in the know
Information and education is a key part of confidence building. Activities such as running workshops with key stakeholders, providing training, producing accurate documentation, or the project team simply being available to answer queries, are invaluable.
This is an ongoing process throughout the migration as you must appreciate that the customer is probably not going to remember a demo, or the new service request process, that was explained in week one while they are mid-way through an aggressive migration schedule.
It’s likely that someone senior within the business has put their neck on the line for the migration to occur, so ensuring this person has clear and regular updates will mean they are more likely to fight your corner if the going gets tough. Some of the most successful deliveries we have seen included live migration tracking stats on TVs around the head office or daily PowerBI reports delivered up to the senior management team showing progress.
- Assess and plan in detail
The migration team and customer will feel significantly more confident if they fully understand the source environment, the migration process and the target state. Building a detailed map of the current environment will help formulate interdependencies which can then be used for post-migration testing.
It sounds simple, but a lack of understanding about the platform will mean surprises during a cutover – normally bad ones. What better way to boost confidence than by using this assessment information to create detailed migration run books for each application where everyone understands how the app is put together, how it is being moved and how it can be rolled back? Again, if they are being sponsored by someone in the business, this assessment process will give them a lot of confidence that the business has done its homework.
- Stay connected
Speaking from a service provider perspective, getting the solutions architects, service delivery staff and technical engineers from both businesses together on a regular basis, before and during migration activities, will massively help build confidence.
When the business can establish these relationships pairings it will find that the inevitable blips can be discussed a lot more easily, as it’s not just the other side of a screen they are talking to. This is particularly imperative in the current lockdown climate where all members of the business are likely to be working remotely.
Organisations running a migration internally will likely need to stay close to their application owners, service desk users or other department heads they are about to request some downtime from. People are a lot more likely to trust someone they have met in person, so businesses should be using this to their advantage.
- Test everything
Whether it be migration scripts, run book actions, virtual machine failovers or even just testing that conference bridges work, there is no such thing as enough testing.
After any test, IT teams must make sure to introduce feedback loops and review why things failed and what was a success. Organisations might have used the migration method many times before but fail to remember that they are potentially dealing with people who only see that their critical application is about to get taken down. So rather than rely on trust, businesses should use evidence of testing and repetition to drive confidence up.
It’s common to uncover issues during failover tests, which is a good thing. Problems discovered during testing are much better than those discovered in the real situation, as it helps to reinforce that the process was worthwhile and means there is time to resolve and test again before it really matters.
- Start with an easy win
If businesses can demonstrate that a key application can be migrated simply and quickly, this is going to do a lot for ongoing confidence during a migration project. They shouldn’t pick monolithic shoestring application or the 20-year-old server in the cupboard as a first migration target.
Instead, it is wise to choose something small but significant that will give everyone some reassurance that it’s rinse and repeat from there on. The process should have been tested fully by this point, but getting a production service over the line demonstrates a milestone and should be celebrated.
With the landscape evolving every day that passes, staying agile and enabling secure and efficient remote working should be the top of every CIO’s priorities. Moving to the cloud is a sure fire way to achieve this flexibility and migrating to the cloud needn’t be a headache if you follow the right steps.