Odds are, you're running a set of outdated legacy software systems that are no longer meeting the needs of your business. This scenario is all too common today – business across the world are moving rapidly just to barely keep up with trends in mobility, security, and cloud infrastructure.
Legacy System Migrations (Overhauls, Modernizations) tend to happen infrequently within businesses – but when they do occur, it's an expansive effort. At Icreon, we work with businesses that realize overhauling their existing technologies is just as much about educating their end users as it is about adding new features.
Whether you're doing a partial or complete move from one system to another, you'll need to migrate massive amounts of valuable corporate data from one system to the next.
New software is only half the battle. New systems, by default, should rethink how your business gets done. That means taking the time to analyze your existing strengths and inefficiencies to use your tech for growth.
Out-of-the-box software eliminates the need to build everything custom. Using off-the-shelf CRMs, CMSes, and other products will decrease your software costs, go-to-market time, and ultimately, your risks of failure.
The best software in the world doesn't guarantee that your employees will use it. Training users, socializing new platforms, and ultimately, having a protocol for rapid feedback and response ensures you don't suffer from dreaded software abandonment.
By architecting your solution with scalable pathways to growth, expansion, modification, and alteration, you can ensure that you don't ever have to re-write your technologies from scratch. SOA allows you to do this with much less risk of software obsolescence.
Rather than removing key systems all at once, the gradual removal of legacy systems, combined with the gradual incorporation of new platforms ensures that a more phased approach to replacing an older system increases your chances of success.
One of the fundamental truths of IT is that eventually, every piece of technology gets old. Whether it applies to a legacy system as small as a CMS or as integral as an ERP, the need to upgrade is a fact of life for any business hoping to stay up-to-date.
Unfortunately for many businesses, the process of moving on isn't so simple.
As Americans living in the 21st century, we spend most of our time within a five-foot distance of our mobile devices, checking Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn like we're attached at the hip. Because we're constantly interacting with our technology, it's natural for us to develop a connection to it. If we're used to driving stick, it can be jarring to transition to an automatic car, even if it should technically be easier.
The same phenomenon occurs in business technology: Just as people grow attached to their phones and their old cars, business software users can become attached to their old workflows.
This kind of behavior is compounded in the business setting, where many users have already dedicated years to learning the ins-and-outs of their current software. The act of migrating can be tough on team members, and it's important to remember that while some will be quick to catch on, even more will find difficulty in making the transition.
We call these employees "Legacy Users," and while they've been known to cause difficulties for many businesses, it's important to note this is no real fault of their own: A system migration from Act! to Microsoft Dynamics could make anyone's head spin, no matter how tech-savvy the user.
The issue of Legacy Users does not occur in a vacuum—it's merely a symptom of inadequate training and education during the software rollout stages. With this in mind, it's important for businesses to develop a system or data migration plan that will provide the value and knowledge that Legacy Users need as they make the next big migration.
Without proper training and education in place, Legacy Users are the least of a business' problems. Just this April, three men were prosecuted in a scandal involving CityTime, a large-scale NYC project that was supposed to improve the city's payroll system. After spending 700 million dollars implementing the software, the city discovered that some of their project managers had been pocketing millions of dollars for themselves. With only a few employees in charge of the entire data migration process, it was easy for those at the top to keep their users in the dark about the scheming and fraud that took place over years of corruption.
If there were more than just a few people with extensive knowledge of the CityTime software, the scandal would likely have been much more difficult to pull off. The debacle highlights not only the value of transparency in the IT world, but also the importance of user adoption and education in system migration.
It’s important to understand the legacy user, exploring the ways that businesses work with them to ease the data migration process.
A key part of technological consulting comes in bridging the gap between people and technology, and the two have a huge tendency to collide in the context of nonprofit organizations. Whether it’s internal disagreements, turnover problems or terrible PR blunders, here’s a list of the absolute worst “people problems” in nonprofit tech, along with tips on how you can fix them.
The most pressing issue facing the nonprofit sector today is a high turnover rate: According to the latest reports from Nonprofit HR, hiring is rising overall, but 20 percent of the time, it's mostly done to fill in recently turned-over slots.
This isn’t just an HR problem, it's a major IT problem as well. Anyone in the industry can tell you how difficult it can be to educate newcomers on the ins-and-outs of a company’s enterprise software, and the issue is only exacerbated by high turnover rates. While your HR department is likely doing everything it can to increase retention rates, it’s important for IT professionals to try and alleviate the stresses of turnover as well. Luckily, there are a few tech-oriented solutions for countering the negative effects of staffing issues.
A high-turnover environment requires a system that is as simple and streamlined as possible. When developing any new system, try to create as shallow of a learning curve as possible while still allowing for depth of functionality.
Another tip for minimizing turnover issues is to create an in-depth documentation or tutorial system which you can assign to new employees, and which teaches them the basics of your technology with minimal hassle. This applies to areas outside of enterprise software as well: If you have turnover issues with your content creators, make a style guide which outlines the voice and message of your organization.
While data is one of the most valuable tools a company has at their disposal at any given moment, it can also lead to some problematic conflicts. What one person interprets as a fantastic ROI might look unsatisfactory to another, and abysmal to yet another.
This is a problem that can be approached in multiple ways depending on your organization. For the most diplomatic approach, try to seek out a consensus.
In this situation, you’ll want to try to outline a story using every piece of data at your disposal. By laying out the facts in a visual and chronological format, you may be able to convey insights that weren’t previously apparent. For laying out data visually, infographics can be an extremely useful tool. If you don't have a designer on-hand to make these for you, use a simple infographic creator like PiktoChart or infogr.am. Lots of employees will respond better to visual data than abstract numbers.
If it's too difficult to find widespread consensus, you might want to rethink your approach altogether and consolidate the role of data interpretation. While the concept of "design by community" can be helpful in many cases, sometimes it can slow down your entire project and breed resentment amongst your teams.
Oftentimes, decision-makers at nonprofits don’t view digital strategy as the optimal route for improving their organizations. As they see it, if direct mail and phone calls are working, why should they try to fix what isn't broken?
The problem with this idea is that someday very soon, any strategy which doesn’t implement a digital approach will be broken. Statistics show that online giving is increasing dramatically on a year-over-year basis, and that mobile presences are becoming absolutely essential across the board.
To convince decision-makers on the importance of digital strategy, don't be afraid to open up an honest dialogue with them. Most of the time it's not new dollars that need to be spent, it's just a matter of moving the money from one place to another. Provide statistics, metrics, and infographics that show them the facts. You'll do best to keep the conversation in the fiscal space, since this is where their motivations tend to dwell.
No matter how much you try, there’s always the risk that one mistake will slip through the cracks and lead to a full-blown PR nightmare. Whether it’s an insensitive Tweet, a last-minute event cancellation, or any number of other major fiascos, crises do happen, and it’s important to know how to deal with them when they do.
In the aftermath of a PR crisis, take the time to craft a quality response. Whether you hand out a refund, an apology, or some other form of repentance, just let your stakeholders know that you are actively working to make up for any mistakes, and that you're genuinely sorry for what happened. This can go a long way, especially if you're diligent about publishing regular updates and shows of good faith.
While there are some PR disasters that cannot be avoided, it's important to put checks into place which will prevent other disasters before they can crop up. Since social media is fertile ground for potential crisis, make sure that the person in charge of your newsfeed has an editor to check their content before it goes live. The value of an extra set of eyes shouldn't be underestimated, and can often mean the difference between a popular insight and a viral failure.
No matter what software your nonprofit implements, one of the facts of IT life is that it will be a struggle to get users to adapt it. In the same way that IT professionals refer to aging software applications as legacy systems, we refer to uninitiated employees as "legacy users" for their attachment to obsolete software.
As a nonprofit company trying to gain maximum value from every single purchase, you absolutely can't afford to have legacy users dragging a new system down. To achieve the highest user adaption possible, place a heavy focus on education. It might take some extra time and resources, but it's crucial to provide your users with everything they need to learn the ins-and-outs of your software systems. Whether it's webinars, tutorials, or explainer videos, try to find materials that are more audience-friendly than complex documentation. This will ease the learning curve and encourage the retention of knowledge in as many employees as possible.
Data storage is being scaled, upgraded, and replaced at an increasing rate. Businesses across the world are finding it increasingly necessary to move massive amounts of data between systems and networks to adapt to the explosive growth.
However, they are also finding it increasingly complex, expensive, and disruptive – and that the process requires much more time, resources, and expertise than expected.
As you look into migrating your existing systems and data, consider the following:
Many businesses today don’t realize how much planning, assessment, and labor is involved in migrating large volumes of data, or entire software systems.
The infrastructure of the new system has to be mapped out, deployed, and configured. All data from the legacy system must be properly carried over to the new system. You need to consider whether the migration can take place over an existing connection, or if a pathway across channels and IP needs to be engineered. If you’re working with third party vendors, all data security policies must be honored. The to-do list is massive.
Many IT managers don’t take these issues into account, and they may not even know the right questions to ask. They will move forward with system migrations before they are prepared, and don’t realize the implications of the architectural change until it is too late. Be sure to understand the entire process of a migration before you decide to implement a new system.
How deeply tied are your systems and the everyday activities of its users? While it will make business sense to migrate to a new, updated system - remember to include the users who actually use the systems on an everyday basis in the decision process. Knowing what systems and functions are imperative to business success in the current IT landscape will increase chances of the new system’s success.
Should you migrate systems all at once, or in a gradual fashion?
There are two different approaches to data migration. One happens all-at-once, migrating data as fast as possible within a pre-determined system downtime. The other, much more sensible approach, is to migrate systematically. By carrying out the migration parallel to the work of company employees and systems, the amount of downtime is sharply reduced. Knowing the approach that will better fit your business and employees should be one of the first things considered.
Data migration can be disruptive to users as well as complementary applications. In order to ensure the integrity of system data, it’s sometimes necessary for businesses to shut down some of their applications while data is synchronized.
Downtime often needs to be built into systems where data sharing is imperative, requiring users and applications to go offline—a process that could hamper business continuity strategies.
From certain points of view, data migration seems puzzling and difficult, but no one doubts its necessity. With the increasing pace of technological change in today’s business environment, all companies which operate on data will have to update their systems, applications, and platforms at some point to remain competitive. It's a natural situation which stems from the fact that not only technology systems are changing, so is business.
There are two different approaches to data migration. One is reflected by all-in-one migration, migrating data as fast as possible within a pre-determined system downtime. The other, much more sensible approach, is a systematic approach. The gradual migration allows for the data migration to be held in parallel with regular work of company employees and systems.
The different approaches:
This approach seeks to migrate large amounts of data without completely shutting down a system, operating only within selected areas so that all others can be accessible during migration. Employees keep continuous access to data, there are no glaring interruptions, and no system downtime is required. While it is the longer migration of the two, you heavily increase your chance for final success.
Properly prepared data migration begins with the deep analysis of needs and requirements. While every situation will be unique, a gradual movement from one system to another combined with incorporation of new platforms will always increase the chances of success.
This approach involves shutting all applications and databases down—temporarily interrupting work and putting all force into the data migration. While it makes for shorter time of actual migration, the risk involved typically doesn’t outweigh the reward. You have one chance to implement the new system, which poses a risk and could ultimately be a major setback for your business.
It's imperative to establish which approach best suits your business, employees, and complementary applications before any migration is carried out.