In times of a global pandemic, at the very latest, cloud technology has proven to be a critical component of a company's infrastructure. After all, it enables them to respond to changing requirements with far greater agility. But how can data and systems be transferred to the Internet quickly, securely and cost-effectively? What mistakes need to be avoided? Marc Wagner, Principal Consultant Cloud Migration, and Jens Feil, Project Manager Cloud Migration, who are with the software and consulting company SNP, present the most important lessons learned from successful migration projects.
First learning: A timely planning pays off
In our experience, strategic planning of the overall project is particularly important – and so is the fact that it takes place in a timely manner. On multiple occasions we have seen that even large companies and corporations do not deal with the cloud migration of their data until shortly before the termination of licenses or the return of a data center to the operator. In doing so, they run the risk of having to extend licenses for the transition, which often leads to considerable additional costs.
Timely planning is also important, as the migration to the cloud has a considerable impact on the business side: Decision-makers must decide which type of cloud solution is best suited to their own company's increasing requirements and which provider offers the best system. The technical implementation by a qualified service provider must also be considered in order to ensure that the migration is completed as quickly and securely as possible.
Further, the preparation phase can be lengthy, often lasting two to three months. One of our most important recommendations is therefore to start the project sooner rather than later and to plan for extra time in case of delays.
Second learning: Analyze first, then migrate
Established ERP landscapes are at the heart of every company and they are usually highly complex. If the systems, data and applications contained therein are to be migrated to the cloud, the colleagues responsible for the project must obtain an overview of the current technical state of the landscape and define the requirements for the migration. Which systems will be used and how do they interact with each other? What data must and should be moved? Is there legacy data that can be archived?
SNP assists companies with this inventory and uses its own automated, software-based transformation software for the analysis. The latter shows how data and systems can be optimally transferred and what preparatory work is necessary. The result is a customized roadmap for the project to make the most of the cloud migration.
It happens time and again that systems are outdated and need an upgrade prior to the migration in order to run flawlessly in the cloud environment. In such a case, a simple system transfer – experts refer to this as a lift & shift – is not possible. Instead, a selective migration proves to be more effective: a company only transfers the data it really needs – the rest is archived and accessible at all times.
Third learning: Migration approach influences downtime of the IT system
Decision-makers should know that the chosen cloud migration path will significantly contribute to achieving defined project goals. Ideally, they should opt for a process that enables particularly fast and secure data migration and simulates the effects of the planned changes even before the actual migration. In this way, companies always retain control and minimize risks.
After all, during data migration, it is technically necessary to shut down the IT system, including running business processes. The downtime associated with this process must be kept to a minimum, especially for globally active and customer-oriented companies with continuous operations, as otherwise considerable costs can quickly arise.
Depending on the migration path, the downtime can vary greatly: An innovative migration approach, such as the one we pursue at SNP, enables system conversions in near-zero downtime. Operations continue largely without disruption. With a standard method, the same migration project would take significantly longer than a weekend during which the IT system is unavailable.
Fourth learning: Cleaning up the system can effectively reduce costs
By migrating to the cloud, decision-makers are able to save costs – if they get rid of old burdens that are no longer needed. If a company manages to reduce its data volume from 15 terabytes to half, for example, this can quickly result in six-figure sums in euros, as far less cloud storage needs to be leased. Alas, the associated cleanup and archiving is tedious manual work and should be initiated months before the actual cloud migration.
In practice, however, it happens time and again that large companies have to migrate to the cloud particularly quickly. In this case, those responsible for the project can consider not moving all the data and systems at once with a "big bang", as IT experts call it, but instead proceeding step by step. Using a so-called wave-based approach, selected parts of the IT landscape can be streamlined and migrated one after the other. Thus, less cloud storage is required.
Fifth learning: Digital interfaces should never be forgotten
Interfaces ensure the exchange of information with internal and external stakeholders and must not be forgotten in the course of a cloud migration. Often, there are several thousands of such connections within a company: They must be identified prior to the data migration and updated during the process. If this is not done in time, the continuous exchange between employees as well as partners, suppliers and customers will be disrupted. Even if interfaces are adjusted afterwards, companies run the risk that defined project goals or the time frame cannot be met.
At SNP, up-to-date and complete interface documentation is therefore a standard part of every transformation project – thanks to automated software that requires little effort. Further, it also identifies unused or obsolete interfaces that should be shut down in order to increase the security of the IT system.
Sixth learning: Preparing the IT team for a change of corporate culture and technology
When systems and data are shifted to the cloud, there are far-reaching changes for internal IT staff. It is not uncommon for them to have to let go of knowledge that has been built up over years or decades. Not only does the administration of systems in the cloud work differently, but databases also have new functionalities - in short, the changeover brings about a cultural and technological change for the IT. Accordingly, cloud providers offer corresponding certifications. The latter provide expertise on the cloud as well as new technologies that can be deployed through the cloud – such as the Hana database which prepares for the implementation of S4HANA.
Alas, the whole business benefits: an IT team that knows its way around can respond more quickly and configure cloud-based IT services, such as computing power and storage space, with precision as usage patterns fluctuate. This pays off in e-commerce, for example: Providers can better adjust to peaks – a fact that gives them a clear competitive advantage.
- Data migration: how to minimize ERP system downtime
- Analyzing interfaces: How to uncover weak spots in IT
- Cloud as a digitization driver: Key facts for decision-makers
- S/4HANA: Which path to the new IT landscape is the right one?
You are planning the transition to the cloud and have questions about project planning and implementation?
The experts at SNP will be happy to assist you:
Marc Wagner, Principal Consultant Cloud Migration, E-Mail: email@example.com
Jens Feil, Projektleiter Cloud Migration, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org