Moving previously onsite applications to the cloud has become much easier as ‘lift and shift’ migration enables business to move quickly with minimal issues, however, good project management is still a vital part of the process.

Digital transformation took on greater momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic as organisations accelerated the adoption of new technologies and is now seen by many as a necessary disruption.

Successful transformations are, however, sadly rare with failure rates as high as 70%. Before the pandemic triggered an acceleration of digital transformation, technical and organisation programs delivered as many misses as hits, largely because real transformation requires more than better technology.

Delivering successful transformation is about leading large-scale, complex change and in his book Why Digital Transformations Fail, Tony Saldana writes ‘…the surprising answer to why digital transformations fail is a lack of discipline in defining and executing the right steps for digital transformations to take off and stay ahead.”

With the right processes and fit-for-purpose delivery approach, it is possible to accelerate digital transformation and deploy faster, more efficient ways of work.

A shift to the cloud is not ‘digital transformation’

Looking back at 2020, many organisations were able to move quickly to decentralised work because they had already moved to – or were in the process of moving – to cloud-based or cloud-ready architecture and applications.

As the pandemic has continued to evolve, many organisations accelerated the shift to cloud environments as essential for cost reduction, more efficient operations, and to enable work from anywhere.

However, moving into the cloud has always been fraught with risk as the process of moving, rearchitecting, and establishing new environments proved cumbersome and expensive. Whether the move succeeds is largely down to ensuring that architecture is properly assessed as fit-for-purpose and that processes and digital projects are structured for success, and delivering benefits fast.

A process previously fraught with complexity becomes simpler

In an ideal world, system integration combines the moving parts of various software applications, platforms or functionality to create a ‘seamless’ user experience. Most of us will know of examples such as core banking projects, integrated solutions in Government clusters, online collaboration tools in media, and self-service portals across multiple platforms for most industries.

The key challenge arises when conflicting business needs meet with ambiguity on how to best bring technologies, platforms and database designs together. Transformation projects are by their very nature fraught with complexity. The idea is that many moving parts of various systems will combine to become greater than the sum of the individual parts and thus create a better and more sustainable business.

However, the shift to cloud-based application hosting was already well underway before COVID-19 created the imperative to accelerate digital transformation. The advent of the ‘lift and shift’ migration approach – also known as rehosting – has proven itself to be a remarkably efficient way of moving into cloud-based environments quickly. Provided that the organisation has adopted cloud-ready or hybrid applications, they can potentially be lifted from their current IT environment and shifted as-is to their new, cloud-based home.

The reality for many organisations, however, is that there are almost always legacy systems that can not easily be moved.

How do you best execute a lift-and-shift project?

Successfully delivering an integration project requires, amongst other things, careful planning and design, strong executive sponsorship, clear articulation of the benefits and robust governance.

Some key areas of focus include:

1) Start with the end in mind – Architecture
A strong Enterprise Architecture practice will not only provide the base framework and guidelines for the solution architects and technical teams but help ensure the technical outcomes deliver against the business needs.

2) Engage strong Executive Sponsorship
Every project needs strong sponsorship especially integration projects due to the complexity and significant change they bring.

The sponsor needs to lead and help sustain the vision. In addition to this executive leadership, ensuring there are project champions spread throughout the business will provide the project with the additional motivation and energy needed for success.

3) Good Governance
As with any project, strong and appropriate governance is essential. For integration projects this is especially the case given the complex nature and multiple stakeholders.

4) Deliver lots of wins
Nothing breeds success like success. Integration and transformation projects are not short projects. Although COVID has accelerated the project timeline, big transformations require multi-year delivery and without regular and consistent reasons to celebrate it is easy for the project to become a grind and for moral and support to diminish. Delivering regular value and real outcomes demonstrate success and ensures consistent endorsement.

5) Process is key
Quality Business Analysts enable the organisation to understand where they are (current state) and where they need to be (future state). Clearly documenting complex business processes for automation and any integrations required to move into the cloud must ensure they meet the needs of the business and ultimately deliver the benefits.

6) Utilise best practice tools and platforms.
Specialist integration platforms and tools provide a means to ensure the integration is performed to maximum effect. Whether you need an ETL (data synchronisation tool) or a process-based integration tool, the selection of the tool can make or break the technical elements of the project. As lift-and-shift becomes more commonplace, it is yielding great outcomes quickly.

7) Monitor and performance manage the data and message delivery
It is vital to ensure that the data/message is delivered between systems. Monitoring and measuring performance is equally vital. Nothing undermines an integration project like lost or incomplete data.

8) Deliver against the benefits
Integration can be expensive so justifying the costs against the benefits is important to getting the project off the ground. The benefits of systems integration can be enormous and at times unforeseen.

It is ultimately about managing risk

There are significant risks involved in systems integration and digital transformation projects – both have a high failure rate. While lift and shift is rapidly changing the ease of moving into faster and more efficient environments, it is in the processes and risk mitigation strategies of effective project management, leadership, and the ability to drive complex change that ultimately deliver successful digital transformations.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...