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Migration of IT Systems is an Art!

It’s been more than 12 years now I have completed  a big enterprise wide migration aka transition from Exchange Server 2003 to Exchange 2007 in the United States. It took good 3 months to migrate an enterprise with 3000 mailboxes and thousands of public folders. I was so satisfied and happy when all that happened without a single glitch and any user impact. I was an achievement; believe me it was hell of an effort!

Have done some migrations before that including Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000, NT to Windows Server 2000 Active Directory and then many more came after that including Lotus Notes to Exchange Server (my favorite!). Was lucky to get opportunities beyond messaging that included setting up System Center, VMware, Data centers, enterprise desktop upgrades and running IT operations.

Then came cloud computing which inspired me, and Mismo Systems started. This was the world of Office 365, Modern Workplace, Azure, AWS, G-suite. Started understanding Azure Cloud Platform, designing environments that will run on Public Cloud, doing presales, implementing backups, implementing disaster recovery as a server (DRaaS), doing a few migrations for SMBs from G Suite to office 365 and migrating line of business applications to Public cloud and leveraging IaaS and PaaS, cool and interesting stuff.

Then came back a good migration project wherein we had to migrate multiple companies into a Single Office 365 tenant. I was excited with old bells ringing! Source systems were G Suite, on premise Exchange, Office 365 and Go Daddy. This was more than just email migration and included setting by Exchange Hybrid, moving Google Drive to One Drive, SharePoint Sites, Office 365 groups and Teams. With this migration about to complete I thought of sharing some traits of the IT systems migration which I believe is an art and comes from experience.

Planning

It starts from a detailed assessment of current environment, understanding the expectations from the migration (business requirements) and technical requirements. More time you spend here, less or no hiccups later. Putting together a project plan with clear communication strategy are keys to success. Avoid underestimating the effort! It would take more time than you think.

Documenting the to be design of the system and migration strategy is next. Assessment is the input to this. Draft a dependencies list and risks along with possible mitigation plan. Set right expectations from start!

Testing & Pilot 

Every environment is different, test even if you have already done the same test many times. Run a pilot on few users to get real results. Create a test cases list and don’t miss any tests. Avoid skipping through tests!

Execution 

Create a deployment plan before your start putting your design into action. Document and don’t rely just on your memory! Write every step that you will be taking in your migration project, even if it’s as small as running a command.

You have come the halfway, planning is completed, and half of the job is already done. Follow the deployment plan, you have created it for use. Do not rush, a slight delay is better than a poor user experience. Document each and every step you take. Communicate as you proceed with Weekly project reports.

Communicate as and when you think there’s a change or stakeholders & users should be informed. Be as transparent and open as you can. You think there’s a change and it will not have any impact at all and start skipping the communication. Don’t do this, things don’t always go as planned, however, if its communicated in advance, there’s no surprise and everyone is happy. Keep the communication channel on!

Transition 

You have done it, migration is completed, new system is live, old is decommissioned. However, job is not done yet! Someone will run the environment that you have setup. Train them, provide documentation with everything you have done, so it can be referred to in future. You will be remembered for good or bad reasons! Train the users if they are not used to new system.

I have heard people saying that Migration is painful, it’s never smooth, there will always be unknowns, productivity will be impacted.

However, if the process above is followed that includes arranging many elements including technology and people in such a way that result is appealing and a happy user experience. This is why I called it an Art!

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