Companies are reviewing their messaging and collaboration infrastructure, either for opportunities to centralize, consolidate and control costs, or in response to changing business requirements. An upgrade from a legacy e-mail and collaboration platform promises not only greater functionality, but also the ability to integrate with other systems and incorporate new business processes that will streamline users’ daily work experience.
Given changes in many business environments – often in an effort to achieve global operations and presence through mergers and acquisitions – companies are looking for tightly integrated products and systems that link enterprise applications and extend these beyond the enterprise.
Upgrading an e-mail and collaboration system, for example, is one of the most challenging projects an IT department can undertake. Business conditions and IT environments have evolved and so have messaging and collaboration systems. Planning and communication can help smooth the way to a successful project.
Keep it simple, not simplistic
When it comes to planning, given the complexity of application and e-mail migration, it’s easy to under– or over-estimate what’s required to do the work. And simply replicating existing messaging and collaboration systems onto a new platform is too simplistic an approach. Migration presents an opportunity to re-think business needs and to consider which legacy applications continue to fulfill those needs. Companies who skip such a review process simply delay the inevitable need to keep or cut certain applications. It results in stretching out the duration of a project and losing many of the key benefits of migration such as improved and more efficient business processes.
As a result it is important to begin work with an analysis that might comprise either an application migration proof-of-concept or a pilot focused solely on e-mail – and in some cases, both. This helps to identify which applications are candidates for retirement in order to eliminate complexity as quickly as possible.
When companies break down application assets in terms of what impact these have on business function, they can better determine what’s really needed, and how these existing applications and the supporting infrastructures will continue to provide necessary function in the new computing environment.
Speak their language
Since migration has a longer lifecycle than other IT initiatives and proceeding too slowly can doom a project’s completion, it is important to pace work according to stakeholder acceptance, taking the time to answer application owner questions and get their buy-in on the migration.
When it comes to realizing benefits, it’s extremely helpful to focus on communicating the business rationale behind the decision to change. Otherwise, end-users may be prone to insist on and expect the new system to simply replicate the existing environment, feature for feature.
In addition, the promise of cost savings holds greater appeal when accompanied by service enhancement. In my experience, customers who focus solely on cost have had a harder time getting employees on board with migration.
It’s important to acknowledge there are distinct audiences when it comes to communications about messaging and collaboration. The people who maintain applications will seek technical information, and can benefit from a map of function in one system to function in the other, along with any extra features that make the change even more advantageous. For department heads with business function requirements, communication regarding value proposition – including savings – can help this group make decisions around the necessity of applications.
Timing is everything
Given the degree of consideration for where to begin migration, the question of when to begin can seem daunting. It’s a great time to make the transition with the start of rationalization of systems and centralization of function. The timing allows IT departments to incorporate greater functionality and richer features into centralized applications that offer better service levels to the organization.
Finally, user experience is a greater factor in migration evaluation and decision than it might have been before. More than ever, users take technology’s function for granted, and may have strong reactions to any upgrade in terms of access to resources such as help desk support and storage, disruption to related systems, and impact on their own preferences and usage patterns.
There are approaches, which can help smooth the transition. For example, senior executives tend to rely on their administrative assistants for help with new technology, and e-mail is no exception. In my experience, switching assistants to the new system first lets them help their executives with the change.
As collaboration has become even more integral to companies, user experience requirements may become more important in planning sweeping technological change. In my experience, for companies re-evaluating their messaging and collaboration systems and planning a migration project, it could mean the difference between a painful project failure and success.
–Frank Curry is the Practice Director for the Technology Infrastructure Practice of Avanade Canada. He can be reached at Frankcu@avanade.com or at (416) 641-5205.