Software migration: a true company project

Wed 22 May 2019

One might think that migration, the final phase of a software integration project, is the exclusive responsibility of the IT department. That would be a grave mistake. This crucial phase can seriously impact a company’s customers, and consequently its bottom line. Therefore it must be carefully prepared, with cross-level support from all business units.

Migration: a high-risk phase for customers and earnings

Turnover and customer satisfaction on the front line

Any software migration may mean interrupting the execution of existing software and suspending services while data is migrated to the new software. The impact of this interruption on customers and the company itself will vary depending on the software.

For example, the interruption of an invoicing software for a few hours – or even days – at the start of the month will not disrupt invoicing at the end of the month. This implies of course that the migration is a success.

But a migration project requiring the interruption of the IN¹ platform will block prepaid communications. Even if the interruption lasts only a few minutes, it is likely to result in a direct loss of earnings for the company and numerous customer complaints.

Likewise, if an internal service is unavailable, it may have a significant impact on the productivity of the company’s employees.

The goal: make the migration process as seamless as possible

“A migration process is deemed successful if it is imperceptible to our customers.”

Any interruption or disruption in the information system (IS) must be as short as possible, so as not to hamper the company’s performance.  Ideally, it is important to ensure that neither employees nor customers are aware of any service disruption. However, this is seldom achievable.

Therefore, companies must carefully prepare any IS migration project in advance, and take all measures necessary to minimize the resulting impacts.

How to prepare for the migration?

Get all company entities involved upstream

Depending on the type and intensity of the expected impacts, it is vital that all affected entities, including the Management Committee, be informed of and adhere to the migration project.

Several entities will have a role to play, and will need to take measures to minimize the impacts on the company and its customers:

  • The marketing department must notify customers and inform them of any alternative solutions available to them.
    B2B customers, for whom even a short disruption in communications services may be critical, must be informed well in advance. Ultimately, this will mean fewer calls and complaints to the customer service department, and will safeguard customer satisfaction.
  • The customer service department must plan its response to calls and complaints received at the given time.
    In the event of serious disruption, the customer service department may need extra staff to deal with the surge in incoming calls. Managers may decide to move staff from one team to another. Another option is to hire external staff on a temporary basis. In either case, the necessary budgets and training must be approved and planned upstream.
  • The sales department must plan the discounts or commercial gestures it is willing to extend to customers in compensation for any disruption.
    Again, forward planning will enable the department to establish the rules of eligibility for discounts and to act quickly when the time comes. The budget should be estimated and approved upstream.
  • Back office invoicing staff may also be involved, hence the need to consider increasing their numbers too.

Four steps to minimize the impacts

1. Clearly identify the disruptions

Will the services in question merely get worse, or will they stop altogether? What type of disruptions will occur? Which – and how many – customers will be affected? How will turnover be impacted?

 2. Define the migration plan in detail

Although the supplier has a better understanding of its product and the appropriate procedures, do not hesitate to question the migration plan. The processes involved must be organized to the minute.
The migration plan must include a disaster recovery plan that states exactly when (or on what grounds) the migration process should be stopped and reversed. Another crucial measure: clearly establish who should be involved in these decisions.

 3. Obtain a written undertaking from the supplier

Where the risk is high, it is important to obtain a formal undertaking from the supplier to implement the migration plan as agreed. This will clarify the division of responsibilities and ensure that the supplier is fully committed to making the migration project a success.

 4. Have the migration plan validated by the Management Committee

The impacts, upstream and downstream costs, disaster recovery plan, roles, and responsibilities must be clearly validated at every level of the company.

Because the software migration phase can cause serious damage to a company’s customers and earnings, it must be thoroughly prepared with cross-level support from all entities.

Thus, migration is not simply a matter for the IT department. It really is a company project in its own right.


¹ IN: Intelligent Network

An IN platform includes the features that make it possible to pilot telecommunications equipment and services, such as:

  • Call management services: call transfer, conference, number portability, call waiting, etc.
  • Advanced invoicing features: prepaid, tollfree number, toll number, virtual private network (e.g. preferred number, family group, etc.

Sophie Vannier

MOE Project Manager