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Why Assessment Proficiency is Vital to Successful Data Migration

By Willie Cash, General Manager of Voleer Americas at BitTitan

There are many reasons why migrations succeed or run into trouble. But in either case, how well the project was scoped is usually a contributing factor. That's because performing a thorough assessment tends to reveal a host of "unknowns" of which data owners and project managers are unaware. It's a situation that occurs often when migrating a single organization's data, and almost always is the case when there is  a merger or acquisition taking place. Cutting corners on assessing environments and project scoping can lead to unknowns causing unwanted, risky surprises later.

When scoping a migration project, you'll need to answer questions about the current IT ecosystem and the ideal state of the destination environment once the migration is complete. You'll need to know:

  • Who are the people required? Know how many users will be migrated. You'll also need the proper knowledge and skills on both the client and MSP sides to understand the project and execute it efficiently.

  • What are the technologies involved? While IT disparity between organizations is expected, you'll often find vastly different systems, protocols, and security between teams, departments, and divisions of the same company and certainly the acquired company. Be prepared to uncover and harmonize these technologies and specify any third-party tools that are needed (e.g., Salesforce).

When performing assessments, you will often find more data than initially expected. In seeing the visualizations, stakeholders will often realize the full extent of their IT landscape: the number of teams their company has, the number of archived users in their tenant, and the number of inactive users in the tenant.

Performing assessments for M&A migrations

Combining the IT systems of two or more organizations into one cohesive environment involves layers of complexity. Seldom are these marriages of equals-the acquiring or lead organization will often direct activity and information needed from the acquired company. In scoping the project, the acquiring company may provide user mailboxes and teams and some policies, but that's not enough. Open communication and collaboration are necessary between both organizations, as well as all the specifics to make informed decisions. Otherwise, you can miss users, data, and end up misaligning permissions and setups based on assumptions that were made from incomplete information. 

Nowhere is this more vital than with security. In addition to uncovering forgotten pockets of data, you'll likely find permissions for users who no longer need access or whose credentials have been compromised. When working through these scenarios, be mindful of what data is being moved and left behind, and institute new credentialing to limit who can access the data. You'll need to take special care in situations where IT consolidation is happening before the merger or acquisition is complete, as permissions need to be provided while meeting the security requirements of both organizations.

Problems with users, processes and systems are exactly what assessments are designed to uncover. If done properly, accurate project scoping will offer greater insight into both organizations' IT environments and the ideal formation as they consolidate. You'll find information or data points that you may not have expected, and you'll be able to provide more accurate estimates of project costs, timing, staffing and workflows. A good assessment will also help forestall scope creep-you'll have a clear roadmap and action steps, significantly reducing the likelihood of change orders.

Common mistakes to avoid

Above all, overconfidence can be a prime cause of migration derailment, especially in M&A scenarios. In gathering input from various stakeholders, don't ever assume you have all the information you need. In fact, you may be inadvertently hampering your own efforts through hidden biases built into your assessment methodology. For example, PowerShell scripts and reporting may only look for specific elements in certain areas lead to blind spots. Similarly, questionnaires may only focus on part of the story, especially if they have not been customized for a particular engagement.

Find out what you don't know, even though that poses challenges. A prime invitation for trouble is not paying attention to the pervasiveness of data. It sprawls and lives everywhere, potentially forever. Migrated data may be left on servers it passed through on its journey and unwanted data may continue to live on old servers or in forgotten or overlooked places in the cloud. And it all may be accessible by bad actors in possession of still valid credentials. Be sure to clean or decommission all formerly used environments of each organization at the end of the project.

How assessments drive revenue

Even the simplest migrations are complex-which presents an extraordinary opportunity for MSPs to add value by offering a variety of cloud assessments, which can improve security, productivity, usage, and more. Assessments can also offer an easy, noninvasive way to understand a client's IT environment, helping you pinpoint hidden challenges and issues that may need the kind of remediation you can provide. Throughout it all, the organizational knowledge you gain and solutions you provide make it easier for the client to continue to call on you, rather than embark on a new learning curve with a different vendor.

Given the many moving parts of any migration, assessments give you a vital tool for enhanced project scoping while mitigating the threat of the unknown. Learning to make the most of them can make a real and positive difference for your clients-and your business. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Willie Cash Voleer 

Willie Cash is the General Manager of Voleer Americas at BitTitan, where he works with SMB and enterprise partner companies to identify and implement effective ways to drive solutions, grow revenue, and increase profits in their day-to-day businesses. Learn more about Voleer here

Published Tuesday, July 20, 2021 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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