When a client or business partner receives the message that their legacy digital platforms are due for an upgrade, it can feel like a challenge to a high noon duel in the middle of the office town square. One on end of the dusty road is the steely DevOps team staring down their formidable opponent – the ambitious, evolving Business Requirements and Enhancements. Even the most disciplined and dead shot DevOps team can feel a shiver of fear, facing down such an opponent. There are some essential skills and processes, however, that can make you and your team feel like Clint Eastwood.


The Good: you can prepare yourself

Assess, assess, assess! You never want to be the one who shows up to a high noon duel with a knife. Business involvement is key to making a complete and accurate assessment, so don’t wait to get all the business teams involved.

The first thing to assess is the current state of the legacy system. What are you dealing with, and what parts of it need to transition to the future platform? You need to get a thorough handle on all data, applications, and processes that run on the legacy platform. The business teams can tell you which things they use for what, and you can determine together which parts of the legacy system need to migrate to the future platform.

Then, of course, you need to assess future needs. Analyzing analytical trends in the legacy system to understand what worked and what didn’t can help you design a future platform that maintains the best features of the old. You know which moving parts need to be migrated.

Completing a thorough assessment, including the involved business teams not only makes you quicker on the draw in the crucial moment. They want to know that the migration that they are paying for will increase performance, scalability, and stability, both now and in the future. Including them in the assessment will contribute to their confidence in the migration.


The Bad: competing objectives

There’s a dust cloud on the horizon and an ominous ringing in your ears! You’ve been completing your assessments, sharpening your aim – and suddenly development goals are showing up to beg for your attention, dividing your focus, and potentially making you slow on the draw at noon. As you work with business teams to assess the current state, and the needed future state, you may find that they want new design, development, features, and functionality during the migration.

It’s up to you to keep your focus in the sandstorm. A resource drain on dedicated developers attaches a higher magnitude of risk to the migration project. Development teams that are supposed to be dedicated to migration activities, such as security, SEO, analytics, and meta data, might find themselves focused on new functionality instead. You need to squint right into that sand and sun and keep your eye on the target, or you might find yourself flat on your back when the dust settles.


The Ugly: risk

Assessments give you a clear target, and strong focus can keep it in sight through competing objectives. But risk? This sneaky downer can come in from the side at any time, and the best that you can do is manage it. The biggest risks are system downtime during migration, and the dreaded failed migration. You can address both of these with some careful communication and planning.

When addressing these risks, one of the biggest questions is whether legacy pages should be migrated one at a time, or whether the entire system should be cutover at once. Since you’ve developed a close relationship with the business teams and analysts in the assessment phase, they can be your backup. Decide with them which strategy makes the most sense for users. Keep you focus steady here – it’s all about what makes sense for the end users.

Another way to cut risk down to size is to avoid changes to the source database during migration. If anything goes wrong, the source database will be the proven, stable backbone of your system to help hold everything together. Along the same lines, keep a dedicated back-up of the legacy system to help minimize risk during cutover.

Managing risk puts all parties’ minds at ease, helping you concentrate on a clean shot, and keeping your clients present for the showdown instead of hiding behind the bar in the town saloon.


High Noon Favors the Prepared

It doesn’t matter who’s quicker on the draw if you aren’t aiming at the right target. It doesn’t matter if you have the right target in your sights, if you aren’t ready for whatever the bad guy throws at you. Preparation, communication, and risk management are essential to pulling out a win when it comes time to perform the migration. So, pull on your boots, practice your aim, and don’t forget that the business end users are on your team, staring these challenges down with you.


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