Software Migration Challenges

As the previous sections illustrate, there are significant challenges in any type of system or software migration. Some of the major challenges to be aware of are:

  1. Commitment from Stakeholders: Due to the long duration of many migration projects, the commitment from key stakeholders can be tested. This is especially true as these department heads and team leaders may be responsible for budget, which will start getting spent immediately, and for return on investment (ROI), which may take years to manifest. A long term plan with clear targets and timeline estimates is the only way to mitigate this problem. 

  2. Duration: Closely tied to price is the cost of time. It’s not just the downtime that some departments may face intermittently throughout the migration, or the time some senior team members must spend overseeing the project. Migration itself - especially for larger systems like databases and ERP software - can take years of planning and executing, because it’s too risky to take business-critical functions offline simultaneously. Long term projects can get unwieldy when you factor in team members who move on, and the necessary interdepartmental nature of most large-scale migrations. 

  3. Coexistence of Old and New Systems: For the sake of business continuity, no migration happens all at once. Therefore, you will likely have a large period of function and data overlap between the old system and the new. However, this won’t be in perfect parity, as the old system gradually drains into the new, in phases. During this time, there is a potential for redundancy, and confusion on the appropriate place to store data or the decision to duplicate or not. Having a solid plan with clear standards for each phase is the only way to ensure this doesn’t result in lost data or critical systems failures.

  4. Privacy: Especially when it comes to moving to or from third-party systems (like cloud servers), privacy of data and business operations is a major concern. Oversight and ironclad SLAs are essential to any major migration that involves external companies and vendors.

  5. Risk of Noncompliance: The entire purpose of a migration is to get the existing system running properly in a new environment. However, that isn’t guaranteed, and each environment has their own properties. If old systems end up having functions or operations that the new system is incompatible with, the project will take a serious blow. In a cloud migration scenario, it could be that the cloud platform you’re moving to doesn’t meet regulations for HIPAA compliance, or that they don’t access and store data in the same way. Issues like these need to be known far in advance of putting a plan into motion, so that workarounds can be developed or better vendors can be found.

  6. Investment: Every software migration represents a financial investment on a company-wide scale, which means that there must be buy-in from stakeholders such as department heads, the CEO, and even the board of directors (depending on your organisation structure). However, the price is not just measured in the cost to purchase the new software, license middleware, or hire third-party migration specialists: there is also the cost of internal resources devoted to the migration effort. This includes leaders and team members who must oversee and report on the effort, and the opportunity cost of those team members not working on another, more immediately-profitable venture. There is also the opportunity cost for other team members who are unable to perform their ordinary work functions as a result of systems being temporarily down. This can result in a prohibitive project budget, and be difficult to prove the value of migration against.