All-out migrations to a single, new platform may look attractive, but…

Technology leaders in LP&I providers face unprecedented demand for change. That’s no surprise. The costs and risks involved in supporting and maintaining an IT estate of multiple line-of-business systems are mounting all the time. We’ve already looked at the root causes behind this phenomenon. In this post, I’ll be looking at the traditional ‘silver bullet’ response to overcoming it…and taking note of why it can go wrong.

It’s more than understandable that, faced with urgent calls for transformation, ‘starting over’ can seem like such a beguiling option for technology leaders. After all, in an ideal world, migrating to a single, new, modern, low-risk platform would solve the problems of complex IT estates in one decisive move.

In certain cases, of course, migration can be the right answer. For example, newer products and portfolios (dating back 10 to 15 years), lower-complexity products, and high-data quality source systems can and often are successfully migrated to new platforms.

But all-out, large-scale legacy migrations are extremely challenging to deliver. The LP&I industry is littered with ambitious programmes that either failed completely or had to de-scope and stop well short of expectations. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in all those cases, either the scope was very closely defined or the business case was never achieved.

So why is this? Based on our experience, we know that large legacy migrations can fail where the significance of some or all of the following issues is overlooked/underestimated 

  • It’s challenging to find a target platform that can support the diversity, complexity and structures of existing products. Most migrations severely underestimate this functional gap during the selection process (as well as the cost/complexity of bridging the gap).
  • Because most migration programmes are lengthy and all-consuming, conflicts in the change path are commonplace. New product launches and/or compliance with mandatory regulatory developments mean that priority calls have to be made, often delaying or compromising the migration.
  • Without heavy customisation taking place (or external processes being introduced), it will be impossible to maintain operational and risk levels on the new platform from Day One.
  • Data quality in the source system is often incompatible with the target platform’s minimum data requirements. Many projects stumble, and some fail, because this bar cannot be cleared.
  • The moment of truth in any migration comes towards the end of the project life-cycle, when testing is already well advanced. When (inevitably) problems are discovered, these can have a profound impact and major compromises often have to be made (eg manual processes, ring-fenced policies etc).  
  • Like whirlpools, migrations are resource-hungry, drawing in SMEs from across all areas of the business during their lifecycles. This can be a major distraction from driving growth through new product innovation.

LP&I providers today typically enter into RFP processes with a silver bullet solution in mind. This shapes the requirement for a migration-based approach and, understandably, suppliers respond with that, rather than considering alternatives. The RFP processes then tend to falter because the business case for a full migration just does not work (despite most suppliers taking a very optimistic view of the costs, capability of the target, level of customisation required, timeline and delivery risks.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. The hybrid approach we’ve developed does not assume a particular solution from the outset, but considers a range of solution strategies that combine migration with modernisation. Where possible, we seek to leverage existing investments in platforms by using a range of ‘treatments’ to modernise underlying technologies. But when it makes sense, and based on a clear set of guiding principles, we do pursue migrations onto a new platform or another platform within the provider’s portfolio.

Sounds intriguing, I hope. Next time I’ll go into more detail about how this proven approach plays out in the real world, the benefits it delivers, and how we develop business cases to support it.

Thanks for reading.

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