Promising opportunities for data migration professionals

The data migration survey from Bloor Research in September 2007 points to a number of areas of great potential for freelancers, integrators, vendors and employees of organisations implementing data migration initiatives.

In this article we look at how the data migration profession can benefit from some basic innovations and improvements to take advantage of these findings.

Most migrations still fail to deliver on-time and on-budget

The fact that only 16% of data migration projects deliver on time and on budget may appear at first to be a negative statistic for the data migration profession as a whole.

Data Migration projects were found to be failing through some of the following causes:

  • Lack of effective scoping
  • Inadequate methodologies
  • Poor choice or lack of appropriate technology
  • Need for better collaboration

Customers, technology vendors, systems integrators and independent professionals need to understand how to deliver data migration projects using a more structured and professional approach with the appropriate combination of people, processes and technology that is freely available but often found lacking particularly within large-scale data migration projects.

Hand-coding still one of the most popular migration skills

This was a surprise given the maturity of modern data migration technology combined with the extensive marketing and sales efforts within the industry.

The performance and productivity benefits of data migration technology is either not getting through to customers or they do not believe there is a business case.

Whatever the cause, this result poses a significant opportunity for all those in the data migration industry, to offer products and services into a large and hitherto untapped market.

However, software vendors and systems integration specialists in particular need to do more to convince organisations that the benefits stack up. Organisations need to be shown in clear terms the financial, technical and business advantages of adopting data migration, data discovery and data quality style technology within their data migration initiatives.

Customers show strong interest in using a best-practices methodology

Showering the customer with the latest and greatest technology is pointless if you do not have a clearly defined strategy and approach for delivering data migration projects.

Data migrations are a complex relationship between people, process and technology and the findings are clear – organisations need help to create effective data migration methodologies.

According to the survey, most methodologies are completed in-house. Judging by the high failure rate they can also assumed to be largely ineffective or inappropriate.

Any supplier or internal team who can present clients or employers with a comprehensive data migration methodology is virtually guaranteed to find an eager market for their services.

If you are a supplier that does not possess a credible and proven data migration methodology (that your implementation team has considerable experience of using) then you are placing yourself at a distinct disadvantage as this is clearly a strong buying-point for customers.

A data migration methodology should not be a set of slideware or “filler” sections based on vendor supplied material to pad out your proposal in the hope of getting past the bid phase.

It should instead be an evolving framework that integrates best-practices, enabling technologies, skills development, performance measures and flexible deployment strategies.

A data migration methodology should also have senior sponsorship, appropriate funding and ideally a full-time “champion” to ensure that the methodology is adopted correctly.

Half of all projects are delivered by in-house teams

An interesting statistic as data migration is not always seen as a career opportunity within the permanent sector other than working with system integrators or consulting firms.

With most large organisations now doing approximately 4.5 large-scale application implementations a year there appears to be a growing need to develop in-house capabilities to cope with the rising demand. This presents good opportunities for those wishing to obtain permanent data migration roles working for one organisation.

For professionals who have outgrown the attraction of multi-site working, perhaps single-site, permanent roles, are finally a reality and this can only be a good thing for the profession.

The amount of in-house migration activity is good news for anyone wishing to develop a long-term career in data migration. Customer organisations should match this demand for internally delivered projects with a commitment to improved career and training structures.

Customers show a strong desire for better project communication and collaboration tools

The impact of this cannot be overlooked. Customer organisations clearly see a lack of effective collaboration and communication on data migration projects.

The fact that the most popular project tool was Microsoft Project clearly shows that some quick wins can be made by adoping more modern and collaborative tools.

Project collaboration has come a long way since MS-Project was launched. New web-based solutions for example provide major advantages, particularly for large, multi-partner projects.

The new breed of Web2.0 style communication and collaboration tools significantly lower the cost of ownership to the point that any organisation serious about delivering migration initiatives would be wise to explore the business benefits that these type of solutions provide.

The market for data migration projects is global and growing

Whilst it is hard to put any kind of hard figure on current and projected budgets for data migration it is clearly a market that will see a significant increase.

Although the US and Western Europe still remain firm favourites for future opportunities there is clearly long-term growth for data migration professionals, vendors and integrators to explore new markets in the Far East in particular. Japan for example showed significant budget growth for data migration over the next 5 years according to the Bloor survey.

If you are a systems integrator or technology vendor, now is the time to create a presence through new channels or alliances to get a footprint in these extended markets.

4.5 Application Implementations a year in Global 2000 organisations

Repeat business is good business and according to the Bloor survey, the average number of new application implementations taking place in large corporates means a steady stream of follow on work but only for those that can deliver successfully.

The impacts may be severe for suppliers that get it wrong so if you are a vendor or supplier in the migration sector ensure you have the credentials, experience and resources to deliver.

The results obtained by Bloor show most organisations experience some form of migration failure. Systems integrators and service suppliers will increasingly have to show excellent testimonials and a watertight approach in order to demonstrable credibility and substance behind their bids. Many customer organisations are increasingly nervous about taking on large-scale data migration projects so will critique data migration proposals exhaustively.

In Summary

There are significant, long term opportunities for technology vendors, system integrators, in-house customer teams and independents operating within the data migration sector.

However, the main message that comes from the Bloor data migration survey is that as a profession we must raise our game to win the prize.

The current rate of failure is a warning sign for all.

We must innovate new approaches, improve skills and career development, seek professional guidance where required and get those staple disciplines of project management, communication and collaboration working far more effectively.

More importantly though is the need to continuously analyse and share why data migration projects fall short of their objectives. Only through a continued commitment to learning from past mistakes can we move forward and deliver on-time, on-budget data migration projects.