An open letter to all business owners and top managers. A few naturally human mistakes that you should avoid during a migration to a new platform, cloud, software, or other IT system.

It is mostly about relationships between teams. For instance, developers and managers often speak different languages. It may quickly come to the point that one party or all of them give up trying to find a common denominator.

It is also about such a fragile thing as mutual trust between employees and top managers.

This article is also about team spirit, change management, and implementing a proper mindset that leads to a successful migration.

What mistakes should you fear on your way to a technology upgrade?

Starting without a strong technical lead

Developers need a coordinator with a strong and clear vision. Not necessarily a person, who does programming on a daily basis, but the one who has an understanding of dependencies between IT systems.

But they also need an advocate to represent their opinions and speak up for their needs. If the project management goes wrong, developers should be able to challenge decision making and take an active part in the further strategical considerations.

They need an interpreter with an authority in the firm that can effectively translate their technical statements into a general business language.

Giving nicknames to stakeholders

… or saying “they” each time you talk about the group. It draws a separation line between developers and stakeholders.

You all work for the same company.

As soon as there are “they” and “we” in the firm, you can forget about a successful migration. People start to look for mistakes in others’ work. Everybody begins to fear any responsibility and a general commitment declines.

Migrating inefficient working routines

Any platform has its purpose. For instance, process automation. Sometimes, the old platform could not handle particular processes. Workarounds were built. With a new platform, it may not be necessary to replicate these workarounds. Get rid of the old routines that slow down your business.

You’ll save time of your developers in the short run and of the stakeholders in the long run. It is better to go through a painful re-thinking of the old routines and through an even more painful transfer once and then put an end to the story.

Hiring new people desperately quick

… and firing them even quicker, since building a team is a long process that only starts with signing an employment contract. Don’t make people who leave the company willingly or not to wonder, why they were even recruited. Your company’s image will be spoiled much faster than you think.

This is also a burden for other employees to see a lot of colleagues come and go in a short period of time. People lose the sense of collectivity when they permanently see a lot of strangers in the office.

A team that has been working together for a while is more effective.

Advertising for the next employer of your folks

Don’t advertise for a new platform by saying:

With the knowledge of this highly popular technology, you will be in high demand on the job market!

For an employee, this actually sounds like:

We are going to fire you all after the migration is finished.

In the times, when people do not hesitate to change occupation every couple of years, greeting them with a plan for the next application round is … strange.

Using NLP instead of a fair communication

A sophisticated rhetoric may help you to make people nod in agreement, but only by coercion. If you want real support, talk to people honestly, at eye level, and do not hide problems.

A technical debate should not turn into a poetry slam. Most developers may miss a great speaker talent. You may bring them to accept your argument now, but in the long run, it may turn against your business.

Offering parties instead of trust

Although a weekend spent with colleagues in an isolated location may help to learn them from a new angle, it does not necessarily help to build trust. Knowing how drunk a co-worker may get does not contribute to learning his hidden working abilities.

If you feel that you and your employees, or a few particular teams need some opportunity to get to know each other better, make sure that you choose the right format.

Ask yourself, why these people may have communication problems? Do they have a different technical background? Or is it more about some cultural differences? Do they have different working routines? Different understanding of quality? Different pace?

And then ask yourself: what is it that binds all us together?

Praising only selected few

Yes, this can be too much too! Even for the person you are praising! Because it rockets the expectations — or one can think that he or she is being expected to perform better and better.

Praise a motivated person, but do not create a celebrity. Everybody in the team should have an equal voice.

A harmony, and not competition is a prerequisite for a stable team.

Migrations, transitions and other challenging times are good chances for high-performer to be seen. Do not forget that people with a more steady pace are valuable employees too. They do not rush, but they can be more attentive to small and important details.

Outsourcing management responsibilities

External specialists are often invited to smoothen a transition. Coaches and consultants can look at the old problems with a fresh eye and bring rare knowledge in the team. They nevertheless cannot replace an official supervisor. The project still needs engagement from the permanent internal management.

If you let an external consultant to lead your team instead of you, your folks may become a company inside the company. They may lose a mental connection with your brand. And with you personally.

Semi-technical mistakes

You may choose a wrong platform to migrate to. Make sure that you are not going to spend next years customizing it. If the customization effort equals that needed to develop something from scratch, then you’ve picked the wrong solution.

You may choose a wrong business partner or consultancy to assist you in migration.

How do you notice that one of them or both are the case?

  • You are stuck in a hybrid migration running two systems at the same time.
  • Your employees have to repeat their to-dos in both systems.
  • The old system can do more than the new one.
  • Nobody knows which system reports correct KPIs.
  • The provider of your new platform released so many updates in the meanwhile that you are actually migrating to something totally different from your plan.
  • The new platform retires features as easy as falling off a log.
  • Nobody remembers why the new system was chosen.
  • etc. …

Migrate or not migrate?

Sometimes, the old provider just announces that he is taking his service off the market. So, you do not really look for an improvement, but just want to keep your business going.

In any other case, really, follow the old idiom about never touching a running system. Remember, that your employees have got accustomed to all the quirks and workarounds. A new system will also have shortages and weaknesses. Most of them you will first learn during the migration.

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