Major IT upgrade

Major IT upgrade

In any organisation, updating IT is a painful experience. IT projects feel they have an unequivocal mandate to change. But the business pushes back if the migration compromises its ability to work. As a result, costs mount and the dreaded ‘m’ word looms large – mop-ups. Change management bridges the gap between ‘users’ and the unrelenting IT machine.

Because of my interest in IT and passion for change, I was asked to lead my part of a company during a significant IT upgrade. I was responsible for the migration to Windows 7 (showing my age) of 5,000 people. The upgrade included rationalisation and standardisation of apps, an email server migration and network upgrades. While my job title was Business Readiness Manager, I put on a full-blown Change Management hat.

In earlier roles in the same company, I had experienced migrations. While no worse than at other companies, I aspired to set high standards. In particular, I wanted to:

  • leave no-one behind. I have experienced disruption when team members have had to work together across different platforms
  • minimise business disruption. In a previous migration, I handed in my laptop in the morning only to learn it would not be replaced until the evening

My two masters had different ideas:

  • The IT project wanted me to make the business comply with their migration strategy and plans.
  • The business wanted me to eliminate any work they had to do to migrate. And prevent all issues or other forms of disruption.

Managing the change

I started by reviewing a migration in an overseas site. The same project team led the migration, and my German colleagues happily discussed the problems they experienced. I distributed my report and recommendations throughout the project and business.

  • With internal IT colleagues, a Big Four consultancy and two specialist IT firms, I sought an understanding of what they needed to do and how they planned to work.
  • I also set out my stall with the business, understanding what they needed to minimise disruption and how I could gain their compliance.

Sometimes I had to persuade the project to change its practices. For instance, I insisted on a pilot at the start of the project and go/ go no gates before each migration. Sometimes I had to be firm with the business as some teams and individuals tried to opt out.

Most of all, I focused on the outcome. Approaching each risk, issue or concern analytically and pragmatically. On the people side, my solutions included training, better communications, hands-on support and rescheduling. I also requested change from the IT project. For example, changes in architecture and a shortening of the of the ‘no changes’ window before each migration.

The results of change management speak for themselves

We experienced some significant post migration issues and chronic problems with the hardware and build. So, I reviewed every post migration issue with the affected user. I directed project support to urgent cases and demanded interim solutions when necessary. As a business, we held business only reviews for each migration, accepting no open issues and escalating repeat issues.

At the end of the project, we were closing each migration within two weeks, and we knew who hadn’t been migrated. I put in place a BAU (Business As Usual) solution to migrate people returning from maternity leave, overseas placements and long-term sick leave. I also made sure all new starters got the right standard of hardware and access to infrastructure. The project migrated 98% of 5,000 people in less than six months – with no mop-ups.

Key skills

Business outcome focus – ensuring business and project readiness. Driving issue resolution. Leading lessons learnt. Scheduling migrations around business constraints. Delivering business compliance with the readiness process.

Communications – sending local emails via the group President to enforce compliance with migration. Building a network of champions. Rewriting corporate communications and how to guides. Using email, posters, documents on desks, team meetings and the intranet.

Business analysis – creating and maintaining a structured list of all users with crucial data and change control. Auditing application discovery by individual and function. Understanding business critical periods, processes and programmes.

Risk and issue management – identification via a network of champions, functional representatives and lessons learnt. Using a joint RAID log with the IT project team. Holding regular reviews and managing escalation. Maintained a local list of post-migration issues, driving and confirming closure.

Project governance – introducing standard, common terminology. Reducing the cost of IT processes, Implementing, go/ no-go gate before migration, business only reviews and closure.

Do you need to upgrade your IT tools? Are you worried that IT and the business will clash instead of co-operating? Contact us today to discuss your requirements and learn what Delta Swan can do for you.