5 tips for smooth cloud migration

Insights Article - Planning a smooth cloud migration

Key takeaways

  • Customizations that are key to business are worth the price
  • Manage team expectations and engage users campus-wide
  • You will need sufficient technical support—either from in-house, your cloud provider, or a third party

Cloud migration should be relatively painless. The key is to plan, plan, and then plan some more.

Your plan will be as simple or complex as the cloud services you’ve chosen. But there are certain steps you can’t ignore if you want to minimize cost to the institution and disruption to users.

Here are 5 tips for a smooth migration:

1. Get your house in order 

Name any application and chances are it’s connected to something else. Start by conducting a comprehensive audit of your existing architecture and carefully map every element to the new cloud environment. Map related workflows as well, and streamline wherever possible. Make sure you’re running the latest version of all software.

And don’t forget to think ahead. When Virginia State University was planning its cloud migration, it added provisions to accommodate new applications and functionality already planned for in the future. Dr. Weldon Hill, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, explained, “We are making sure that technology will enable, not limit, us wherever we need to go long term.”

2. Figure out which customizations are, and are not, critical to your business

Every software customization increases cost and complexity. In the white paperHitting the Sweet Spot for Cloud Deployment in Higher Education, Ovum reported, “Analysis of customer environments prior to major upgrades by a major ERP vendor has confirmed that often, one-third of the customizations have been superseded by standard functionality built into the upgraded product, one-third are no longer being used by the business, and only one-third are delivering ongoing benefits to the organization.”

Customizations that are business critical are worth the price. But the promise of cloud is automation and extensibility. If you’ve made modifications on top of modifications over the years, take the time to assess which are worth preserving (and giving up a bit of agility) and which no longer warrant the tradeoff. 

3. Get everyone on board

There are business processes behind every piece of technology. And people behind those processes. If you don’t engage users campus-wide from day one, you’ll pay for it later. Create a multidisciplinary planning and transition team. Understand user needs. Manage expectations. Get users excited about cloud benefits. In return, you’ll get the cooperation you need during testing, training, and future upgrades.

Some clients tell me that faculty and staff have concerns about security in the cloud. Make sure to emphasize that, with the right cloud provider, your institution’s data may be even better protected in the cloud.

4. Make sure sufficient technical support is in place

Keep in mind: you’re not just moving data. You’re managing an array of variables: security, authentication, integration with third party software, compatibility, testing, monitoring—and just as important, maintenance and growth over time. If you don’t have the expertise in house, make sure your cloud provider or another third party stands ready to fill the gap.

When the University of Arkansas System eVersity, an entirely online university with an IT staff of one, decided to build a cloud-first, cloud-only institution, they outsourced their technical support to allow staff to focus on its core mission.

5. Go live with confidence

If you’ve planned for the contingencies, the transition should not have a significant impact on daily operations—except for the improved user experience, which everyone on campus will appreciate.

Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) in Wisconsin recently migrated its ERP and other systems to the cloud. They’re often asked for cloud advice, and their suggestion is to start small. Before migrating its main systems, data center, and portal to the cloud, WCTC tested the waters by implementing individual SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications. Evaluating service and managing expectations at a smaller scale prepared them to do so at the ERP level.

Can’t keep a good plan down

Ignoring any of these five steps can be costly in terms of downtime, lowered productivity, user acceptance, and expensive fixes. But if you build a good plan—including assessing your existing architecture, getting current, managing expectations, and putting the right people in charge—the transition should go smoothly.

To help you plan your journey to the cloud, please visit our Pathways to the Cloud page.

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