The critical role of project scoping in advance of M&A data migrations

Data migration

Every migration project has one nemesis -- the unknown. No matter what data you’re migrating, surprises can send a project spiraling. Projects that run on time and on budget demand a clarity of vision that comes from comprehensive pre-migration assessments and project scoping.

Assessments are the best way to map a project and discover what was previously unknown. Effectively visualizing the source and destination environments helps you plan and understand all the different elements of a project. Who are the people required? What technologies are involved? Will you need any third-party tools? The discovery that pre-migration assessments provide helps you understand the nature of the project and how best to complete it.

How Mergers and Acquisitions Change Migrations


We’ve seen an uptick in migrations as mergers and acquisitions have heated up. When you’re looking at an M&A migration, every effort must be taken to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible. This will critically impact how the new organization operates moving forward -- and if the merger or acquisition can begin on strong standing. A pre-migration assessment helps ensure the project will be completed smoothly.

Data ownership can make M&A migrations tricky. The acquiring company needs access to information about a multitude of policies and varying setups within the company being acquired. You need to ensure that everything that’s being acquired -- employees, intellectual property, all the necessary data -- comes over. But you also have to ensure that’s all that’s migrating. You don’t want to migrate information that you shouldn’t have. That’s why getting a 30,000-foot view of the migration via an assessment is so important.

Security is also a concern. When you’re bringing new users into an environment, you’ve got to understand what types of users may be compromised and what types of users might create new threat vectors to the security of the system. After the migration, you’ve opened up your organization to those threats that may have been created within the original environment. Dialing in that information before the first person is migrated is extremely important.

Project Scoping

M&A is a wrinkle that makes project scoping even more crucial. There are times when assessment and project scoping are taking place before the merger or acquisition is finalized. This makes data permissions more complicated than usual.

The acquiring company needs all the information that it can get to prepare and appropriately assess and scope the migration project. But there’s always the trust factor. The company that’s being divested or merged rarely feels secure enough to hand over the keys to their system before the M&A is complete. This dance around access to information can impede communication and collaboration for a project that relies on both.

In these situations, it can feel like you’re going in with your eyes covered. You don’t want to miss things -- users, data, a floating OneDrive you couldn’t see during the assessment. Having a way to easily assess everything and get that information in a noninvasive way is critical to these projects, not to mention the organizations involved.

Common pitfalls of M&A migrations

Because assessing the project’s scope can be tricky with M&A migrations, it’s crucial that you get a clear picture of the data. When you don’t, there are different ways the migration might go off track.

One common mistake is assuming you have everything you need to complete the project successfully. Incomplete pictures develop in different ways. Some IT service providers might run their own PowerShell scripts for specific things in specific areas, causing them to miss other data. Some might rely on the end customer to provide a comprehensive view. These can give the false impression that you’ve scoped the entire project when there’s missing elements right under your nose.

Going into a migration with your eyes half open also creates security concerns. You have to be mindful of what you’re leaving behind, what potential threats you may have opened yourself up to after the migration. This applies to old data, but also to old accounts. What happens to those accounts afterward? Are they deprecated? What new threat vectors were created? Has everything been cleaned up and decommissioned? These all can lead to mistakes or lapses in security.

The benefits of an assessment

Almost every part of a migration benefits from a comprehensive assessment and proper project scoping. Assessments can give you the kind of clear-eyed clarity and awareness of the environment that’s necessary for a successful migration. These types of assessments help you accurately estimate your timelines, workload requirements and the staffing needed to complete the project. 

Thanks to these comprehensive views, you can also provide clients a more accurate cost estimate for the project. This helps to speed up the project’s timeframe and reduces a project’s unknowns. For service providers, assessments help them create more accurate bids for RFPs, giving them an edge over competitors in winning migration projects.

Once the project is won, assessments can help mitigate "scope creep." A clearer picture of the project means fewer surprises popping up mid-migration. Accurately assessing the environment cuts down on the likelihood of change orders.

Assessments as revenue opportunities

Assessments also give you the opportunity to add revenue. Specific assessments can be geared toward security, license optimization or productivity. Each one is a tool for a sales team to win new projects.

Assessments also offer a noninvasive way to understand a client’s environment, helping them solve challenges or issues for the end customer. These long-term assessments create a client "stickiness" that helps maintain productive relationships with existing clients.

Every migration has many moving parts, especially with mergers and acquisitions. Because they don’t rely on manual scripting, assessments free up valuable time to handle those parts. And once they're finished, those assessments can provide migration gold -- greater visibility for enhanced project scoping and the ability to mitigate threats and scope creep. The unknown is always the enemy of a smooth, successful migration. Leveraging assessments helps ensure your project won’t be tripped up by unwanted surprises.

Photo Credit: nelzajamal/Shutterstock

Willie Cash is the General Manager of Voleer Americas at BitTitan, where he works with SMB and enterprise partner companies to identify and implement effective ways to drive solutions, grow revenue, and increase profits in their day-to-day businesses. Learn more about Voleer here.

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