Achieving a seamless transition from legacy tech to the cloud

Not too long ago, on-site physical IT infrastructure and traditional software were the only options available to tech-forward companies. As such, many businesses have relied on these legacy systems for decades.

Today, businesses are increasingly embracing the multiple benefits of moving away from these older systems and towards digital-first solutions like cloud computing, which offers both flexibility and scalability for dynamic organisations, as well as notable cost-savings and improved security and compliance compared to their legacy counterparts.

Migrating operations to the cloud can pose a significant undertaking, from the technology and processes to the skills needed to make it a success in the long term.

Technical debt, accrued as companies must continue investing in legacy technology to keep up in an increasingly digital age, can compound this issue further. Below, we explore the best practices for companies looking to make this transition.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

A robust pre-migration strategy is key to avoiding being blindsided part way through a long and costly migration. Many companies want to improve their digital capabilities through a transition to the cloud, but enter the process without conducting a full SWOT analysis, leaving them vulnerable to unexpected issues.

A SWOT analysis refers to the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that in this case, cloud migration presents. Though this is a complex technical undertaking, this analysis should strive to take a holistic view, evaluating everything from technical, financial, training and operational aspects. This will allow you to build a fuller picture, and incorporate these elements into a full migration plan, while also assisting you with spotting potential roadblocks as well as potential opportunities for further growth or optimisations.

Assess existing infrastructure

Businesses that rely on their legacy technology often find themselves dealing with a patchwork of various systems. In these cases, cloud migration is a more detailed operation than simply “lifting and shifting” your existing systems into the cloud.

It is important to evaluate each system or application and its readiness for migration to the cloud, as well as any existing integrations these systems rely on for business-critical operations. Some may need special consideration when it comes to migration, and being aware of these early on will help you plan ahead and identify where new migrations may be needed within the new system.

A full audit of this kind will enable you to gain oversight on your existing architecture, along with its dependencies or unique requirements.

Create a migration plan

Many cloud migration projects fail to deliver on time or on budget due to insufficient preparation at the planning stage, so it is vital that you create a detailed plan that sets out realistic objectives, timelines and milestones for each stage of your migration journey.

Ensure you have a full inventory of all your existing legacy architecture and any associated integrations, as this will help you to facilitate a smooth transition. From here, prioritise each part of the transition based on factors such as operational importance, cloud-readiness and estimated business impacts and downtime.

This final point is particularly important, as migrations, especially those involving long-standing legacy systems, will naturally come with a certain amount of downtime as systems are moved into the cloud. It is crucial that this downtime is built into your plan, along with strategies on how this disruption to normal operations can be minimised or mitigated.

Define roles

One of the biggest consequences of a reliance on legacy systems is that the skills and knowledge associated with these systems can end up siloed within pockets of an organisation. As part of the migration process, it is important to identify these existing skillsets, and how they can be best adapted to fit with modern cloud-based systems. This not only helps to boost the buy-in across an organisation if employees are able to transfer their existing skills, but it also helps bolster your in-house capabilities with cloud systems.

Sometimes, the skills needed to maintain and optimise your new cloud systems will not be available in-house. It’s therefore important to have an open dialogue with a competent cloud partner, to ensure both your vendor’s and your own responsibilities are clear during and post-migration.

Defining these roles and responsibilities around new cloud systems will help to ensure a smooth process, avoiding confusion and promoting accountability.

Consider change management

The transition from traditional legacy systems to an agile cloud system comes with a host of benefits, but many employees can also view it as a threat. Achieving real transformation through a legacy tech-to-cloud transition must involve recognising and mitigating employee-based risks, by minimising resistance to new technology and maximising adoption rates.

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through a change management programme. Different organisations will require differing levels of support when it comes to adopting changes and realising the full potential of new technologies. A robust change management strategy will include assessments of how change-ready your organisation is, working with employees to build both confidence and trust in new systems, increasing adoption rates and building technical capabilities along the way.

The migration process

Before the migration itself begins, it is crucial that you backup your data. From here, you can begin with smaller, non-business-critical parts of your existing systems, using these as a test run for the wider migration, and allowing you to identify and address any potential issues before moving on to business-critical systems and applications.

It is important to note that not everything must be migrated at once. Legacy systems can be complex, and breaking the migration down into more manageable chunks helps to set realistic timelines, allowing time for any potential troubleshooting.

The process of transferring data must be managed carefully to ensure the integrity of your data is preserved. Once this is done, the next step is to migrate applications. Again, this must be done with the utmost care, ensuring they are properly integrated and work optimally within the new cloud environment.

Continued improvement

Cloud systems, once up and running, require much less maintenance and management than legacy technology, though it is still necessary and recommended to keep up to date with new features and updates from your cloud provider. Even in situations where it has been possible to lift and shift systems to reduce risk and effort upfront, it is still possible to improve and amend these systems once in place.

Similarly, once the initial migration is over, this does not mean you shouldn’t continue to ask for feedback from your teams and users of the new systems. Doing so can provide invaluable insight into how the cloud is working for your business, and where tweaks and optimisations might be made. This approach of continuous improvement is key to ensuring you are leveraging the cloud environment to its full potential.

Final thoughts

Migrating from legacy systems to the cloud can pose significant challenges for businesses of all sizes, but through careful planning and a robust migration strategy, organisations can spot potential roadblocks early on, and plot a course that enables a smooth and timely transition, allowing them to reap the business benefits of cloud computing.