Data migration, the best kept secret in telecoms

By : |December 5, 2007 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: Most service providers are doing it and have been doing it for some time. It’s well known for causing anxiety and frustration in equal measure. Recently it’s an area that major vendors have been quietly investing in, and it’s what everyone ‘in the know’ is talking about.

[image_library_tag 574/14574, hspace=”1″ align=”left” vspace=”1″ alt=”” ,default]Want to know the best kept secret in telecoms? Well it may not be fashionable, but suddenly data migration is one of the hottest topics around.

There’s few subjects in IT circles that cause such an extreme reaction as data migration. We’ve all read the surveys  that show data migration is pretty much universally loathed; most of us are aware of migrations that haven’t been delivered on time or to budget. It’s also fairly well recognised that migrations usually fail because of well-documented reasons that as an industry we keep repeating.

Well congratulations if you’re still with me, and I hope the very mention of the word ‘migration’ hasn’t made your heart sink too badly. The good news for both the IT department, and the business as a whole, is that data migration is coming out of the IT shadows and is increasingly finding itself centre stage.

Business managers in some of the world’s largest telcos are starting to recognise the key role data migration can play in making their business more competitive. In response, large SIs and vendors such as Accenture, IBM and Tech Mahindra have been quietly investing in both people and processes to create best practice. Awareness is growing and ‘migration’ is being whispered in many circles as ‘the next big thing’.

There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that the motivation for data migrations has fundamentally changed. Historically, migrations were due to issues such as re-platforming applications in order to decrease costs and increase efficiency (IT issues). Today, the motivation for migrations is increasingly due to revenue drivers (business issues). This change signals a shift in responsibility for migrations from IT to the business – a fundamental, far-reaching change of huge significance.


“Data migration is most definitely a business not a technical issue,” argues Johny Morris author of Practical Data Migration . “The IT department has been given the responsibility for data migration by the business, but not the power to deliver successfully. The business has requested migrations, but then has not taken responsibility for them. To be successful, migrations must be owned and driven by the business.”

Business drivers are increasingly stimulating a new wave of application and data migration. In other words, the CIO or CTO doesn’t own the consequences. Just as we expect a responsible and well-run business to take close control of its resources – such as buildings, people and so on – ensuring better control of its customer data is a key part of good management.

Looked at like this, data migration presents an opportunity to actually improve the quality, quantity and storage of customer data. It should deliver a tangibly improved customer experience, meaning that the business gains extra traction over and above non-disruption of business functions. In short, we should be seeing positive change from our migrations.

Industry analyst Teresa Cottam notes that the lack of business awareness about migrations stems from the fact that they are a relatively new phenomenon. “Telecoms IT systems were traditionally built to last. They were implemented tactically as required, and this strategy consistently countered attempt to plan an overall architecture. Very little thought was given to the fact that eventually systems would need to be retired or replaced,” she notes.

“The result is that IT systems are impeding business development at a time when competition is increasing. The business has to take control and ensure that the IT infrastructure is designed to deliver against the business’s specific requirements.”

There are sound financial and business reasons why this should be the case. Delivering a migration on time or early provides a direct route for the business to new revenues, and enables cost savings from switching off legacy applications. If you deliver a migration six months late then you will never be able to recoup the lost revenues and it will adversely affect your competitive position.


On the other hand, successful migrations are very often achieved at vast expense. The proportion of the project spent on migration can be huge. For example, one telecoms operator that is not untypical spent 60 percent of a recent application renewal project on data migration.

Another spent $26 million to move around 1 million customers over 18 months. While every environment is unique, only about 20% is actually different – meaning that 80 percent of the issues are common to all environments. That commonality points to an opportunity for automation, which allows the business to benefit from previously-developed technology and hard-won experience.

Johny Morris comments that reduced cycle times for migration are important, but predictability is key. “CEOs realise that being excellent in customer service in a critical success factor. This is what they want IT to deliver. They want migrations and application renewal projects to be aligned to business and customer needs, but they need them to be delivered as scheduled to ensure better business planning. Poor data migration compromises your ROI.

For example, if you acquire a company you project a return on investment after assuming how long it will take to amalgamate your systems and processes. If you don’t achieve this then it has a significant impact on your ROI. For businesses that frequently need to migrate systems – which will include most telecoms operators – showing you have good control of your ROI and that you are able to bring new products online regularly and predictably is vital to maintaining your share holder value.”

Celona believes strongly in a collaborative approach to solving data migration issues, in order to push best practice forward for the benefit of the industry as a whole. In our next article we will look in detail at what service providers can do to maximise their chances of delivering a successful data migration.

Business benefits of a better migration
Increased revenues due to the ability to launch and support new services more quickly, efficiently and at lower cost.
Reduced costs resulting from overall lower cost of migrating data and the ability to remove duplicated or expensive-to-maintain legacy solutions and data.
Better business planning, since the business can plan new product launches based on the knowledge that they will not be held up by data migrations. This is important because project delays mean that lost revenues may never be recouped.
Increased shareholder value, as a service provider that can reliably deliver migration projects is demonstrating both good corporate governance and the ability to respond to change.

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