When migrating from legacy applications to cloud-based software as a service (SaaS), many organisations don’t spend enough time evaluating their environment and requirements. Instead, the focus tends to be on implementation and quick wins. But rushing into SaaS transformation without a carefully considered strategy can minimise its benefits and create risk for the organisation. There is a better way.
To enable smooth and effective migration, organisations must take a measured approach — one that is focused on identifying the right people, process and technology upfront. Investing in the discovery phase — including allowing key business owners to evaluate potential products and clarify needs — is critical for creating an effective blueprint and foundational structure for change. You can quickly determine which processes to retain, reshape, retire, reengineer or replatform.
It can be a daunting task to align IT, business teams and senior leadership on a new way of handling the migration process, but effective discovery and change managment - empowered by the right tools - can pave the road to smart SaaS.
Coping with change: Form a new coalition
The transformation journey should ideally be focused on achieving harmonised processes and delivery approaches (see Figure 1). A dream team for cloud migration change management includes people with different skill sets from key business and technology departments across the enterprise. Their function is to steer the organisational change that results from the move to cloud. The coalition should be self-organising, with no internal management hierarchy, and lead the cloud migration as a unit.
Unlike traditional implementations that start at “as-is” and advance to “to-be” through design, build and test, a discovery-intensive approach starts with a conference room pilot. This show-and-tell session showcases well-defined user journeys, gives early visibility into the product under consideration, enlists adoption by key stakeholders and makes sure that operations are not negatively affected. Presenters can also highlight the latest and greatest SaaS offering features, such as responsive user interfaces and conversational experiences.
During the discovery phase, it is important to identify champions for each process area (business, technology, vendor) who can establish design principles, decision logs, key risks and mitigations, as well as serve as a governing body for approvals, improvements and return on cloud investments. In addition, you can invite third-party SaaS migration experts to incorporate proven tools and methodologies that efficiently shape the discovery phase.
Figure 1: Transformation journey focused on achieving harmonized processes and delivery approaches.
Your cloud journey blueprint: Discovery is key
A learning approach immerses people in the SaaS project so they truly understand the technology and business problems they’re looking to solve. To start, conduct an in-depth analysis and evaluation of your current technology:
- Perform a bottom–up, on-the-spot analysis that highlights whether you have the right combination of business and technology teams.
- Identify business cases to be resolved and establish directional workload disposition.
- Identify any gaps by planning a 2- to 3-day workshop with SaaS providers and partners covering the business, platform, people, security, governance and operations.
- Make sure the SaaS application complies with any customisations or boltons needed to meet your organisation’s policies or industry-specific business processes.
- Collaborate with partners/SaaS providers to ensure existing products, processes and culture will not keep the SaaS model from blossoming.
During this initial discovery assessment, a baseline is established and the transformation journey map is defined (see Figure 2 and Figure 3). With the help of a repeatable migration framework, organisations can accelerate the process, identify mature automation tools and incorporate security considerations.
Drive the program: Choose the right tools to renew and transform
IT is an enabler of change, but business is the driver, so it is vital for one business owner at the chief experience officer (CXO) level to drive the transformation and adoption. Project champions then leverage SaaS methodology to make sure business users are adopting SaaS rather than retrofitting existing processes.
A wide array of migration and testing tools can efficiently perform extracts, inject setups and master data, and execute end-to-end automated functional testing of applications and other critical tasks (see Figure 4).
SaaS migration actions include the following:
- Conduct online questionnaire interviews to compile configurations for the SaaS functional setup manager.
- Deploy automated and secure software to prepare all data and install it directly into the target instance.
- Automate master data/configuration upload to stand up SaaS instances with future-state business processes.
- Provide reports and dashboards to review configuration injections and ensure that all configurations are loaded, correct and supported.
Deploy tools that allow configuration simulations and comparisons to test different scenarios and migrate configurations between environments.
- Build reconciliation reports to compare key source-to-target data movements like opening balances and the number of transaction records.
- Establish a test repository with scenario descriptions, test scripts, userconfigurable workbooks and other assets.
- Provision a testing-as-a-service automated tool to significantly reduce testing time and costs for quarterly updates and to help deliver high-quality solutions.
Post-implementation: Process optimisation
Optimising and automating processes drives continuous improvement and innovation for the newly transformed SaaS solution. Post-migration actions include the following:
- Take advantage of customer feedback, regulatory changes and other information SaaS providers collect and prioritise as part of each quarterly rollout to enable better quality and performance.
- Play an active role in community forums, customer communities and product events.
- Incorporate release upgrades every quarter to keep the staged environment up to date. Maintain a regression plan. Maintain product release notes and roadmap.
- Provide managed services, including continuous delivery, for perpetual support and governance of cloud applications, including quarterly updates and automated testing.
- Define the cadence of production-to-test refresh, including data masking automation.
- Align change requests/suggestions with the product roadmap to determine if the SaaS provider is already delivering the update in release.
- Create a dashboard to monitor the performance of integrations to ensure timely delivery of data to vendors and regulatory bodies.
- Deploy tools and techniques that eliminate waste from existing business processes and simplify and standardise process flows. Cognitive/artificial intelligence (AI) tools serving as a virtual workforce, for example, can rapidly improve speed and quality while reducing costs. Even simple automations, strategically deployed, are immediately effective.
- Leverage automation insights to identify automation candidates and ensure that cognitive/AI tools are executing each automation step successfully as planned, even as processes and technologies change.
Determine the financial benefit of cloud adoption
To understand the financial impact of the shift from CAPEX to OPEX on any cloud business case, start by accounting for cloud costs in ongoing budgeting and forecasting. IT and IT finance can help capitalise cloud implementation costs. Be sure to consider the financial implications of writing down IT assets that have “book value” left on amortisation schedules.
Each step of the transformation journey calls for different parameters:
- Business case development (early adoption). Create an enterprise-wide financial view estimating costs, business drivers and an optimal migration timeline.
- Application and operational cost projections (early to intermediate adoption). Understand the cost per application and estimate the projected run rate to compare sourcing costs and operational budget requirements.
- Internal transition model (intermediate). Create a transparent, fact-based transition model to monitor current costs and implement controls to prevent overages in cloud spend.
- Cost efficiency, optimisation and controls (mature cloud organisation). Establish governance to optimise spend, resource utilisation and cost transparency. Provide additional control and budgeting capabilities for cloud adoption.
Road to success
The goal of SaaS migration is to implement and optimise quality cloud solutions, reduce risk and improve business outcomes. The right people, change management and technology — including a measured, data-driven approach that deploys automated tools and starts with a machine-generated digital baseline and migration blueprint — can go a long way toward making the move to cloud smooth and successful.