We are at least into the second or third generation of front and back office software delivered via the cloud. It’s hard to be sure because updates arrive in a blizzard these days compared to the days when annual updates were the rule. As good as the continuous update cycle is though it has at least one drawback—how to switch vendors. This issue is especially prominent where a cloud vendor and a conventional vendor occupy the same space in a customer account.
The old strategy of rip and replace is almost never done anymore because complex systems tuned to your business over many years don’t simply evaporate and their replacements don’t just crystallize. Transition needs planning and very good execution. That’s why I wrote a paper about another model for swapping products that I call the surround strategy.
Briefly, the surround strategy is just like it sounds. It involves running two systems side by side and gradually moving workloads. The transition state in which both vendors do some amount of processing can be brief but most likely it’s a long term thing. In fact there’s no requirement that a full transition take place. Sometimes the incumbent system just needs some specialized processing to be performed and the results imported.
Regardless, there are good approaches to the surround strategy and some things to be avoided. For example, you might want to check with your incumbent vendor if your process involves going long on your existing contract. A vendor might use that as leverage to discourage the move. Can you blame them?
So planning the move is essential and so is attending to the people issues like training and adjustment to a new way of doing things. The document productivity industry seems ripe for this approach. Many of its applications are over a decade old and there’s a generation of better, faster, cheaper solutions in waiting. It’s also one of those areas where the software can install fast but where the planning and implementation issues will determine success.
All of this is covered in my paper, “The Surround Strategy,” and it can be downloaded free here. Transitions are a way of life in IT so developing in-house expertise for doing it right can pay many dividends. Good luck in your journey.