The World Health Organisation has described the world as being in ‘uncharted territory’ due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many working environments have changed significantly in recent weeks, but businesses remain resilient and are working hard to operate on a ‘business as usual’ basis.
In professional services, moving from on-premise to cloud solutions continues to be a significant move for those businesses endeavouring to drive sustainable innovation and competitive advantage. The collaborative benefits of the cloud are fuelling better customer engagement and accelerating many communication-based activities. Moving to the cloud means streamlining and digitalising key processes to unlock dead billable time, as well as integration, consolidation and access from any device.
However, whether you’re adopting a new application or migrating an existing one to the cloud, it’s useful to start with a clear understanding and documented approach. It is essential that companies understand not only the technical architecture surrounding each of their business applications, but also, in the case of collaborative cloud solutions, exactly how their customers and clients will interact with new cloud-based applications.
If you are considering migrating to the cloud, this checklist can help you to prepare.
- Dedicate time to tidying up your pre-migration data. If you’ve been using your current on-premise product for some time, you may find some of your data has become disorganised or requires a refresh. Do you have phone numbers where email addresses should be, for example? Do you have old data that should be removed – for example, former clients/customers that you haven’t dealt with in years? If migrating transactions, do you need historical data from five or 10 years ago, or just the most recent transactions? Do you have any GDPR considerations to take into account? Moving to new software is a great time to clean up your data.
- Review the mapping of your data fields. Unless your new software is an upgrade of an on-premise product moving directly to its cloud equivalent, you will need to map fields/tables from the old database to the new. This may be best outsourced to experts who have done this work previously.
- Pre migration, check out what data validation tools may be available to assess how smoothly your data migration will run, and whether any of your data flags migration related problems. Data validation tools will often show you the errors you need to fix, and if you can’t fix them, then it’s time to arrange for a consultant to assist. This can be especially important if migrating from multiple software systems (for example a separate CRM and accounting system) into one new software product.
- Consider migrating a couple of days before any cloud product training, as this ensures that your product training can be done on your live data rather than generic data. Once you’ve completed your cloud migration, invest dedicated time in employee training. When it comes to employee training, there are three things to remember:
- Whether moving the same software from on-premise to cloud or implementing new cloud software, there will be changes in the software that will necessitate changes in internal procedures and training provided by the software vendor (or their agent) who will help you to identify these changes.
- Professional trainers have a wealth of expertise gained from working with other companies using the same software and can potentially give you advice not just on using the software, but also around improving your procedures in relation to the use of that software. Additionally, your employees may not have had training on the software you are migrating from, and therefore this is a good time to invest in training for those individuals.
- In many industries, time spent being taught new software also counts towards employee CPD hours.
- Does your new cloud application have client login functionality? Communicate with your clients well in advance. Many professional services-based solutions, including cloud-based bookkeeping, tax and general accounting products feature extensive client dashboard functionality, so this is your opportunity to communicate the benefits to your clients. Consider whether you need to conduct client training sessions so that clients are making full use of the functionality on offer, and understand workflows.
- When planning the date and time for your migration, pay attention to your cloud product support hours. In the event that you do need help, you want to make sure it’s at hand.
- Plan your actual migration timetable and estimated duration. The time it takes to migrate to the cloud will vary according to how much data and how many applications are being migrated, as well as how much integration needs to be done. Very large migrations may have to take place over a number of days.
- If your cloud application has client login functionality, understand how and when new release functionality will be rolled out via the cloud. The beauty of the cloud is that delivering things online generally means that the benefits are felt more widely and quickly, but make sure you’re communicating this with your clients so that they experience the upside immediately.
- Consider the opportunity to make configuration changes to your software. Migrating to cloud software will bring benefits just because you are moving to new technology, but potentially you also have the chance to improve the configuration of your software, and your internal procedures, to make it more efficient and easier to use as well.
It’s also worth regarding the move to the cloud as an opportunity to take advantage of new software features – the cloud frequently has advanced time-saving features which your on-premise software may not have included. Being taught how to use these features by the vendor at the time of migration is much more efficient and less costly than learning by trial and error.
Critically, ensure you partner with an organisation that believes and invests in technology that makes a difference; technology for the real world. Done correctly, moving your key applications to the cloud with an integrated solution will set you apart and empower more productive services, giving you more time with your clients to add enhanced value to their businesses which can only help to solidify a strong future partnership between you.