Author: Gareth Smith, Technical Enterprise Architecture
This blog outlines how we conducted a large-scale cloud migration from on-premises to cloud. The motivation for this migration was to enable the customer to expand the scale and scope of its organization, to onboard new sub-organizations quickly and easily, and to improve efficiency. The move to ‘as-a-service’ solutions allows customers to reduce administration overhead, as well as benefitting from Oracle-managed patching and maintenance.
This migration project was a 2-year undertaking, involving a large chunk of Fusion functionality with over 100 integrations to various other systems. The project was directed by us, Oracle, with our consultants leading the various functional streams. It involved contributions from other service providers, as well as the customer stakeholders participating in the project steering group.
Our role was to act as the project and functional lead, while also handling some of the technical architecture and implementation. We were heavily involved in helping the customer to adapt its architecture and ecosystem to a cloud-based environment by enabling the organization and business processes to work with the functionality delivered ‘as-a-service’.
The successful collaboration between the various parties was built on close cooperation at the steering group and project management levels and within the functional streams. Several plenary sessions were held throughout the project's duration to keep the wider stakeholder audience appraised of the project’s development and aware of the impending move of many of their day-to-day activities to the cloud.
This meant that when the migration project was completed, the customers' business processes switched from on-premises to the cloud, right on time. There were relatively few teething problems: the compressive and systematic migration work meant that all integrations, processes, and data were available on the cloud and that the pre-launch familiarization work, done to prepare stakeholders for the new environment, had paid off.
Naturally, many lessons were learned from executing such a large-scale migration project.
One key lesson included ensuring all stakeholders recognized that ‘as-a-service’ solutions are "solution-driven" rather than "requirements-driven". In other words, Software as a Service (SaaS) already implements best-practice business processes so customers do not have the added task of defining their own. Of course, Oracle's SaaS solutions can be easily configured and extended to meet specific business-critical customer requirements.
However, customers should be prepared to question their methods!
Organizations must consider whether an in-house approach will deliver the business benefits they are aiming for – and if the expense and effort of extending SaaS to accommodate it is worthwhile - or acknowledge that an out-of-the-box functionality may suit them better. Unless a business derives a significant competitive advantage from opting for a bespoke invoice-handling process, for example, it might be more appropriate to instead choose a standard and well-supported system.
Migrating to the cloud offers organizations an opportunity to streamline business processes, which will pay dividends over time by reducing complexity and simplifying the sourcing of skilled employees to operate these standardized processes.
Despite this, there is still value in tailoring a wider SaaS solution to meet specific customer requirements. For example, customers need to consider how they would like SaaS solutions to integrate to on-premises systems and other services from the perspective of security and identity management, networking, and integration technologies. Customers also need to give some thought to their non-functional requirements, such as disaster recovery and log management, so that the SaaS solution can align with wider policies. We as Oracle Consulting can provide expertise in helping the customer to specify & implement those requirements, although the mandating of requirements must come from the customer themselves.
During a project with such a wide scope and relatively long duration, it is inevitable that external changes will occur. These could be organizational or as part of the solution landscape and may impact the project in significant ways, including a lack of availability of key correspondent systems due to slippages in other projects, or radical changes in the organization’s scope. In circumstances like this it is essential to have rapid, flexible integration capabilities, which can be achieved through implementing standard best practice business processes to keep any impact localized, and therefore isolated from, the core project.
This cloud migration, in particular, demonstrated that good cooperation with the customer at all levels and in all capacities is very important. Such cooperation aids bi-directional information flow, keeping the customer abreast of the project's progress and capabilities coming on-stream, and enabling the project to rapidly source necessary information and secure necessary decisions.
All in all, this project proved that with the combination of good project management and involved stakeholders, the migration of a business-critical ERP system from an on-premises data center to the cloud is eminently feasible.