Vertek Blog Series – “Lessons Learned: Effective Carrier Migrations,” Part I
By Brad Soutiere, President and Chief Operations Officer, Vertek Corporation
Vertek Corporation’s new blog series, “Lessons Learned: Effective Carrier Migrations,” will address several areas of managing migrations that we have worked in over the past 20 years. The four-part series will include building a sound business case, maintaining a positive customer experience, managing change and the pros and cons of outsourcing. Reoccurring issues woven throughout the series will address the importance of data integrity and how to maintain it, and how to remain adaptable and flexible during a migration.
In this blog, “Part I,” Vertek discusses the critical importance of building a detailed business case and 10 considerations you cannot ignore prior to undertaking any migration activities.
Migrations have become a necessary part of how communication service providers remain competitive in the market. As a result, service providers across North America perform thousands of migrations each year. These migrations come in many shapes and sizes, and support cost reduction initiatives, real estate consolidations, product simplifications, new product platforms, network optimizations and merger and acquisition integrations. Migrations also come with a unique set of challenges that can significantly impact budgets, completion time frames and customer satisfaction.
Many times migrations occur on a sporadic basis. OSS/BSS platforms have deficiencies in meeting migration delivery needs, and nuances required to support the migration often negatively impact internal functional groups, making the success of the migration project unpredictable. In addition, service providers sometimes prefer to avoid the time and expense of migrations in order to place more focus on new product functionality, features and service offerings or simply the expansion of their geographic presence.
Assuming migrations are required to remain competitive in the market, careful planning is vital, and having a realistic business case that takes into account unique migration challenges is critical to the overall success of any project. Speed and flexibility are also essential ingredients to controlling costs while effectively managing the customer experience throughout the migration project. Understanding the key business case considerations will add visibility and predictability and assist in driving migration initiatives forward.
Key Business Case Considerations
When constructing a business case to support the migration project there are cost components that need to be assessed, as well as subtleties that exist depending on what is being considered. It is important to do the appropriate planning and assessments to capture the key elements that will drive the appropriate business decisions.
1.) Product/Service Impact
Compare service feature sets and pricing between current and new/existing catch products and services to best understand what issues may exist based on the offerings. Understand as well what competitors are doing in the market to ensure that the proposed target product/service will satisfy the aggregate current and new customer base. Remain focused on the key feature sets required to get the majority of the existing customer base migrated.
2.) Attrition vs. Migration
Determine the benefits and drawbacks of forcing your customers to migrate versus accomplishing migration goals through gradual customer attrition and the normal product/service upgrade process. It’s important to note, however, that the customer attrition approach can significantly increase project duration and maintenance costs.
3.) Ordinary vs. Rapid Migration
Determine the cost/benefit impact of a lengthy migration effort versus an accelerated migration – what is the impact to your customers, quality of data and perceived integrity of your organization. Consider using the “carrot and stick” approach, by defining strategies that help motivate your customers to move to the new products/services during the migration. Also develop a clear policy for when to implement escalating penalties for customers unsure or unwilling to migrate. Finding the right balance is critical.
4.) Understanding Trade-offs
Migrations inevitably have trade-offs, and it is important to determine them up front. This could include internal trade-offs – e.g. sales commissions and engagement in the migration are negatively impacted because the migrated service generates less revenue, or the feature sets on the migrated product are different or inferior which would impact the customer. Understanding the trade-offs up front allows you to plan and budget properly to mitigate the impact to the project.
5.) Evaluation of Technology Platforms
A careful assessment of each platform is essential in order to determine which ones must be acquired and which ones will be phased out.
Verify that adequate capacity exists or can be created on the chosen technology platform. Capacity within functional delivery organizations is important as well in order to adequately support the migrating customer base within the anticipated project duration period.
7.) Review Back Office Systems and Activities
It is critical to identify areas such as provisioning, customer billing, service and delivery processes, and determine which systems need to be modified or replaced to support the migration. A critical element in planning any migration is assessing the level of effort –both internal and external – needed to execute the migration.
8.) Analyze the Effects Unplanned Events Will Have at the Customer Level
Data integrity, customer adoption issues, unplanned sales issues, system limitation issues and process gaps lead to unplanned events that need to be addressed during the migration project lifecycle. Adding contingencies in the project support structure that will enable changes to be implemented will significantly reduce project completion risk while avoiding unnecessary customer churn. Also be flexible and prepare for some alternatives in the business plan in case things don’t go according to schedule. If the plan states that in six months you will have “x” migrated, but at that time you don’t have that number migrated, you need to know what you are going to do differently, and how you will account for that in your business case.
9.) Metrics and Targets
Development of a solid business case should be driven by realistic assumptions on migration process, timeline, take-rates and other critical metrics. Clearly defined metrics and targets in the business case will enable accurate tracking and visibility into required project modifications during the execution phase, and better determination if the migration is on or off track.
10.) Customer Experience
Even though the bottom line of a solid business case is the financial benefits and costs of performing the migration, the business case must also consider the ongoing impact the migration will have on the end customers and the customer experience. Communication methods, number of products or services affected by the migration, number of customer touch points, disruption periods and duration and technical support needs are key factors in providing a positive customer experience. Remember, it won’t matter how financially sound the business case is if it seriously disrupts the customers’ services, billings and other elements of the relationship with your organization.
When carefully constructing a business case for a services migration or network consolidation, there are many cost components, both fiscal and otherwise, that need to be assessed. It is important to recognize that there are inevitably nuances that exist depending on what is being considered. Planned flexibility can substantially reduce overall project expense and duration. With any business case there needs to be a balance between spending too much time preparing and analyzing – e.g. “analysis paralysis” – and not undertaking sufficient due diligence up front to avoid creating more pain and frustration for internal organizations, and ultimately the end customer.
NOTE: As we continue our blog series on Effective Carrier Migrations, we will focus Blog Number Two on the Customer Experience and critical elements necessary to understand prior to undertaking any migration project.