Follow these top tips to ensure your cutover planning is successful
by Andy Smith, on 09/06/18 19:24
Tired of stressful cutover planning?
For over a decade at ICEFLO, we've built our business and reputation among IT professionals by upgrading legacy technology on behalf of our clients. We've been involved with planning and implementing countless cutover activities, and used this hands-on experience to design and build ICEFLO, a cloud-based change management software that helps companies of all sizes cutover successfully.
We believe that ICEFLO dramatically increases your chances of success for every cutover event you and your team undertake - but we also know that it takes much more than a great software to deliver results on the most demanding of cutovers.
In this blog, we've pulled together ten key tips from our team of cutover experts to help you design your own processes and cutover successfully.
1. Define and organise your cutover team
Every large cutover involves multiple organisations, including 3rd parties, each with their own “ways of working”.
One of the first actions is to define a single, "virtual organisation" to bring all these moving parts together.
- Identify your team, and set clear roles and responsibilities for cutover planning and implementation
- Adopt common tools, standards, process and vocabulary to foster an effective, team-based approach
- Define the big-picture early and bring parties on-board in phases
- Invite everyone to align behind this implementation methodology and leave their baggage at the door
2. Automate your pre-cutover audit process
Knowing exactly what you have in your Production estate is going to be an ongoing challenge. Don't convince yourself it won't change. One of the few certainties in cutover planning is that it will. So when your team is discussing what should be included in the cutover plan, it's vital that you have a current view of every piece of the puzzle through a comprehensive, automated audit.
- Manual, one-shot audits will be out of date before the ink is dry on the printed inventory
- Automation of audit, data analytics and exception management by repeated audits are essential
3. Embracing change as a cutover approach
The world won't stop rotating on its axis until cutover day arrives.
It's easier to surf a wave than to stand on top of it - so embrace change and look for opportunities to improve the end-state "target".
Here are some pointers on how to embrace and manage the changing environment:
- Don't try to lock down change in Production but add a process step to track and manage it, replicating in the Target as part of each Production change
- Resist the "conservatives" who shout out "lock it all down, accept no change, must be like-for-like" (these guys are typically unfamiliar with cutovers at scale, and are unrealistic about the complexity that today's cutover activities generally involve)
- Accept a delta between Source and Target where the business case for doing so is sensible and leaves a better end solution e.g. don't bake in a legacy solution based on the "no change mantra".
- Exploit opportunities to build a better solution on the basis that large-scale technology cutovers are themselves digital transformation events
- Include appropriate Cloud targets as a viable solution to sit alongside the Target Infrastructure of your own datacentre
4. Get time on your side before the cutover starts
Time is the most precious commodity during a cutover event. Smooth, problem-free shut-downs and start-ups of business services/applications are perhaps the critical success factor for your cutover.
- Start by documenting every detail of your cutover plan - think really detailed detail.
- Dependencies, scheduled jobs and interfaces are critical - and often missed
- Automate as much of this as possible - to reduce execution duration, error rates and the inevitable dependency on key people in your cutover planning team and 3rd parties
- Be sceptical when told "it's all documented and we do this all the time" - demand evidence in the form of documented procedures, with actual timings, from staff & 3rd parties
- Remain sceptical even with documentation until this is all proven, at scale, during "exam conditions" in the form of cutover rehearsals
- Consider what processes and documentation already exist, and should be included in planning and execution, i.e. a go live strategy document that's worked well in the past, a team wiki for key processes, etc.
5. Protect production during a cutover
Transactions must never, ever, ever flow from your target platform back into your Production source.
This represents the biggest risk to any Cutover programme.
- Design and implement a "one-way data valve" so that data can never flow from Target to Source (i.e. Production) environments
- This is best implemented at the network and infrastructure layer, not the application or messaging layer.
- Put this protection in place and validate it ... before the first rehearsal and before the first "Early" cutover
6. Identify and embrace cutover 'earlies'
Use "Earlies" to constantly seek opportunities to minimise the scope of cutover day.
Think about what chunks of this elephant you can get behind you - one bite at a time.
- "Earlies" should create continuously used Production services, delivered earlier than the main cutover event
- More "Earlies" = less scope in cutover = higher confidence
- Reduced scope = lower complexity and less to do in limited time = lower risk
7. End User Access Management (EUAM)
Authentication and permissions management will be a challenge.
"Errors of omission" will consume huge amount of time during cutovers.
- Audit and Compliance is critical but repeating BAU (Business as Usual) processes will kill turnaround times
- A technology cutover is anything but a BAU scenario - accept this fact early and react accordingly, i.e. very pragmatically
- Put together policies, procedures and people as a transient EUAM solution for both rehearsals and the cutover
8. Rehearse your cutovers, again and again
Cutovers are like an orchestra performing at the Oscars. For a slick and successful performance, practice makes perfect. Days, weeks, months, even years of practice.
Cutover rehearsals are risk management. And required for successful day-of execution. Period.
- Rehearsals represent an opportunity to prove the process, the cutover organisation, the cutover plan and any protections
- Rehearsals expose issues and risks that you can eliminate before the big event
- Start with a small scope, based on the foundations of a working target, with minimum business functionality
- Build out concentric layers of ever increasing scope, with lower business-critical services first
- Increase the investment, complexity and duration of each rehearsal as you proceed - building confidence with each cycle
- The goal is to rehearse, learn & refine - increasing confidence and reducing risk
- Recognise that you may never get to rehearse the full cutover scope - that's where most of your residual risk will lie
9. Anticipate and manage issues on cutover day
There's never been a Cutover of any scale that hasn't experienced issues. Doubt there ever will be. Think of these as "challenges to be overcome" when they arise.
How well issues are identified, managed and resolved is going to be key to your success.
- It is absolutely guaranteed that things will go wrong on cutover day - so build a process to deal with these challenges when they arise
- Don't be restricted to “Business and Usual” (BAU) approaches, processes and constraints - because a major cutover event is anything but BAU
- Use rehearsals to create and validate a lean, efficient “issue resolution machine”
- Apply discipline during rehearsals – don’t accept any “we’ll do it differently when it’s for real” excuses
- Ensure that the solution that you use can connect cutover issues with Production Incident Management processes
10. Look after your cutover team
Cutovers are marathons in preparation mode and high-intensity sprints during the event itself.
People need to perform well under what is often a highly pressurised situation. It's vital to look after every member of your cutover team, whether staff or 3rd parties, to achieve a successful implementation.
- Be mindful of workload over a sustained period of time and plan accordingly
- Operate multiple shifts during cutover events - ideally no more than 9 hours per shift
- Invest in support logistics for your team, such as hotels and transport services
- Ensure the well-being of your team at all times - including food, refreshments and crucially, adequate rest
- Teams of people are the only way to get the job done. Focus on this key fact to succeed.
Achieving a successful technology cutover is one of the most demanding challenges that any organisation can face. Give yourself the best possible chance of success by putting these ideas into practise as you prepare for your cutover event.