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5 Common Mistakes to Avoid During a Data Center Migration

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“A data center migration is just like any other IT implementation project.” 

“We can figure out contingencies as we go.” 

“We don’t need to get the business involved; we’ll take it from here.”

These are just a few of the common misconceptions that can come to the minds of IT staff when it comes to executing a data center migration. In truth, a data center migration can have many different variations and can often be fraught with operational, scheduling, planning, and staffing pitfalls, many of which can be avoided with proper planning and preparation. 

Ultimately, the C-suite is going to look to IT leaders to champion the migration and have the proper planning, engagement, coordination, and tools in place to make it successful, often without significantly interrupting the day-to-day workings of the enterprise. A data center migration is a once-in-a-career event for many IT leaders, so getting it right can be a huge win for all those involved.

In this article, we will explore some of the common mistakes that IT leaders make when planning and executing a data center migration and how to prevent them from happening.

Mistake #1: Not Conducting a Full Current State Inventory

One of the most common overlooked tasks at the beginning of a migration is conducting a full current state assessment. It is easy to lean on existing documentation and institutional knowledge and believe that it will be enough to fully understand the infrastructure, applications, data, configurations, and integrations between systems. 

Instead, take the time to conduct a full discovery effort and assessment, documenting all equipment—virtual and physical—as well as the network topography, software versions, and other information; there is no such thing as having too much information in the migration planning stages.

Finally, this assessment should also include a review of the skill sets and availability of the staff who will be involved in the migration and the management of the platform after it goes live. Use this time to identify training opportunities or external support to help make the move a smooth one.

Mistake #2: Failing to Gain Leadership Buy-In

Leadership support is more than just providing a budget for the migration. Organizations should identify an executive capable of championing the project, removing organizational barriers, and engaging all facets of operations to make the migration happen. Perhaps most importantly, during an effort like this, IT staff need an ally who is able to make difficult decisions in the face of uncertainty, risk, or unforeseen issues.

Mistake #3: Not Coordinating with the Business

With a current state assessment in hand, it’s easy to just fire up your project management tool of choice and start planning the migration. Unfortunately, this leaves out the input of the resources that will be needed to provide the operational context, requirements, and resources to test systems.

Taking the time to coordinate with the business can also help to sequence out the migration, allowing the project plan to avoid conflicts with other key initiatives, busy periods, or staff shortages.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to Plan the Days After

After planning for weeks and migrating for months, it can be easy to forget about what happens the day after the migration is complete. Use the time spent coordinating with the business and the results of the current state assessment to line up any training, procedural changes, or other help desk support to help end users get comfortable with their new world. 

Similarly, utilize the momentum of the migration to establish change management and configuration management processes to further capitalize on the time and energy invested in the move.

Mistake #5: Overestimating Your Communications Plan

Though a data center migration may be the primary focus of your department for several months, many other stakeholders won’t be as engaged to know how things are progressing and what key decisions are being made. 

Make sure to take the time to establish several communications methods—from email to flyers, workshops, and videos—and use them to maintain awareness and engagement across the enterprise, meeting all the different types of end users where they are.

Taking the Next Step

There are many adages out there that speak to the importance of planning before embarking on any big journey, and they all apply here. Although mistakes will still occur, unforeseen events will happen, and budgets and schedules will slip, taking the time to avoid common pitfalls can help you steer your organization through a usually stressful time, ending up with a more efficient, reliable, and agile data center platform.

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