Enterprise software migrations are a normal part of IT management. Software evolves and business needs change, so most organizations will need to conduct a migration at some point.

For enterprise-level migrations, such as a SAP migration, the task will involve more than just installing a new code file from the vendor. The complexity of migrations at this scale requires planning and significantly more effort. The following are some tips on how to plan and prepare for a successful software migration:

Creating a migration plan

Customization and integration are two of the more complex areas to address in your migration plan, so be sure to give these aspects ample consideration when you're creating a migration road map.

Organizations typically customize data and processes in a vendor product such as SAP, since the software must fit the specific needs of different business areas. When considering a SAP migration, it's also important that business-area needs are met after the migration, either by core code changes or the continued use of customization. As a result, your migration plan needs to address the options for meeting business needs and supporting the business after the migration. A comprehensive migration plan should include organizational change management protocols to deal with affected business processes and ensure there is no change to operations.

It's rare for an organization of any size to use a single platform for all its IT services. As a result, different systems are generally integrated to provide the entire suite of business solutions. When considering the migration of a single entity within this type of ecosystem, the changes to the migration system's application programming interface (API) and data definitions will require an assessment for the impact on interfaces and interfaced systems. Interface development, testing and cutover and parallel paths should all be addressed in your migration plan.

Addressing complexity

The complexity at the heart of enterprise migrations is what drives estimates for resources and time lines. However, there are ways for IT management to address complexity when preparing for a migration, regardless of whether the project is currently planned or just a future probability.

One of the most helpful tools for addressing complexity is continuous code maintenance. Interfaces and customization code naturally decay or sprawl over time. This happens as functional adjustments are made in response to the changing business climate and as companion systems in an interfaced environment are updated. When it comes to code maintenance and cleanup, you will need to decide whether manual or automated processes are right for your organization.

Manual vs. automated testing

If you want to limit code decay and minimize a migration-specific cleanup effort, you must conduct regular testing and assessment of interfaces and code for vulnerabilities, non-executing routines and deprecated functions. While some IT professionals prefer manual testing, reviews and cleanup because interfaces and customizations are unique, the resource and time requirements of manual testing may not be able to keep up with a reasonable code refresh or release cycle. Further, manual processes are more likely to impose code freezes on the organization, and a code freeze may affect business users in a way that negates any advantage gained by maintaining a state of migration readiness.

The alternative to manual maintenance is employing automation for testing, review and cleanup. Code and interfaces are unique customizations, but functionalities, APIs and other test targets are knowable. This means the development of automation suites will work continuously through all changes in the enterprise ecosystem. As changes are introduced, automated regression testing assesses the impact. Automated cleanup then removes the parts that are no longer used and could cause inefficiencies.

IT migrations happen, and enterprise suite migrations will undoubtedly affect the business in some capacity. However, there are steps you can take to limit the effort required at the time of migration and ensure overall success.

What other steps are you taking to prepare for your SAP migration? Let us know in the comments.

Jason Hannula is a seasoned IT business analyst who has worked with various agencies to deliver transformation projects that improve business processes and data usage. He has also been writing about the impacts of emergent technologies and trends on businesses since 2013.