Mark Herring offers a light-hearted view of legacy data migration.
It was 7 p.m. on a Friday. I was on call, but it was a holiday weekend so I expected a quiet evening. I had just settled in to binge-watch my favourite show—The IT Crowd—and less than five minutes into the first episode the phone rang.
I drew a heavy sigh and waited for the second ring, hoping the caller had just misdialed and would hang up. No such luck: the second ring came and I picked it up.
“Data Crisis Hotline, Morris speaking,” I said. “What’s your emergency?”
At first there was no response, and I thought it might be some kind of prank call, but soon enough I heard the tell-tale sounds of someone in the throes of a data crisis: the muffled cry, the heavy sobs, the exasperated voice of someone on the brink. Eventually she—or he, it was hard to tell—was able to pull together enough to speak.
“It’s my ITSM data,” the voice on the other end said. “They’re telling me I can’t have it.”
“OK, slow down,” I said. “Start from the beginning. First of all, what’s your name? What’s the situation?”
“My name is Pat,” said the voice on the other end. “We’re migrating from our legacy ITSM system to a new one, a nice fancy one in the cloud with all the bells and whistles. Our integration partner said it would be easy-peasy and we would love all the new functionality. And then—and then…”
More sobbing. I knew what was coming, because I had seen it dozens of times before, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I waited patiently for Pat to calm down a bit, and then:
“THEY SAID I HAVE TO LEAVE MY DATA BEHIND!” The voice was nearly hysterical at this point, and several minutes went by before Pat could regain his composure. (Or hers? I still couldn’t tell, and it was driving me batty. And the name “Pat” was no help at all.)
“All my contacts, all my notes, every customer, all the knowledge-base articles, all the asset information. They’re not migrating any of it. I don’t see how I can function without that data. They said I could just start over, and it would be easier than migrating the legacy data. I can’t believe this – what am I going to do?!”
“Steady, Pat. Is your integration partner there? Can I speak to them?”
“Yes, she’s here,” Pat answered.
A moment later, a new voice—this one bright and cheery—came on the line. “Hi, this is Kelly from Super Integrators. Honestly, I don’t know what Pat’s problem is. It’s just legacy data, and everyone knows that legacy data is 90% garbage. It’s a great opportunity for them to make a fresh start. Besides, it’s too complicated to extract the old data, cleanse it, and massage it into a format that’s compatible with the new system. It will add six months to the project, minimum. It’s just not worth the effort!”
None of this was new to me. When you’re a data crisis counsellor, it doesn’t take long to hear every argument. I waited until Kelly took a breath, and I started in.
“Kelly, how is Pat’s team supposed to run trending reports if there is no historical data to report? And what about their accumulated knowledge—do you really expect them to reconstruct it all over again from scratch?”
“What’s wrong with that?” she replied. “They have all that knowledge in their heads anyway, right?”
“Not in everyone’s heads. Without their knowledge data, resolution times will go up and new technicians will take longer to get up to speed. Ultimately this will mean a poorer post-migration experience and customer experience. You wouldn’t want that kind of feedback would you?”
“No… no I wouldn’t. But how am I supposed to move all of the data and stay within the project budget and timelines? They are not going to accept adding many months to the project, let alone going significantly over budget so they are just going to have to do without their data.”
“Kelly, what if there is a way to make transferring the data quicker and easier?”
“Sure, that would be great but we’ve already looked into this. It is not just moving the data, it has to be translated from one system to another and some of these translations are quite complex. We even had a couple of developers look at building some scripts. They actually started the work to try it out but quickly realised that there were so many different cases it had to cope with it would be too complex and take too long. It gets back to the same point; is the data really worth it? I am not sure it is.”
“Imagine if you wanted a new phone, and the people at the phone store said you couldn’t transfer any of your photos, saying surely these photos are not that important, just a bunch of people and places we don’t know. How would you feel?”
“Awful! All my family photos, children, pets, all my friends, everything!”
“Precisely. It is difficult to know the value of data if you are not one of the people who rely on it every day and, in the case of phones, that is why there are tools to migrate all data to another phone.”
“Yes, but this is different. There aren’t any tools to automate the migration of ITSM data between different platforms.”
“Ah hah, but there are!” I had Kelly’s attention then. “Really?” she asked in a surprised and slightly sceptical tone. I knew I still had some work to do here but I was now certain we could find a solution that would help Pat and Kelly and took a deep breath before my next words…
Can Morris persuade Kelly that it is worth looking into another way of moving Pat’s ITSM data? Can they find a solution that will not add too much time or cost to the project? Will Pat be able to leave the call reassured that they will have all their ITSM data on the new system? Tune into the next episode to find out!