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BI Migration 101 Typical motivations, strategies & pitfalls

As companies mature and find themselves with growing needs for more capable or more pervasive business intelligence throughout their user base, sooner or later they will have a need to migrate their analytical applications from one business intelligence (BI) platforms to another.

What motivations does a business have to migrate their BI tools?

The reasons that motivate these migrations are quite varied and range from moving away from manual analytical processes that take a long time to produce, to consolidating a large array of tools that drain company resources in licensing, maintenance and operational costs. Other companies may try to take advantage of more modern capabilities, such as visual data exploration or even dip their toe into Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine learning (ML) to Natural Language Querying. You might even have the systems generate analytical application automatically, using Natural Language Generation.

Whatever the motivation, there will most likely be hard work ahead, business processes that need to be protected from the disruption of a migration, and there will be expectations to be met, both from existing stakeholders and potentially new stakeholders, who will be motivated by the promise of what the new BI platform and the applications that can be built on it can bring.

What team is responsible for BI migrations?

While the need to migrate from one BI tool to another will most likely be driven by business goals, and business users, the technical teams responsible for the migration will not always have the complete picture of what these desired goals and outcomes are that drove the migration in the first place.

It is for this reason that we recommend beginning any migration effort with gathering consensus, and aligning all stakeholders on what the migrated application should be like. How is it going to meet the expectations of advanced capabilities, improved user experience or reduced total cost and reduced time to value for the applications that will be built on the new platform.

It is also important to understand what are the positive processes in place that should be maintained from the current way of doing things. If the migration is from a manual approach of generating reports and analytics, the migration team may be in luck as there is not much of a precedent in terms of functionality and performance and the BI platform will be perceived as leaps and bounds of progress compared to the previous way of doing things. However, if as in most cases, there is an incumbent BI Platform, there may be more risk to the migration.

What common problems can occur in a business intelligence migration project?

There will be users of any system who are comfortable with the way they use and consume their analytics, and at times, many iterations to optimize performance and the data model have taken place that may not be suited to the new platform. Worse, sometimes the new platform does not support scalability features, such as application partitioning or more sophisticated data volume management. This can happen when the team that identified the need for a migration prioritized front end visualization or ease of use and leave some of the performance and scalability issues to be resolved by the technical teams implementing the migration.

Another common source of challenges is when a technical team is given extremely tight deadlines, and this pushes re-utilization of existing data models and backends that may not suit the new platform optimally. Whenever this happens, an application can be built, but it may not be received as well because it will have increased the complexity of the systems or be forced to work with a data model that is not optimized for it and performance issues may be seen.

There have been books written on the subject of “What You Know Can Hurt You”, in this case, this is analogous to “The data model that you have can break your BI System”. It is therefore important to do as much as possible to build the migrated application in a way that allows for backend analysis and updates to ensure that the front-end application will run as efficiently as possible. It is easy to see that for greenfield applications, this problem would not be there.

What strategies are worth investing in for a successful BI migration?

Nonetheless, it is possible to manage through this landscape with a properly managed and proven migration methodology. One of the most important milestones of the migration project is to generate a clear picture of the desired end state and share it with key stakeholders to the project to set expectations correctly both for the end system and for the required support and resources that will be needed, identify barriers to overcome and align project goals.

If working with the right partner, there may be an opportunity to use different assets and accelerators that can both save time and increase the quality of the migrated platform. The ability to generate automated metadata reports and analyze the existing applications can be a great time saver, as well as the ability to automate testing and data quality for more efficiently moving through the acceptance phases can also be of great value.

As it should be clear by now, there can be perils in the path to BI platform migration, but with the correct risk mitigation strategies and correct partnerships, your company can do a great deal to maximize their chances of success and realizing the promise of improved functionality and access to the Analytical Applications that enable the daily business processes.

What have you learned from past BI Migrations?

Let’s take a look at a past migration we did for an American mass media company. We partnered with them to migrate and optimize their analytics tool portfolio to enable self-service, simplify operations, and reduce overall total cost of ownership (TCO). They wanted to consolidate their BI applications to achieve improved insights, maintenance reduction, and a superior user experience. However, they faced a common challenge of what tool to choose. There has been a recent explosion of available BI tools from MicroStrategy to Tableau to Domo to Business Objects to Power BI and others.

To solve this first challenge our team researched and evaluated many of the BI platforms in use to understand its supported business processes. We then provided a thorough cost analysis to the primary platform owners. It detailed licensing, maintenance, and infrastructure to reveal its true TCO. In evaluating platforms and applications that would be migrated— coupled with the expected savings and estimated project duration—we used this information to garner support for a platform consolidation effort.

Over the next 12 months we helped our client redesign, optimize, and migrate over 1000 reports and dashboards across five BI platforms. These supported sales, operations, and CXO reporting, as well as delivered a platform that provides self-service capabilities. Through this BI migration our customer saved over $1M, was able to reallocate personnel and infrastructure, reduced costs, and accelerated its overall time to value.

How can a data and analytics partner like Infocepts help in our BI Migration?

Many enterprises are challenged with high technical debt of legacy BI platforms and overlapping analytic capabilities. Enterprises want to modernize their platforms to reduce cost, be more agile, and to provide better user experiences. But migration of BI platforms is often a complex process, involves change, can pose a business risk and disruption.  Hence, migration to a new platform requires meticulous planning, thoughtful rationalization, intuitive design and execution excellence.

Infocepts is a one stop shop solution for customers who want to migrate their databases, ingestion, and/or BI and analytics tools using a proven repeatable approach. We have the expertise to make assessments, trace data, recommend cutover paths, and manage change results in the best migration strategy. In our rich experiences of large-scale projects for enterprise customers. We have applied best practices, solution accelerators, and cross-functional experts to automate the process and deliver predictable results with operational flexibility—all while avoiding unnecessary costs and hassles.

Want to learn more about the Infocepts D&A Platform Migration?

Infocepts is a data solutions firm which uses services to drive business outcomes with data and analytics. Through a solution-oriented approach, we guide the modernization efforts of our customers, enabling them to make truly ‘data-driven’ decisions so your users can make smarter decisions and businesses can achieve better outcomes.

To find out how Infocepts can help you during your business intelligence migration and beyond, connect with one of our experts directly.

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