10 Tips for a smooth mainframe migration project

September 4, 2018

Over the years, many of our customers have gone through large, complex and challenging mainframe migration projects. All of which have successfully been completed. OTP Bank, Diamond Marketing Solutions, VIVAT, Modern Woodmen of America and Fujitsu Sweden who performed the Unisys migration at Swedish Transport Agency shared their learnings. From their experience we have put together a top 10 of tips to make a migration project as smooth as possible.

  1. Close cooperation and constant communication is key
    For OTP Bank in Croatia it was a huge challenge to complete a complex migration of their core, business critical Unisys banking application URBIS on EAE/Linc for Linux within a 9-month timeframe. Especially because of all the rules and regulations the organization needs to comply with. Making sure all teams involved were always on the same page, all at the same time and that everyone knew exactly what was expected from them was critical and key to the success of the project.
  2. Set clear priorities right & assign resources
    During migration projects there are many steps to be taken and many hurdles to overcome. During the project at OTP Bank some key people had limited availability. It was crucial to set clear priorities, so the project could be completed on time and within budget. With every step new issues arise and the risk of losing focus is high. Specifically, with limited resources, as was the case at OTP, (resource)planning is absolutely key in order to meet the required deadlines.
  3. Clean up the clutter in your legacy system prior to migration
    Garbage in, garbage out. If the legacy system is cluttered, you cannot expect it will magically be cleaned up after a like for like migration. Diamond Marketing Solutions found that cleaning up the clutter in your legacy system before starting the migration may seem cumbersome but, in the end, it saves time and significantly increases the quality of the target system.
  4. Test, test, test, test
    In order to deliver the same or better, quality of service after the migration, testing is key. Diamond Marketing Solutions(DMS), is a service company, everything is managed by SLAs, most of them are ‘same day’. Thorough testing of every step in the delivery process helped DMS solve performance issues before negatively affecting the business.
  5. True partnership; one team, one goal
    In a big project like the one at Modern Woodmen of America (MWA), you are bound to run into problems, or rather challenges. That’s when a partnership is truly tested. It was MWA’s first project working with partners in different time-zones. Through flexibility on both sides this challenge was turned into an advantage with minimal compromises. The partnership proved to be a solid one. “Whenever a challenge arose both teams worked as one to rapidly come up with a solution, no matter what the problem was. Even if it was an issue beyond Asysco’s field of expertise, they demonstrated the ability to research and learn in order to overcome the issues,” says Nathan Bignall, Project Manager, Modern Woodmen of America.
  6. Can do attitude, fix isues and keep moving forward
    The migration project at VIVAT many people were involved, different teams from 3 different companies working on different continents. Their tip? When issues arise, the most important thing is to keep your eye on the common goal. Avoid finger pointing. Focus on fixing issues first, worry about who’s to blame later. Working as a team and keep moving forward is what got the job done at VIVAT.
  7. Automate the release process as much as possible
    Manual processes are time consuming and prone to human error. At VIVAT the automated approach saved time and increased quality. Find the time to implement automation.
  8. Get full senior management support
    Migration projects always run in parallel with day to day business. Senior management support is crucial in assigning resources and guarding timelines and priorities. At Swedish Transport Agency (STA), a large migration project Asysco carried out in close cooperation with Fujitsu Sweden. STA management made the project a #1 priority. During the project when there was a resource conflict of any kind, the migration project had priority at all times. Meaning other projects had to wait.
  9. Don’t try to do everything at the same time
    At Swedish Transport Agency (STA) they learned this the hard way. They started off by doing everything at the same time; starting with planning while in parallel making the design, doing the proof of concept, building up the first environment for testing and preparing the first delivery. This put an enormous stress on the organization and all the people involved.
  10. Don’t wait until all legacy system knowledge has left the company
    At Modern Woodmen of America they had been running a OS2200 mainframe for over 50 years. Their employees had developed their own COBOL applications and built custom-made solutions, which enabled MWA to automate many processes and deliver some insurance products without human intervention. However, with the aging of their COBOL staff and the lack of new COBOL resources MWA recognized the risk of staying locked into their current environment. The legacy platform became restrictive, the main focus was on ‘reactive development, rather than on planning for the future. That’s when MWA started the STAR project, which stands for System Transformation and Reengineering.
    The people that actually developed the legacy system are usually scarce. In many cases they’ve already retired and took valuable knowledge with them. This leads to many challenges. Don’t wait until all knowledge is gone, migrate now.
    At Diamond Marketing Solutions the entire COBOL development team consisted of 2 guys, one of which, aged 74, was literally one foot out the door for his retirement. Luckily they could persuade him to stay on until after the migration project.
    Swedish Transport Agency ran into a situation where they spend weeks searching for a certain program called Hugo, because the person that initially made it was no longer around.