Sometimes what seems simple at first isn’t so simple after all. According to VMC Program Manager David Cherry, a “simple” messaging upgrade can lure IT directors into a costly trap:
“People tend to take for granted that such a commonplace process involving basic software and tools is straightforward. Yet every messaging environment is different, with virtually endless combinations of hardware, firewalls, domains, routing protocols and other variables. This creates a web of system complexity, which means an opportunity for breaking points at each intersection. What works without a hitch in one company’s messaging environment may take down the whole system in another.
For example, a recent mail system upgrade involved an ISA server as firewall, a mixed environment of Outlook 2003 and 2010 users and multiple domains. Using wizards to create routing connectors seemed simple, but because of the overall complexity, not all connectors were built or pointed properly. So, mail coming from outside the firewall went into a black hole. The problem went undetected for almost two days; many users were unable to access email during that time. Because the migration team had been lulled into thinking that they were making only minor changes, their ‘plan’ was to upgrade on the fly and address any issues, which they expected to be easy to identify and fix, during scheduled downtime. They didn’t consider any business impact besides the minor user inconvenience of scheduled downtime; so they didn’t thoroughly research problems the ISA server integration could cause.
This company may never know how much this mail flow issue cost. They often receive emailed bid requests. If they don’t respond within 24 hours, they lose their shot at projects worth tens of thousands to millions in revenue. During the 40 hours that outside email wasn’t delivered before the problem was discovered and corrected, they could have missed the 24-hour deadline on many bid opportunities.
To put hard numbers on a ‘simple’ messaging issue, I’ve worked with a lumber mill under contract to national retailers such as Home Depot. Because of fluctuating commodity pricing and just-in-time delivery needs, the retailers stipulated turnaround times for emailed order confirmations and shipment status reports. If the lumber mill failed to communicate within the designated time, they were fined. The penalties for not getting those email confirmations out could be up to $500,000 per day.
On a daily basis, technology teams are focused on technology; they are not looking at business impact or the opportunity costs of unplanned downtime or undiscovered problems. That’s what sales and finance people look at. The IT team is pressured to make the upgrade and stick to a strict budget. As a result, they tend to underestimate the complexity and risks, and therefore, also the need for research, planning and testing.
Really, there is just no “easy button” for a messaging migration…but most problems are preventable when you take the right steps upfront.
Getting entangled in unanticipated issues during a messaging upgrade or migration can come at great expense to the company and your success. What can you do upfront to avoid being caught off-guard?
This post continues a series by two VMC experts, Engagement Manager Kris Honkola and Program Manager David Cherry, on the trials and tribulations of messaging migrations and ways to be successful with them. By email, contact David Cherry at DavidCher@vmc.com or Kris Honkola at KyostiH@vmc.com. Both may be reached by phone at 877.393.8622.