Corporate data is a very fragile and important thing. It’s the kind of thing you don’t want to break, the same way you don’t want to break a favorite vase. Or an airplane. The cleanup tends to be expensive or, at the very least, very troubling.
Fragility is the reason we make lists and rules. It’s the reason pilots go down an exhaustive list of checks and regulations before takeoff. And because data is fragile, and time is important, it’s best to plan on what you absolutely don’t want to forget before you undertake something as big as a portal migration.
Because we care, we’ve made you a list. The following are four pitfalls we see users falling into quite frequently when migrating their company’s data to Liferay.
Pitfall #1: Failing to backup before migration
If you’re in IT and an expert, it’s easy to let hubris be your guide, to rationalize not backing up immediately before migration. You’ve carefully built and tested the migration up to this point and accounted for every possible variable. It ran fine in the test run; why shouldn’t it go smoothly during the actual migration?
The point is that you can’t be one hundred percent sure, and the data that might have accrued in the scant two days since your last backup is valuable. Phil from HR might have a resume from the next Steve Jobs on file. Shannon from accounting might have finally completed that arduous auditing writeup. And Sarah from advertising may have drafted a game-changing jingle in an audio file that will make your company a hit every time it plays on the radio. A jingle that won’t be backed up if something goes wrong.
What if the power goes down mid-transfer? Or you find some cluster of unaccounted-for data has suddenly gone missing? A backup will keep that data intact. And intact data is the best kind of data there is.
Pitfall #2: Not identifying key stakeholders
Although people like surprises, people don’t tend to like change unless it’s broadcast early and often. A major switch to a new portal is some significant change. And allowing key stakeholders--that is, simply, people who care about what’s going on--a part in the process makes all the difference.
When Liferay released 6.2, every department had a key stake in the outcome, so Release Engineering asked key stakeholders to name a representative or two to go to regular release update meetings. In these meetings, everyone brought their unique angle: Docs was concerned with having precise information to create proper documentation, Marketing wanted to ensure its literature matched the product, and Sales was concerned with the timeframe and whether or not they had enough time to prepare sales collateral and demos. Everyone had a vested interest in the development of the product, and everyone had a unique agenda.
Because the project was honest and open with everyone involved, there were no last minute blowouts on release day. Not everyone got their way, but everyone was heard, which made everyone happier.
Pitfall #3: Not allowing for user acceptance testing / signing off without concrete guidelines or standards
You are ultimately migrating for the users. Not for drones or as an exercise. If you don’t keep in contact with your users and ask them for impressions of the finished product as you make it, you are setting yourself up for failure. Or angry users. And angry users, while easily placated with chocolates and roses, are not the kind of users you want.
So in the interest of conserving chocolate and keeping people happy: discern what matters to you and your audience beforehand. Make a list of concrete guidelines about what you care most about and then ask your users how your changes meet or fall short of these guidelines. Tell them to be honest.
Pitfall #4: Not outlining a strategy for content freeze during the migration execution
When you migrate all your data, there will be down time as the data moves. Because machines aren’t perfect. Yet.
So when you make your migration, give users an estimate of how long to expect the downtime. Make the transition over the weekend or at a time you know people won’t be relying on the system as heavily, and make sure certain people are well-informed beforehand. If your website or service goes down unexpectedly, users won’t be happy. Unhappy users have a tendency to scowl. Moreover, they might lose trust in your service. And you can’t have that.
Try to avoid the above pitfalls if possible. Mention them in meetings and by drink dispensaries. Foresight is often appreciated by supervisors, and sometimes accompanied by significant salary increases. You can find out more best practices in the whitepaper “Migrating to Liferay Portal” (which you can download here). If you’ve discovered tips from your migration to Liferay, we’d love to hear them. Please let us know in the comments.
Special thanks to James Min and Ken Dong, who answered several questions over the course of writing this post.