Had an interesting conversation recently with John Platten of Vivamex. John has had a kind of parallel career to mine specialising in Data Migration particularly in SAP environments.

He also does a spot of general Data Management as well and he hasn’t (unlike me) been foolish enough to spend a couple years of his life consolidating his thinking on Data Migration into a formal methodology with accompanying book (and blog). However, when we spoke, we found that there was (not too surprisingly) considerable agreement over our approaches, but one of the things he said had particular resonance.

I was going through the PDMv2 outline with him and we got to talking about the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). The DMZ (for those new to this blog) is the interface between the technical aspects of the project and the wider business. This is normally the contractually defined boundary between the Systems Implementer (SI) and the client. We both agreed that, in well-run Data Migration projects, this boundary is explicitly agreed and understood by the parties, but it also needs to be managed.

Within PDMv2 the DMZ is agreed in the Data Migration Strategy and, usually, instantiated in part in contracts with suppliers. John, though, defined it from the roles involved. For him there was a necessary role of Data Migration Expert who would manage the identifying, gathering, preparing and cleansing of legacy data on the client’s side but understood the needs and could speak the language of the SI side.

Now in the past I have called this role the ‘Gamekeeper’. However, as with the term DMZ itself, this label may be a little too adversarial. Gamekeepers, by repute, are there to deal harshly with poachers and to rear nice fluffy things so that they can be shot for sport.

Neither of which, metaphorically, we would want to apply to the ideally co-operative relationship between client and SI. We toyed with the idea of Data Migration Facilitator, but that seems a little woolly. On John’s website he uses the term Data Migration Expert. Accurate, maybe, but not exactly memorable or poetic. So I have decided to offer, as a prize, two free passes to this year’s Data Migration Matters event (DMM4) to the person who can send in a better name to the address below.

We agreed that this is a role that should be welcomed by both sides. Both the SI and the client should be interested in a successful outcome from the project, one that hits time, budget and quality. And experience has shown that there will be plenty of work to do on the client’s side of the fence for which they need support and guidance. But where should this support come from?

Most clients will apply strict success criteria on the performance of the SI when it comes to designing and executing the load side of a Data Migration project. Most SI will, in turn, place a series of limitations on their responsibility to deal with data that comes from the Legacy because this is always the great unknown in Data Migration projects. It is the part of the migration exercise that the SI cannot influence or control. The Gamekeeper guides the client side, principally, in the tasks they must do.

Of course this role can be filled by an employee of the clients (hopefully trained in PDMv2) but often Data Migrations are, as we have observed many times before, once in a business lifetime opportunities. There is no local expertise. They could be filled by consultants from the lead SI on the programme, contracted outside of the main load contract, probably on a time and materials basis. However, like Caesar’s wife, this role has to be above suspicion and there is always the issue that where compromises have to be made, those making the compromise may feel the weight of regard has fallen too favourably on the side of the Consultant’s employers.

Therefore, it would seem not unreasonable, as the industry matures, for there to be a growing market for these trusted third parties. Certainly from my own consulting experience it seems that there is a growing appetite for taking someone on in this role, but education and market knowledge is the key. It is still down to the clients to acknowledge the need for and seek this support. We all have to work harder to educate the market.

To read more of John’s views about this check out his website: http://sapdatamigration.co.uk/

Overall I was very impressed with John but if you would like the chance to grill him I’ve asked him to appear on the panel discussion at DMM4 where I am sure we will stage a re-enactment of our discussion plus field any questions you would like to throw at us.

Johny Morris

About the author

John Morris has over 20 years experience in IT as a programmer, business analyst, project manager and data architect. He has spent the last 10 years working exclusively on data migration and system integration projects. John is the author of Practical Data Migration.