Managing and migrating aged legacy systems

Practical advice for upgrading

Your selected vendor's project management expertise will be put to the test. They should be required to provide a detailed project plan that establishes time-lines and provides the detail associated with all tasks. Prior to beginning any migration, the vendor must ensure that risks and down times, if proposed, are agreed to in advance. Staffing may be affected or additional resources may be needed - without a detailed implementation plan as to what may be affected and if additional resources are required, you may never know about those requirements until you are blindsided by them. Be mindful of contingency planning as it relates to potential temporary staffing which may be needed to ensure ongoing operation.

It is not my intent to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Some migrations of aged legacy systems are straightforward due the limited size and scope of the migration. You may only be planning on migrating several devices or moving to a new platform, such as a new network video recorder and the programming of some alarm inputs. However, if you contemplate doing it on a nation-wide basis over hundreds or even thousands of locations, the task becomes complicated and complex by virtue of size and logistics.

In either case, the size and scope a plan must be formulated and presented. This is generally not a task for two men with blow torches and a pickup truck, but an organized, trained group able to anticipate and address the many items both large, small and in some instances, minute.

Project responsibilities are most effectively executed through a highly structured Project Management process. Find out if your provider's project managers have centralized responsibility for all aspects of assigned projects - including the authority to task engineering resources, procure materials and allocate installation resources as required. They should have direct access to senior management through regularly scheduled weekly project review meetings and unscheduled meetings as required.

Project oversight is best when maintained with a Project Management software program, which manages all key/critical milestones of the project including construction schedule, material delivery schedules, manpower loading requirements, etc.

What are your New Functional Requirements?

The top view of where you would like to take your security controls will also provide you with a vetting process for vendors. Your migration plan should also include determining which integrators and technology organizations can and have demonstrated their ability to perform the many tasks associated with migrations like yours.

Your contracts team leader should help shepherd a thorough qualification process for vetting providers. Naturally, this would include verifiable references which demonstrate their having successfully met the challenges of not only performing migrations to newer technologies but whose organizations are focused on network-centric solutions and have the resources to invest in training and infrastructure needed to ensure provisioning innovative use of technology for their clients both now and in the future.

A willingness to offer innovative methods and a solutions approach vs. a product presentation and response will prove very telling to your advisor's capabilities and their point of view. Often, budgetary constrains test a provider's ability to propose a design and implementation process which may be phased in. Providers with an eye on demonstrating and maintaining a long-term relationship will be most likely to offer a logical phased approach to migration.

Any phased approach still requires a trusted advisor to help map out and identify immediate short- and long-term objectives and options. Providers who are in touch with emerging trends and technologies and whose organizations have product and solution testing procedures in place are good bets and help minimize risks associated with new technologies adoption. An ongoing dialog between you and your provider will ensure a successful migration.

The challenge remains one of solution alignment, attention to details (the plan) and engaging a provider who has the processes and people committed to a successful migration from your aged legacy system to one which provides the results you require - not just removal and replacement for the sake of being new.

Howard J. Belfor, CPP, is director of training for ADT Security Inc.

Finding a Guide for the Hybrid World

It goes without saying that the industry has brought forth many "products" aimed at bridging the old to the new. Product sets include database migration services intended to move your current application(s) to the newer, faster, better system. This typically does not occur without a thorough audit of the database to ensure accuracy - and in some instances, database migration is a painful as just reprogramming new parameters, definitions, naming conventions and the like.