Migrating to an enterprise solution: How to avoid pitfalls and problems

Dec. 13, 2013
Often organizations get tripped up because they don’t define the operational paradigm

An enterprise system can mean different things to different people. In this instance we are defining an enterprise system as maintaining central control over an entire access control system, while each local facility maintains independent control of its individual operations. Its power gives system administrators at the main facility the ability to configure and monitor all locations from that single site. It also allows them to simultaneously monitor alarms from multiple facilities from one convenient workstation. Whether your organization consists of a few locally dispersed facilities or many that span the globe, an enterprise solution scales as your company grows.

The main factor to keep in mind when you begin to plan the migration to an enterprise access control solution is preparation. You need to know what resources are available to you, who the key players are to help you in this process, and how to develop a solid plan to get the system up and running successfully.

When migrating to an enterprise system, you will want to avoid the following pitfalls:

1. Failure to define the “Operational Paradigm”

2. Failure to define performance and scalability expectations

3. Poor coordination between multiple vendors

4. Moving data without a plan

5. Poor preparation for the unknown

Defining the “Operational Paradigm”

Often organizations get tripped up because they don’t define the operational paradigm. More simply put, they fail to address the administrative processes, reporting and monitoring and control experiences.

The migration to an enterprise system provides the opportunity to review and clean up databases, evaluate your old models and technology, and see where improvements or replacements can come in. The perfect time to define existing pain points is at the process’s beginning, not at the end. Often, this process affords the system owner an opportunity to review and clean up the existing database, which has more than likely been subjected to years of management by different people and groups.

Among the questions to ask are: What reports can you take advantage of? What should be updated? With the increased capabilities for alarm monitoring, how will you incorporate that into your workflow?

An equally important administrative process is reevaluating your naming conventions. Will existing conventions work across the entire enterprise system, or are changes required? Make sure that you have a naming convention that works across the entire enterprise system, keeping in mind how that convention will impact different groups, including administration, reporting, monitoring and integrations.

With an enterprise system, you now have multiple buildings to monitor, each with its own front door. How do you distinguish one from another under your new naming conventions, realizing the importance of having all this in place prior to starting the migration?

It is also key to streamline reporting before you begin this type of project. Currently, your organization has information in multiple locations relating to people, places, policies and ideas. How much of this data do you retain, and how do you manage it?

One consideration is adopting an advanced reporting solution designed to harvest and organize your business information properly. Such tools help turn business intelligence into security intelligence through intuitive Web-based interfaces that allow you to scrutinize the information without the need to print or review hard copies.

Setting expectations

The second big step in conducting a successful migration is to define performance and scalability expectations.

Understanding the volume that you are planning to put through your enterprise will allow for proper definition of the overall system architecture. After all, every system has its limits, so proper analysis of input activity, whether it’s a door status monitor request to exit traffic, will assist with this process.

Coordinating among multiple parties

In most instances, the move to an enterprise system will involve coordination among multiple parties — departments, facilities and vendors. It is crucial to communicate clearly with all internal and external groups involved, including key integrators, the IT department and others.

The integrators will be called in to install the various applications ranging from fire and security to CCTV, intrusion and visitor management.  Your IT team can assist with the move to a virtual environment and will monitor these needs during the process.

One other element to consider is employing an additional service team to perform a pre-migration audit of all your existing systems. This team would assess rogue inputs and outputs or any other errors in the system, such as potential problems in your database.

This audit can identify hidden information not logged to the journal, broken hardware, credentials that may not have been moved from one system to another, and other service-related reports. Having the audit will bring to light errors in the existing system that can be solved prior to the migration.

Creating a team

As we’ve stated from the start, migrating successfully is all about having a plan. And having a plan is all about setting up a team. Determine who will be on the team, who will set up the plan to migrate data from your existing access control systems to the enterprise solution, and who will maintain the system and data once it’s up and running.

Ideally, the team should involve human resources, security operations, IT and server management. Once you create the team, assign task owners. This information should be clearly documented in a master schedule, which also defines the deliverables for each team member. Deliverables will cover import and export requirements, report requirements and data owners.

Doing this will allow you to determine any issues that may arise, which can be stored separately until identified and an import solution is put into place to properly handle the update of personnel and credentials.

Preparing for the unknown

The final issue to address is preparing for the unexpected. Not easy, of course, but critical nonetheless if the desired outcome is a successful migration. By fully understanding the system and everything surrounding it, you are better prepared for potential problems. So be aware of firewalls, virus protection, malware, backups, data sources, desktop policies, upgrade policies and the like.

The preaudit of all hardware components will help determine a part of this. So have a plan in place and know what details you want to include ahead of time.

Now you are ready to proceed with your migration, knowing you have the tools in place to launch your project and see it through to completion.

About the Author:

Jason Ouellette is director of Product Management, Tyco Security Products. He can be reached at [email protected].

 [O1]Should this be “door status monitor”?

Photo courtesy of Diebold Inc.
Access control management and managed services are possible from central stations such as Diebold’s Event Monitoring Center in Canton, Ohio.