01/24/2023

The pitfalls of unplanned software migration

Author: Witold

At some point every store owner is faced with a decision about what has to be done with the application that drives their business, to be able to continue to grow further / be up-to-date with security / resolve maintenance issues. The reasons for switching to another solution are countless.

Whenever the time for a change comes, we have to choose an approach to get through this difficult process as smoothly as possible and with the most beneficial outcome.

The discovery phase as an answer

The discovery phase and going through the project from scratch are definitely time consuming but will give the best overview of the whole process. Building a development plan from a business perspective allows business owners to focus on what is most important in their daily operations, finding bottlenecks that limit their growth and to plan future expansions.

While you are not bound by any technology, there is an option to go through a wide range of possibilities, choosing the most flexible approach for your business needs. Sometimes the most surprising mix of technologies and platforms might be the most beneficial one.

The discovery phase is something that can be prepared independently and its outcome will be the base for any development team assigned to work on migration or it simply can be the first step of an ongoing maintenance team.

The ongoing progress is necessary

Any software that a business uses, goes through its own development roadmap and often gets to the point of releasing a new major version. When that happens, the previous version is slowly moved to the side, getting fewer security patches and releases until its support is ended entirely.

This is the case with the Magento ecommerce platform, which evolved from version 1 to 2. Even though the software's name only features the updated revision number, Magento 2 is a totally new application. At this point Magento 1 is not officially supported by the software provider. Once software goes out of support, 3rd party organizations often join in ending support for specific software. In the case of Magento 1, payment gateways and card providers are ending compliance for Magento 1, leading to declining transactions for their customers.

Only upgrading keeps your ecommerce safe

Store owners are facing the problem of migrating to something that offers ongoing support is reliable, safe and future proof. In the case of Magento the obvious choice is “upgrading” to the new version. The easiest choice for the scope of the work is replicating the previous implementation.

A challenge for the unprepared

Usually those are years of development that we want to squeeze into a short time span, especially because the upgrade/migration itself doesn’t provide new features. Additionally, this kind of work is difficult to estimate precisely and if the project is not planned and led properly with good communication, progress updates and visibility, it's easy for frustration to set in, which in turn puts more pressure on the development process.

With that combination we can fall into the trap of making architectural mistakes, taking shortcuts in the implementation or missing whole features while migrating. With that approach, businesses will end up with software of worse quality, only to satisfy the need for a change to a more current solution, leaving the code base with a huge technology debt.

Our experience

All the mistakes of a failed migration can be rectified, which was the case with one of our clients. While the process of migrating the project from Magento 1 to Magento 2 was unknown to us, the final result was a typical case of incorrectly planned implementation.

The most important part of the mending procedure was to identify architectural mistakes made during the development process, which were causing a business operation bottleneck and making the application unresponsive. While this task alone was time consuming and it involved a vast amount of work both for the development and the business team, it resolved a great deal of issues, allowing the content management team to resume all their activities. The initial migration took around one and a half year and thankfully in 3 weeks we were able to deal with crucial mistakes in the code base. This task opened up a path to less critical tasks, including missing functionalities from the previous implementation and finally switching focus to new features and ongoing maintenance.

Even though the situation was saved, initial mistakes in the migration process impacted the business greatly, derailing the usual workflow and business operations and led to a loss of revenue. Without a quick reaction to critical issues in the architecture, the business impact would be tremendous.

Good planning is the key to success

With a project as big as switching an entire application constituting the core of a business, good planning of the process is the key to success. Going through all details and possibilities and splitting the procedure into phases will make the job smoother, with fewer surprises. A proper discovery phase will definitely result in a much better solution, tailored to the needs of even the most complicated business.

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