It’s not every day that you’ll hear a tech manager refer to his company’s transition to a new software platform as “a fun ride.” But Colligo’s experience migrating to online business software in the cloud shows that when you go in with a strong sense of both your goals and your challenges, even a dual-pronged implementation that strays from a straightforward approach can go relatively smoothly.
Colligo Networks, a provider of data synchronization services, is in the midst of a transition from on-premise team collaboration software to a platform that encompasses productivity software and service subscriptions in the cloud, reflecting the hybrid environment and cloud-based technology now run by many of its customers. The switch has meant finding a way to both safely migrate to a new platform in a production environment, as well as building a parallel test environment for Colligo’s own products developed for the software.
“This is a fairly significant change in our platform,” said David Whitehead, a technical services manager at Colligo. The company moved from a platform it owned to one owned by an outside company, so the decision to make the change wasn’t taken lightly—even if the implementation itself was approached in a relatively open manner.
“It was a fairly organic process,” Whitehead said. “We lightly planned it, and then jumped in.” Colligo anticipated that the plan would change along the way, so it took that approach from the start.
“More and more, our customers are moving toward new technology, and one platform in particular,” Whitehead said. That’s one reason Colligo was motivated to make its transition. The company also felt the technology offered by the platform would work well for its own purposes—for example, the ability to use the platform’s search technology.
“It really was a perfect storm,” Whitehead explained—both in looking at the business software and thinking the technology was a good fit for its own work, and realizing that its customers were increasingly using the solution as well. “We need to be ahead of the curve on this,” he said. “When our customers come to us with these questions, they want to know that we know what we’re doing.”
Colligo had to decide how to build the right platform, not just for an organization of its size, but while also considering the needs of larger or more complex organizations. As Whitehead explained, the software platform could be pushed out in a very simple way using an identity management aggregate service, but Colligo realized early on that this straightforward approach wouldn’t work for its size and dual needs.
The company had to figure out what it needed to tackle first, Whitehead said, and the clear answer was federating identity across the various platforms. They looked into several cloud-based systems, which Whitehead said would work without additional customization for a lot of organizations of their size, but would come up lacking for the wider world whose capabilities they wanted to represent as well. This required a full access management system, Whitehead explained, which made the process more complex.
From the start of the project, a customized out-of-the-box approach that considered both their own needs and those for product testing was needed. So, instead of going with the cloud system straight out of the box in a standard installation, Colligo opted to install it step-by-step, customizing it to their needs as they went.
From that point, Colligo moved on to setting up team collaboration in the cloud. Fortunately, the process itself was smooth. Its core corporate intranet was SharePoint 2010, and the move itself presented the company with the valuable opportunity to go back and look at just where their information was stored, to determine if those choices made sense going forward.
“The migration is an interesting learning experience for us,” Whitehead said, “to really work out what we needed to do, and to understand what data we needed to select and move, and could archive off.”
The next piece of the puzzle is yet to come: setting up business email and an instant messaging client in the cloud. This is the most troubling part of the transition, Whitehead said, because it’s the one where Colligo has the least in-house experience to lean on.
So far, the process seems to be working, and the changes Colligo has made to this point are starting to make the transition to the new productivity tools worthwhile. “The biggest benefit to me personally is in getting Colligo into a world that represents where our customers either are or are going to,” he said.
Terri Coles is a freelance writer based in St. John’s, NL. Her work covers topics as diverse as food, health and business. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at [email protected].
The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.