Candidate Management Migration – Is it worth it?
Many organizations want to migrate from their existing candidate management systems. But they shy away from making the change because they fear the transition process is too daunting, risky, or costly. Instead, they limp along on a system that requires constant attention or meets only a portion of their candidate management needs. However, migration could ultimately be the easier, less expensive, and less time-consuming option. Organizations must conduct an objective and detailed comparison of the costs, risks, and benefits of migrating from versus maintaining an existing system. Only then is the organization able to determine if a change makes sense—and if it does, create an appropriate migration plan.
Having guided numerous large and small testing programs through the evaluation and migration process, I’d like to take a few minutes to share lessons learned and what to expect when migrating from one credential management system to another.
Do your homework
First, anticipate doing some homework to understand your candidate management requirements and priorities. Where is your program today? Where is it going in the future? What third-party systems will require access to data stored or generated in the credential management system? What industry and technology trends will impact your candidate management requirements now and in the future? I am always thoroughly impressed by organizations that make time to expand their knowledge of candidate management, available solutions, and the potential impact of industry trends and new technology. The better an organization understands and defines its credential management needs, the better it can evaluate whether or not a credential management solution meets those needs.
When contacting providers to evaluate their candidate management solutions, anticipate that the providers will evaluate your organization as well. Specifically, they will evaluate their fit with your organization, their ability to meet your needs, and your organization’s readiness to make a change. Because credential management solutions tend to be long-term investments and the solution evolves over time, the fit between your organization and the provider is important. Equally critical is a partnership approach to the relationship. A reputable provider would rather withdraw from an opportunity that is a poor fit than pursue the opportunity. It is not in the best interest of the partner or your organization to attempt to cram a square peg into a round hole.
Set realistic expectations
There is no getting around it: successful change requires effort from all parties involved. Successful change also requires realistic expectations and the ability to remove or work around impediments. One of the key expectations of an implementation is to create realistic timelines. If an implementation timeline will not allow for the entire solution to roll out as quickly as desired, consider dividing the implementation into phases that allow high-priority functionality to roll out sooner and low-priority functionality to roll out later.
The bulk of the migration work will fall upon the provider. However, some of the work will fall upon your organization. When developing the migration plan with your provider, clarify and document who is responsible for what. Be prepared for the tasks outlined below to require resources from your organization.
· Review and execute the contractual agreements.
· Define and communicate to the provider detailed credential management requirements (e.g., any exam eligibility requirements, exam-specific details, certification logic and renewal requirements, fulfillment details, and any program-specific processes).
· Assist in collaboration with third parties affected by the change (e.g., coordinating meetings, understanding their requirements/restrictions, and assisting in defining roll-out schedules).
· Review work and provide feedback at key points throughout the migration to ensure work is on track or recommend needed adjustments along the way.
· Develop and execute a communication plan to notify stakeholders of the change, how the change will affect them, and what is expected of them during the migration process.
· Conduct acceptance testing and authorize the system’s go live.
Depending on the size and complexity of the testing program, the tasks listed above could be accomplished by just one person or they could require a team of people. In most cases, test sponsor personnel working on the migration will also continue to perform their regular day-to-day duties. The provider typically supplies a team of experts who specialize in managing testing data and credential management migration. Such a team typically includes the roles described below.
Product Owner/Product Manager –The product owner is responsible for the credential management system and provides product direction. Although this role is not dedicated exclusively to any one customer, the role works closely with all customers and within the industry to identify and prioritize major system enhancements and releases.
Lead Psychometrician –The lead psychometrician provides psychometric consultation and analysis when needed for specific candidate management functionality such as reporting, exam scoring and score report design, security monitoring and analysis, and program alignment with measurement standards.
Business Development – The business development staff assists organizations in understanding the credential management system’s capabilities, options, and pricing; works with the customer to put contractual agreements in place; and serves as a point-of-contact for clarification of contractual agreements, scope change agreements, and general feedback throughout the migration.
Implementation Specialist –The implementation specialist is the primary contact during migration planning and implementation. This role works closely with the customer to document needs, identify and address gaps, build and manage the implementation schedule, and ensure a successful migration.
Project Manager – The project manager works with the customer, the implementation specialist, the support technicians, and the development team to coordinate and manage all aspects of implementation, operation, and maintenance. This individual also works with stakeholders to identify and clarify ongoing needs, manage operational initiatives, and prioritize and schedule ongoing development requests. Once a customer goes live, the project manager will oversee day-to-day operations and support.
Support Technician – The support technicians provide operational support functions such as managing data import, data merges, and error resolution. This role will work with the Project Manager to coordinate support efforts.
Lead Developer – The lead developer oversees development work for the new implementation and manages the technical aspects of the project.
Developer Pool – A team of developers will work with the Lead Developer on an as-needed basis to fulfill development commitments.
System Administrator – The system administrator manages the system hardware and software. This includes monitoring and optimizing performance, performing system backups and restores, and managing hardware/software updates and patches.
Migrate with confidence
The migration process begins when a client selects a credential management solution. At that time, the provider works with the client to put the appropriate contractual agreements in place. The implementation team is assembled. Led by the implementation specialist, they will review and further clarify previously gathered requirements, identify and address any functionality gaps, and build a migration plan to successfully migrate the client.
Ideally, the migration plan will allow for frequent, small deliverables that will demonstrate ongoing progress, provide functionality to review, and allow for timely feedback. Such an approach allows for timely adjustments or corrections and results in a smoother migration with better outcomes. Once development is complete and the system is available for final acceptance testing, the provider will train the system users. Once the customer completes its final acceptance testing and approval, it is recommended to run the new and legacy system in tandem for a short period of time. This serves as a final sanity test of the new system and allows additional time for system users to become familiar with new processes and features. In about 50% of the migrations, a black-out window is required to import any final changes in the data from the legacy system and switch over to the new system.
Expect a few bumps
While most migrations follow a similar process, each one has its own unique set of challenges. An experienced provider will anticipate many of the bumps and should be able to safely navigate around them or address them early in the process to prevent a snowball effect. Some common migration challenges are quality of data received from other systems (including the legacy candidate management system), change requests made during the migration process, insufficient communication to stakeholders, indecisiveness on the part of the customer, and mismatched expectations. While it takes time and effort to migrate to a different credential management system, the advantages you gain can positively affect the future of your program. Having the right credential management system for your program is worth the effort.
Blair Harris, Director of Technology Services, Alpine Testing Solutions, Inc., is responsible for technology services including CertMetrics™ Credential Management system. Harris is also an accomplished test development practitioner who has assisted in the development of hundreds of exams through leading domain analysis, item development and standard setting workshops. Harris earned a master’s of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University in 1999 and has worked as a change management consultant.