We are all sometimes loose with terminology. Just consider terms like architecture, value, strategy and the like and its easy to see how the same words can have slightly different meanings. However beneath every word there is a meaning, a sense, an idea and its helpful to go back to the root of the word to understand its meaning better.
Two words that have lost some of their meaning are migration and transition.
Earlier in my career I had the pleasure of working for a really smart, really picky and somewhat prickly executive who was very exact with his language. He pointed out that ‘systems do not migrate, ducks migrate, caribou migrate, not systems.” When I asked why he was so instant that migration be banned from IT discussions, his answer was simple:
Migration means you go somewhere and then you come back.
He pointed out that in IT there is no going back only going forward.
Transition is the word that most accurately reflects what is going on. When you transit you move from one place to another without a promise of return.
I know that it sounds a little pedantic, but IT changes are transitions not migrations.
Implementing a transition requires IT to do some things differently, things that they are not really doing now.
In a transition you:
Transition the operation/organization rather than deploy an application. This means that you look at deployment from the perspective of the deployment unit rather than from the projects perspective.
Transition changes the way you manage, measure and guide the organization. If these things do not change then you are going to get the same old result, but after a significant investment and often higher operating cost structure.
Transition requires removing old assets, processes, policies, practices etc. You burn your bridges when making a transition as there is no going back because there should not be a way back because that is only a way back into the problems that led to the transition in the first place.
Transition creates the opportunity to start fresh and move forward to get the benefits rather than revisiting the past. This is a major flaw in many organizations that would rather relive the past today than move forward toward tomorrow. That is possible in a migration as change is viewed as circular rather than directional. In a transition, the past is the past and all the value is in the future.
The Talking Heads had a great way of thinking about this in their song “Give Me Back My Name”
“There’s a word for it And words don’t mean a thing
There’s name for it And names make all the difference in the world”
Migration is a word.
Transition needs to be a name for the type of change we need to deliver.
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