Fundamentals of a Successful Platform Migration
Data migration is the process of moving data from one digital platform or IT system to another, but that aspect alone would be too simplistic to define it.
For some last-mile distributors (LMDs) of Paygo products and services, migrating data from legacy IT systems to a more flexible platform can have significant advantages, given that former systems could be outdated, less secure, and less efficient in handling large volumes of data. A more flexible and thorough platform, on the other hand, can offer greater scalability, better data security, and improved data analysis capabilities, enabling last-mile providers to make better decisions and enhance their services. However, not all LMDs might decide to embark on a platform data migration for the same reason.
Other Paygo companies have the capacity and have developed specialised in-house management solutions that extensively adapt to their needs. But, as they evolve, so do their needs and they might decide to migrate to one of the commercially available Paygo platforms, such as PaygOps, in order to reduce IT development costs, focus on other parts of the business and streamline operations. That has been the case for many of our partners and, more recently, for Azuri Technologies, whom we supported to carry out their first platform migration and whose experience we will be exploring below to illustrate what the process might look like from both the software provider’s and distributor’s perspectives.
Azuri is an industry leader who has sold over 200,000 solar home systems and impacted more than 1,000,000 lives across Sub-Saharan Africa for over 10 years now, with offices in Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria. Their long-term vision is to bridge the digital and services gap that exists between urban and rural communities through the power of solar energy and Paygo. After developing and maintaining their in-house system for many years they decided these resources would be better focussed on other aspects of the business.
That’s why, in 2022, they entrusted us with carrying out a data migration from ASP (Azuri Service Platform) into PaygOps, specifically for their Zambia operations. The positive results of a thorough evaluation along with industry feedback, was the decisive factor for Azuri to opt for the PaygOps solution. As part of the evaluation, we had run a small pilot together in Kenya the previous year, consequently they already knew how PaygOps works and how it could be best set up for their own operations, which saved both parties time and allowed us to focus almost entirely on the migration process.
Switching between platforms is a complex process that, if not carried out with great care, could significantly impact the distributor's business. Therefore, it’s a mission that we take very seriously and perform meticulously, our expert team working hand in hand with the distributor. With this in mind, we believe that the following information could truly benefit LMDs in understanding how we perform the platform migration process and how our team will accompany clients throughout the whole mission to guarantee them success (for the general steps of the migration, we invite you to revisit this article). That being said, let’s explore the fundamentals of a successful platform migration with PaygOps!
1. Meticulousness, automation and cross-company technical and commercial collaboration are key throughout the migration process.
Data migration is all about transporting safely the data from one platform to another, making sure that such data complies with the terminology, parameters and features of the new environment, while ensuring that the distributor and their staff can manage it properly. Throughout the project, our teams will set up automation scripts at different points to help streamline certain processes, while other tasks are handled through templates, especially during the mapping and data cleaning stages. By doing it this way, our experts ensure data accuracy by allowing the most careful examination and verification during the data transfer, preserving the intended meaning of the data, as well as giving us room for customisation and adaptability, allowing for the configuration of tailored solutions to specific business requirements of our clients.
As we move forward in the process, we repeatedly test, as it allows us to identify errors and fix them in a timely manner. Automation plays a key role throughout the trials, during which we endeavour to automate as much as possible to prevent errors from reappearing, keeping in mind that we might identify edge cases that will be harder than others to cover with scripts. Additionally, during each test, we might come across new pieces of information that, once we start getting more and more familiar with the distributor’s previous system, we need to incorporate carefully into the data configuration, for it to integrate and work properly on PaygOps. Our experts will go the extra mile to ensure that our client has their data transported thoroughly, accurately and meticulously, so that when the actual data import comes, they experience a seamless process. But the meticulousness of our work along with the support from automation will only ensure the greatest success if combined with cross-company technical and commercial collaboration.
Working closely together enables all parties involved to have a clear understanding of the data structure, which in turn streamlines the data mapping and integrations. It allows for real-time validation and quality assurance of the migrated data, ensuring accuracy and completeness. Additionally, appointing a dedicated team from the client’s side, integrated by at least a technical person that understands the data structure and business logic, and one person that thoroughly understands what happens on the ground, allows them to communicate business rules and customisation requirements more clearly, ensuring that the new platform fully aligns with their needs. Lastly, it facilitates training and knowledge transfer, empowering the client to effectively manage the new platform right after the migration. Thus, cross-company collaboration will ensure a successful transition with minimal data loss or errors.
2. Having a thorough understanding of the similarities and differences between the two platforms right from the outset will lead to a more efficient process and timely workarounds.
Typically, the hierarchy across most Paygo platforms revolves around the concepts of accounts, customers and token-enabled devices. This hierarchical structure allows for organising and managing different levels of users and devices within the platform. However, adding to the hierarchy and overall logic of how the data is organised, there might be several operating entities, types of offers, add-ons, among others, all of which may vary depending on the flexibility of each platform. Even if two systems follow a fairly similar hierarchical structure and logic, the terminology might still be completely different, hence cross-company collaboration will also be needed to map and configure the data coherently, ensuring it retains its intended meaning and use in the new environment.
Working with Azuri, for instance, our migration experts turned the process around to adapt the traditionally location-centric hierarchy of PaygOps into one more centred and mixed between agents, devices and locations, so as to replicate the hierarchy followed in Azuri’s operational structure. Furthermore, they found significant differences in the terminology used between the two platforms and the rules and order in which the information around the contracts is structured. As a result, there were some interesting challenges to split the data into PaygOps fields without losing the sense of it.
While we know our platform better than anyone else, the distributor is likely to know its legacy platform better than we do. Ideally both teams should have a thorough understanding of the two systems, instead of having relying on descriptions of the functionalities, which can then lead to key details getting lost in translation. Therefore, it’s essential for us to work alongside our client from the very beginning, with firsthand access to the client’s previous system.
In some cases, the distributor might feel challenged fitting their existing processes to work within a new CRM infrastructure and determining suitable workarounds, especially around very specific features of their previous platform that are different or are not yet available on the new platform. This is understandable, hence the value of having a dedicated team of experts like ours, who are willing to find the most ideal alternative or agree with the client how new features/special configurations can be incorporated into PaygOps moving forward.
"Where we identified features that weren’t available or didn’t work in a way that matched our processes, PaygOps was always quick to respond and find solutions.", Nigel Preston, Vice President of Product Development at Azuri Technologies.
3. A platform migration is a complex process that requires a flexible roadmap.
The duration of a data migration process can vary depending on several factors, including the size and complexity of the data being migrated, the compatibility between the two platforms and the availability of resources and expertise from the teams involved in the operation. In our experience, the average time to complete a migration ranges from several months to up to a year. In the following chart, we provide the estimated times per stages of the migration:
While the steps carried out by us and the client won’t take longer than three months, please note that integrations with TelCos can take time and impact the overall duration of the platform migration, especially if the distributor is implementing SMS or Mobile Money for the first time. On the other hand, hardware integrations may also cause delays. This is mainly because features of Paygo devices change slightly from one brand to another. So, integrations with such devices can take longer depending on the flexibility, or limitations, of our partner’s hardware, and must take special care in linking up the device functionalities with those of the new platform.
As Azuri suggests: “Be prepared for a lengthy end-to-end migration process. A migration is not just a technical process, but also requires the involvement of people with a deep understanding of what happens at the call centre, in the field and everywhere that the platform touches.”
Despite possible delays caused by external factors, it is essential to keep in mind that our team works proactively and strives to streamline the overall migration times. Furthermore, PaygOps’ migration experts will offer timely advice to the distributor as to what to expect when engaging with third parties and how to make the process more efficient, and are willing to work closely with the latter to ensure successful integrations and a smooth transition into the new platform overall.
Outcome and Final Thoughts
Working with our partner, Azuri, was smooth and a great challenge at the same time for the exact same reasons: they knew what they wanted and how it should work for them. They have expressed their satisfaction with the overall result, the reactiveness of our team and the flexibility of PaygOps to adapt to their processes even when a workaround seemed difficult.
Among the various improvements, they found having the onboarding forms and issue tracking in a single location had an immediate impact on customer management at their call centre, as in the past they needed to use multiple systems.
"Thanks to close co-operation between the Azuri and PaygOps teams, the transition itself was very smooth; our customers were largely unaware of the change; and the distribution team quickly adapted to PaygOps. Overall, we are delighted with the success of the project – a great result for Azuri and our partner PaygOps", Nigel Preston, Vice President of Product Development at Azuri Technologies.
This migration experience certainly allowed us to fully understand how we can support each other better from our lines of expertise and strengthen our partnership for future endeavours. Today, PaygOps is backing the daily work of the distribution team in Zambia and supporting Azuri to streamline their business operations so they can keep bringing life-changing technology to the Next Billion.
Platform migrations are custom and highly collaborative projects, across which different challenges can and always will arise, hence the importance for parties involved to keep the right mindset and patience to be able to re-adapt the process. Furthermore, clear communication and collaboration between the two parties are crucial to understand the specific requirements, expectations, and timelines. Adequate planning and preparation, including a thorough assessment of data structures and configurations will help identify potential challenges and mitigate risks. Testing and validation at each stage of the migration process are essential to ensure data integrity and minimise disruptions. Last but not least, ongoing support and training must be provided to facilitate a smooth transition and maximise the benefits of PaygOps for the LMD.
By keeping these insights in mind, we are certain that any platform migration can move forward successfully. This holds especially true for LMDs who are carrying out a migration for the first time and might not be fully aware of the implications of such a complex process.
At PaygOps, we have a dedicated team of experts always committed to go the extra mile to support LMDs of all sizes across all industries, thoroughly understanding their unique business needs, and backing them to flexibly adapt our infrastructure into their existing processes and not the other way around, so they can reach further success at the last mile. If interested in migrating into PaygOps or simply booking a demo, contact us.
Solaris Offgrid's flagship software, PaygOps, enables credit to be provided to the bottom of the pyramid for essential products like solar home systems, agritech inputs, clean cookstoves, water pumps, etc. The end customers pay incrementally via Mobile Money under a Paygo model. PaygOps provides the software infrastructure to manage the contracts, payments and related communication for the local retailers of such products. Our affordable modular and interoperable solution connects energy and payment methods (Pay-as-you-go, mobile money) to a suite of enterprise applications that allows the smooth management of lease financing and field operations, while providing key financial data and metrics to investors.