Teams and Roles for a Successful Cloud Migration Project

Szabolcs Kun
Szabolcs Kun
15 Aug 2023 · 7 min read

Eventually, every company will be a data company – or it will disappear. But becoming truly data-driven comes with some hurdles that organizations need to overcome before they can reap the rewards.

Migrating to the cloud is a key way to future-proof operations and make the most of your data. Cloud data migration, however, is a complex process with several moving parts that is important to get right to avoid downtime, loss of data, and reduced operational capacity.

We have discussed these before in our blog, including the cloud migration process lifecycle and the specific benefits of cloud migration. Now, it’s time to look at the human resources element: the roles and functions that will enable a smooth migration as well as support your operations post-migration for optimal results.



The Migration Project Team

A key component of a successful migration is the Project Team setup. Missing roles or misaligned responsibilities are a frequent source of delays, failed migration projects, or unmet expectations. In this section, we identify key roles to make the delivery a success. 

Some of these can be covered by the same person, but it’s important to think about all of them. 

Every project and every organization is different, and this team structure serves as a blueprint. Consider whether the omission of any of these roles holds risks for your organization, and if so, how big they are.

Successful cloud data migration requires a team of specialists in a large enterprise.
Key team roles in an enterprise-level cloud data migration project

On a high level, our team setup should consist of a delivery team, which in a migration scenario is called the Migration Team, and the Project Committee. There are roles that overlap both teams.

This is important as you will want to make sure there is an unobstructed flow of information and clear escalation lines between the migration team and the people responsible for the overall execution and success of the project. Other parties play an important role too. Chief among them are the organization’s teams, who are our users and stakeholders. 

Executive Sponsor

An Executive Sponsor in a migration project is a senior-level leader responsible for ensuring project success by providing necessary resources, support, and communication to stakeholders. They advocate for the project and act as the final escalation level. Potential candidates for an Executive Sponsor include the CTO, CDO, Head of Data, and Chief Innovation Officer.

Program Manager

A Program Manager oversees its execution by developing and implementing a comprehensive plan, tracking progress against milestones, managing communication between stakeholders, and resolving issues. 

Program Managers work closely with the Project Team and Executive Sponsor to ensure the project is aligned with organizational goals and completed efficiently and effectively. They focus on the overall execution of the program in the context of the ever-present broader corporate initiatives, like digital manufacturing in a manufacturing example or the energy efficiency initiative. The responsibility of the Program Manager is the executional outcome of the migration project

Project Manager

A Project Manager handles the day-to-day project management and administrational tasks. Often, these are handled by the Program Manager; in large migrations, however, these operational tasks can be delegated to a shared or dedicated Project Manager. The main responsibility of this role is internal communication between the Migration Team, stakeholders and the Project Committee to ensure that dependencies are resolved and bottlenecks minimized.



Cloud Architect & Migration Tech Lead

A person whose skills and experience combine a Cloud Architect and a Migration Tech Lead is rare.  However, it plays a key role in ensuring a successful migration. During the migration to a new platform, the project needs an architect who can design the overall architecture and solve complex technical issues. These issues are often performance, governance, or security related. 

Technical leadership and responsibility sit with this role. Any project occupies a specific place on the rehost vs. full rebuild spectrum. A Cloud Architect can determine the right balance between the two extremes and handle decisions throughout the project. A good Architect resolves future problems before they arise and significantly minimizes both the development and the operational costs by designing and overseeing the right architecture and technical solutions. 

In a greenfield project, this would be enough, but in a migration project, you also need this role to understand the unique challenges that come with migration. Therefore, this specialist should be a Migration Architect, too, possessing a deep understanding of the automation, design and process aspects of migration. 

Intimate knowledge of the migration phases and the challenges of each phase is crucial. This is a challenging role to cover, but it remains paramount to the success of a migration project. It is not impossible to cover this role with two people, a Migration Tech Lead and a Cloud Architect, but this requires extensive, very close collaboration between them.

The biggest challenge with this two-person approach is finding common ground when tradeoffs are necessary between the migration and the architecture aspects.

The Project Committee

The Project Committee is the responsible party for the migration initiative. The members represent different aspects of the project and are responsible for raising risks in their respective fields. 

The Cloud Architect and Migration Tech Lead are responsible for the technical aspects and the technical risks, for example. They are also responsible for their areas. Members rely on each other and, therefore, also act as consultants or advisors to the other committee members.

Migration Team Lead

The Migration Team acts as a direct lead for the Migration Specialists. In some cases, it’s the architect and in some setups, the Migration Team Lead is the de facto Program Manager. However, larger migration teams require a team lead who manages the specialists.

Migration Specialist

A Migration Specialist is responsible for the day-to-day developments and migration tasks. They are data engineers with knowledge of the source systems, the target architecture and platform and the migration tools, technologies and techniques. Ideally, there is certification or evaluation in place to ensure that the migration specialists have these skills. Training and enablement are key to achieving this. 

Migration specialists can range from juniors to seniors, but a healthy ratio of seniority is advised. Migration specialists follow the architecture and the project plan set by the Project Committee. They are responsible for escalation to the Team Lead or the Project Manager if any difficulty or unexpected complication arises. They are also responsible for tasks and for completing their sprints.

Business Team DRI

Business Teams are the beneficiaries of any data platform. They know best what brings them the most value. They are also the ones who know the business meaning and the value of each data asset, transformation and downstream application. They are the single source of truth in business logic and rules. 

Because Business Teams are the users of the data platform and they have knowledge of the business, it’s natural that they are critical to the success of a migration. There are many areas for which the migration team needs to interact with the Business Team, and therefore, it’s important to designate a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) in the Business Team. 

This person will be responsible for getting answers, organizing and coordinating internally to ensure good communication between the Business Team and the Migration Team. 

Dysfunctional communication between the Migration Team and the Business Team is an enormous risk to the success of a migration project.

Network DRI

Network issues are the prime suspects for technology blockers. Often, resolving these issues requires the active cooperation of the IT department. In these cases, it’s important to know who should be contacted and who is responsible for resolving these issues within the agreed timeframe. 

Tasks depend on the resolution, so timely resolutions are required. When migrating from on-premises clusters, this is even more important. The networking team can have various names, but the role will exist in some form or another within each organization. 

Apart from the permissions and network issues, the team that is responsible for our IT networks can add a lot of value during validation and even discovery. 

Within large enterprise systems, part of the discovery can be identifying downstream applications. This can be done via partial automation and stakeholder mapping, but when the organization is of a certain size, even more automation is required. Network traffic gives us a clear indication that a downstream application relies on a database or upstream data asset. These dependencies can be identified with the help of the Network Team and the Network DRI. 

During validation, the Network Team can help us identify whether there is any traffic that remains and whether there are hidden applications still relying on the old system. This is important to know before we shut down the old system.

Security DRI

Security is always important, but working with data, including sensitive business data, requires extra effort when thinking about security. It’s important, therefore, to designate someone who can review security, act as an escalation point for related issues, and can be a reviewer and auditor of the migrated solution. 

The Project Committee can ask questions and ask for advice; therefore, the Security DRI acts as an advisor too. In many cases, the Security DRI is a senior technical role; in others, the CISO or CIO. It depends on the size of the organization and the impact of the migration. It’s good to think about the potential issues the Security DRI will be involved with. 

The more high-level strategic the issues (e.g., governance, compliance) and the more regulated the industry, the more senior role is required. In finance, it’s not uncommon to have the CISO as the Security DRI. If almost all the potential issues are expected to be operational, a senior engineer can act as the Security DRI instead.

Summing Up

We hope the above roles have shed some more light on how a migration team can better coordinate and collaborate in a way that reduces bottlenecks and misalignment and helps make the project a resounding success.

Remember that, as we explained earlier, these can be functions rather than separate roles. A high-level expert can potentially combine more than one role. However, it is always worth thinking about all of them before you set off to migrate. If you still have doubts, DATAPAO can help. We’re data migration experts and boast extensive experience handling complicated projects. Book your free consultation today or read more about what we do at DATAPAO here.