We managed to grab a few minutes of Kok Meng’s busy day to ask him about the past, present and future of his Viewpoint journey.
How did you arrive at Viewpoint and what does the role of Operations Director involve?
I started with Viewpoint, fresh from uni, as a developer back in 2000. At the time there were only five of us including Rolf, the CEO. Now there are over 100 in the Viewpoint family. Back then, and even still now, despite official job titles, everyone did a bit of everything. That would be support, coding, and template production; if it needed to be done, then we all mucked in. So right from the beginning, I saw more than university could have ever prepared me for. A little later, I got the opportunity to get involved in migrations from legacy software to Viewpoint.
System Migrations gave me the opportunity to travel, work directly with clients, looking at every aspect of their business, not just look at software code. I believe this is what gave me a grounding for my current role. In fact, getting members of the different Viewpoint teams involved in migrations is something we continue to this day. Right now, in June 2022, our System Migrations Team is working on more than 20 projects, nine of which are TrustQuay migrations, with around 20 colleagues directly involved, some dedicated to the migrations team and many from other Viewpoint teams.
Historically what have been the most interesting and challenging parts of your work?
Development was interesting because Viewpoint was, and still is, growing at an amazing pace. The scope of the solution was becoming so varied that there were many things to do. However, migrations have always been close to my heart. There is a real sense of achievement and it is always rewarding to see just how genuinely pleased and surprised clients are when they see how much data we can convert with them.
Over the years we have done so many projects that inevitably, as the global solution provider in the entity management space, we are often asked to migrate well-known solutions. In fact, we have converted and migrated so many, that we have a standard migration framework for each which, as a result, makes the process incredibly efficient, delivers a very high success percentage and makes projects very cost-effective.
A sample of software migrated to Viewpoint include NavOne, 5 Series, 4 Series, Jobstream, Unity, Phoenix, Millogic, Laserfiche, Filesite, Elite, Adex Aderant, SAP, MYOB, CSA, Alchemy, Sage Evolution, Flyingboat, Quickbooks, Task Force plus many others.
The most challenging part of migrations is unravelling some of the code and database structures of some legacy systems prior to migration. At Viewpoint, we deliver an open and transparent database structure, for example, we make the database data dictionary available for all clients. Some legacy solution providers are much less transparent and don’t make it so easy to understand the table structures and logic which we believe is unfair to clients.
How important are Data Migrations for clients, and typically, how successful are conversions?
When implementing Viewpoint a data migration is not absolutely essential. That said, for a client with a legacy system, there are major advantages to having at least some form of migration.
By some form of migration, I mean that it might not be desirable to move all data from the old system to the Viewpoint solution. The old adage ‘garbage in garbage out’ often holds in this instance and is, therefore, a critically important factor to consider in the planning.
Thankfully, our extensive experience allows us to be entirely transparent with our clients on setting expectations for what is viable. We consider it on a sliding scale of straightforward through moderate to difficult and not recommended for each software migration. We then allow the client to objectively decide what they want to include in the scope.
In terms of success percentage, we don’t set or measure KPIs. What I can say is that our clients’ feedback tends to be in the range of very happy to extremely happy to being amazed at the results on the extent of migration content. Especially considering the short time frame normally taken in the process.
It is worth noting that migrations are not just mapping exercises, that is legacy field X goes to Viewpoint field Z. As the legacy systems are different and work differently there is often a complex conversion process that takes place. Once again, our experience has helped us build an extensive, specialist ‘toolkit’ helping improve results and make the process efficient.
What advice would you give to anyone considering performing a System Migration?
Plan well – legacy solution: Conduct careful and early research of your legacy solution provider’s position when switching provider. It can come as a surprise that even after many years of dutifully paying a software provider, as soon as you want to switch solution a myriad of issues and potential charges may suddenly appear.
Plan well – intended use: Some people call this the Target Operating Model (‘TOM’), some the ‘Build’, others likely have other terminology but the principle is the same. Simply this means agree, as much as is possible, what your outcome should be before you start looking to start the migration process. It might sound obvious, but you would be surprised how often this can be overlooked or left open-ended. I normally explain this as follows: it is vital to know where you are going before you set off because if you don’t know where you are going you won’t know when you have arrived.
Realistic Expectations – percent migrated: A migration means switching from one system to another. No two systems are the same either in terms of data maintained or methodology of data use. Expecting a 100% conversion is probably unrealistic or at best, financially not pragmatic. If you are not open to this concept you will probably never be happy with the result.
Realistic Expectations – data quality: The process does not need to be the nightmare that many think it will be. Data cleansing pre, during and post-migration is a very real option that can make a massive difference in what you quantify as success, especially when compared with the worst-case scenario possibility of re-keying data. Talk to us, you may be surprised just how much we can do to help.
To sum-up, migrations and conversions, everyone in the Viewpoint family is a firm believer in the project management mantra of ‘the 6 P’s’. Stick with this (or the 7 P’s variant) and you will likely be ok!
About Kok Meng
Kok Meng is married and has four children and three dogs, Teddy, Fluffy & Whisky. In addition to all that he does at Viewpoint Kok Meng and his family are very active members of their church and he is a founding member and active director of a joint primary and secondary school providing quality social-orientated education.