How to Fail: Lack of Requirements for Email Migration Project

The best time to hire an email migration consultant, like myself, is at the very start of the email migration project.   There have been times when I have been hired after the project has started – and often discover a major issue that has a negative influence on the rest of the project life cycle.

What is that major issue?

Answer: The project has no agreed Requirements documented.

This article explores how a lack of Requirements can setup your email migration project to fail from Day 1.

What are Requirements?

Every IT project should have agreed Requirements documented.  These can be technical requirements, such as:

  • 99% of all Lotus Notes emails are to be migrated to Office 365
  • Lotus Notes users and Office 365 users must be able to email each other

Or they may be business requirements, such as:

  • The email system must not experience any downtime during business hours
  • Reduce software licencing costs

Why do we need Requirements?

Having Requirements documented provides several vital contributions to the email migration project.   Firstly, it ensures that the Requirements are met – acting as a tick list.   Secondly, it provides a metric for success.   If all the Requirements are met, then the project was successful.  It is likely that some users will be resistant to the change to a new email system, for whatever reason.   Do not let them influence how the project is judged.   Without Requirements, these dissenting voices carry far more weight.   A solid, detailed set of Requirements, that have been met, far outweighs a few negative voices.

A Bad Set of Requirements

One of the worst projects I had to work on (I was called in to rescue it), had just one Requirement listed.

  • The migration must be “like for like”

This was for a Domino to Exchange project, and it caused mayhem, as the negative people seized on this loose phrase to stall the project time and time again – saying Outlook is not the same as Lotus Notes.   The Requirement had been listed in order to tick the box in the Project Plan that said to list Requirements!

This project went massively over budget, causing disruption to the business over a long period of coexistence.   The project manager was replaced soon after I made my initial recommendations on how to rescue the project.

It would take me an average of 4 hours to compile a reasonable set of Requirements for an email migration project.  It is one of the first questions I ask when I join with any email migration project.   If there are no Requirements, then I list this as a major Risk in the project Risk Register and send to the CIO.   If there is no Risk Register present (not uncommon), I compile, and maintain my own Risk Register, and share it with the CIO.


As an experienced email migration consultant, my role is to help ensure success for the project I have been hired to help with.   When I see bad decisions being made, it is my role to highlight these, for the good of the project.  An agreed, detailed, Requirements document is not a hard item to achieve, but if ignored, it can have massive repercussions for your email migration project.

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