CASE STUDY - Top 50 UK Law Firm
A leading law firm wanted to migrate its business-critical case management system from Microsoft Team Foundation Server to Microsoft Azure DevOps. However, the process was fraught with complexity. Standard tools and methods couldn't achieve the desired outcome and would have hindered long-term ambitions. Using open source tools to devise a tailored approach, DevOpsGroup turned this high-risk move into a high-value event, unlocking tangible business benefits.
The law firm’s proprietary case management system is a core element of its practice technology stack. Originally built using the on-premise Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS), it plays a central role enabling lawyers and other fee-earners to process insurance litigation matters.
With advancements in cloud technologies, it became apparent that moving the application to Microsoft Azure DevOps could offer significant benefits. The platform was already being used for some applications and there was an appetite to build on this.
However, moving the case management system would be inherently complex. What’s more, with such a business-critical application, the associated risks were high.
The firm faced a choice: reassign two developers to handle the migration (impacting the IT team’s overall work rate) or outsource the task to a specialist consultancy. Ultimately, DevOpsGroup was appointed based on our proven experience orchestrating complex cloud migrations. The outcome was a seamless transition that quickly delivered value, maximised the capabilities of the new environment and paved the way for future growth and development.
Several factors made this migration less straightforward than a standard move from TFS to Azure DevOps.
The client had completed a major acquisition of another law firm in the 12 months prior, so the move was an opportunity to integrate case work from the two businesses. However, this was complicated by the prevalence of customised project templates. Furthermore, the fact that some applications were already running on Azure DevOps precluded use of Microsoft’s standard Azure DevOps 2019 Server Upgrade Process combined with Azure DevOps Migration Tools.
The standard approach would have resulted in the case management system being isolated in its own Azure DevOps organisation, limiting collaboration. Since facilitating a Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/ CD) approach to software development was a high priority, this was not acceptable. It was important to ensure commonality across all applications.
Given the complexity and potential repercussions of the migration, DevOpsGroup devised a tailored approach. We’re well-versed in standard Microsoft migration tools and, following an Inception Day to enrich our understanding of the existing implementation, it was clear that they wouldn’t offer an optimum migration on this occasion. So, instead of following the mainstream migration pattern, we developed an alternative with the flexibility and precision required to meet the client’s needs.
This approach involved careful selection and deployment of open source tools. And we used virtual machines for a dry-run, enabling work items to be reviewed and validated before the migration of live data was triggered.
A central aspect of the solution was the conversion of the case management system’s source code to GIT using GIT-TFS. The GIT-TFS tool acts as a two-way bridge between TFS and GIT, pulling TFS commits into a GIT repository then pushing updates back to TFS. Converting the source code in this way meant it could be pushed into the existing Azure DevOps organisation, rather than necessitating a new, standalone organisation. The migration itself was achieved using VSTS Sync Migrator, a powerful open source tool available in Microsoft’s Visual Studio Marketplace to facilitate the migration of high-fidelity work items.
Appointing DevOpsGroup to handle the mechanics of the move meant in-house developers could focus on high-value work instead of a high-risk migration. We facilitated a smooth and timely transition with minimum disruption to fee-earners during the process.
Our upfront Inception Day ensured we fully understood the intricacies and potential challenges of the migration. Combining this with our knowledge of Microsoft tools and alternative open source options enabled us to overcome issues that would have led to the isolation of the case management system. The result was a fully integrated application, which sets a precedent for more collaborative and transparent working practices across the client’s network of UK offices.
Complex migrations are business-as-usual for DevOpsGroup, and we completed the migration within a two-week timeframe. What’s more, by ensuring the case management system joined the existing Azure DevOps organisation, we facilitated better ways of working. Deployment frequency has accelerated from six-monthly to weekly. This ability to introduce new features and functionality at speed, without compromising stability, is a critical success factor in the digital economy.
The migration was strategically handled to promote and facilitate agility. The law firm now has a firmly established DevOps culture, and is set to further improve and accelerate its delivery of new functionality to maximise customer satisfaction and competitive differentiation.
Despite the complexity and risks involved, the migration of this case management system from TFS to Azure DevOps was completed on-time and on-budget without compromising performance during the transition. This has empowered the client to derive tangible value from the cloud environment quickly, further strengthening its position at the forefront of insurance litigation.