While mergers and the IT challenges that follow get the attention, there have been some interesting cases of the reverse in recent years. IBM sold off its managed infrastructure business to form Kyndryl; German utility E.ON spun out its gas power activities as Uniper; and most recently, General Motors set up a new subsidiary, BrightDrop, to make electric trucks.\n\nAnother example is i-Pro, a maker of cameras for surveillance, public safety, medical and industrial applications, which started life within Panasonic.\n\nIts journey to independence began in May 2019, when Panasonic sold an 80% stake in what would become i-Pro to an investment fund. Panasonic pulled several activities together\u2014its security systems business division, an R&D unit designing compact cameras for industrial and medical use, a US subsidiary operating mainly in the public safety sector, and manufacturing facilities in China\u2014and spun them out as an independent entity, Panasonic i-Pro Sensing Solutions Co.\n\nThe new company, since renamed simply i-Pro, had the right to use Panasonic\u2019s name for three years, reminding customers of its 60-year history while it built its own reputation. For that time, too, it could rely on Panasonic\u2019s IT team and its ageing SAP ECC systems while it built its own ERP in the cloud. But the clock was ticking.\n\n\u201cFor those three years, we still worked closely with Panasonic,\u201d says Rohan Ponnekanti, manager for business systems at i-Pro Americas. \u201cWe were using their IT systems, especially the SAP systems, and paying for Panasonic IT to help us with our day-to-day processes.\u201d\n\nIBM Japan was brought in to build a new global ERP system for the new company using SAP S\/4HANA, which has an entirely different data structure than the older SAP ECC. The migration went smoothly enough in Japan and in Europe, which at the time was a small part of i-Pro\u2019s activities.\n\nThings were more complicated in the US market, though, which also included the public safety business selling bodycams, dashcams, and digital evidence systems to law enforcement. \n\nPonnekanti says he was initially brought in to work on the ERP migration globally: \u201cThey thought they\u2019d save money having one guy handle everything,\u201d he says. That meant dealing with a vast span of time zones from Japan through China and Europe to Texas, where he\u2019s based. Those hours, and the scale of the challenge getting the US IT systems up and running, led him to refocus his role on the company\u2019s American operations.\n\n\u201cOur company is headquartered in Japan, so all the major decisions were made there,\u201d he says. IBM Japan handled migration of the data for Japan, China, and for the tiny European sales unit. \u201cBut when it came to the US, it was a large amount of data and complex business problems they had to deal with,\u201d he says.\n\nThe initial plan was for Ponnekanti to liaise with the Panasonic US IT staff to negotiate the extraction of the relevant data from their legacy SAP system, so it could be uploaded to the new system using SAP\u2019s S\/4HANA Migration Cockpit.\n\n\u201cUsually when you\u2019re trying to carve out the data, you go by a company code, which is the highest level you can easily carve out,\u201d he says. \u201cBut here, everything is under the same company code so it\u2019s more complicated. All our i-Pro data was completely blended in under Panasonic data, so there was no way to differentiate the i-Pro data and extract it. That\u2019s when we realized we really needed a professional data migration company.\u201d\n\nCall the specialists\n\nPonnekanti turned to Miami-based SAP systems integrator LeverX, which has developed its own data migration tools to help with moves from SAP ECC to S\/4HANA.\n\nBy now, in the latter part of 2021, Panasonic in the US and i-Pro Americas were separate entities, albeit with an owner in common. And although there was some cooperation between the two, there were limits.\n\nWhat he wanted to do was have LeverX connect their migration tool to the Panasonic ERP system, analyze the data, and extract the relevant records for insertion into i-Pro\u2019s new system.\n\nHe says Panasonic\u2019s IT team wouldn\u2019t let him, though, because although Panasonic agreed to give i-Pro access to the system, for various reasons, this didn\u2019t extend to third parties such as LeverX.\n\nAfter some discussion, Panasonic\u2019s IT team came up with a proposal: It would extract the relevant data and dump it in Excel files for i-Pro to work with.\n\n\u201cNow the whole project timeline changes, because there\u2019s a lot of manual work needed,\u201d he says. Because of the delay obtaining the data, the migration project start date slipped from October 2021 to early January 2022.\n\nAnother big challenge was that i-Pro Americas had no IT staff at this point; Panasonic had held on to the rest of the team.\n\n\u201cI\u2019m the only guy there and I have no team yet,\u201d he says. \u201cI\u2019m still working between the IBM team, the LeverX team and the Panasonic IT team, so it\u2019s quite complicated.\u201d\n\nThe biggest challenge, he says, was to understand how to map the data from the old system to the new one. Ponnekanti only joined the company himself once the split was under way, and while he had business staff who had worked with the old SAP system, their knowledge of the application was from the outside in: They weren\u2019t able to explain the technical details of the old data structures, and hadn\u2019t even seen the new S\/4HANA system yet.\n\nThat left the LeverX staff to figure much of it out for themselves based on their knowledge of the internals of SAP\u2019s software, and their experience of similar migrations elsewhere. This led to some late nights as they cleansed the data, aligned the fields between the old and new SAP implementations, and then transformed the data, renumbering customers, products, and SKUs to meet the requirements of the new system. The overall success of the migration depended heavily on the part played by the team at LeverX, according to Ponnekanti.\n\nBy the end of February 2022, it was time to hand off an XML file of all the data to the in-house team in Japan for the first mock data migration.\n\n\u201cWe had planned for three mock migrations, but due to the unexpected challenges we lost a lot of time, so we ended up only doing two,\u201d he says. There were still gaps in the data, but most of those were fixed by the second rehearsal, in April, allowing the new system to go live on time in May 2022. There were still a few holes to fix after go-live, but it wasn\u2019t a big issue when the business hit a roadblock, he says.\n\nLearning on the job\n\nWith the system up and running, Ponnekanti set out to recruit a team of three to maintain and improve it, one each for the sales, supply chain and finance functions. He looked for staff with backgrounds in consulting, like him, who dealt with challenges for a variety of clients. By the time they joined i-Pro, there was no more access to the Panasonic IT team, so there was no formal knowledge transfer.\n\nInstead, Ponnekanti says, he passed on what he learned during the migration process, and told his recruits to shadow the business staff, sit in their meetings on mute, assess areas of weakness, and try to come up with solutions.\n\nHe also started involving them in the global IT team meetings. \u201cI wanted them to hear what was going on at the higher level, so they understand and get to know all the team members from Japan and Europe, and help each other out,\u201d he says.\n\nAfter about six months, they had built up the necessary knowledge, and today, he and the team are ready to start adding additional SAP modules as the business grows.\n\nWhere Panasonic had strict procedures and slow processes, taking eight or nine months to agree even minor changes to IT systems, Ponnekanti says, he\u2019s aiming to build an IT organization that can act quicker. He wants it to take no more than three meetings to get a project going: One in the US to discuss the idea, one with an implementation partner to cost it out, and one with the global CIO in Japan to get final approval.\n\nDon\u2019t let a spin-out spin out of control\n\nPonnekanti has some advice for IT leaders considering taking on a similar role in other spin-out companies.\n\nThe most important thing, he says, is to get a detailed commitment from the parent company up front to provide the necessary access to IT systems and data\u2014including for third parties contracted to do the work.\n\nAt the creation of i-Pro, he says, no one really dug into the details. You don\u2019t have to get too technical, he adds, \u201cbut at least talk about the systems you\u2019ll need access to, and be precise about what you need.\u201d\n\nEven when the level of cooperation between the old IT team and the new is laid out in a contract, it\u2019s important to maintain that relationship because it\u2019s not just about the data migration. \n\nFinally, where company policy or security concerns run up against the bonds of friendship, and demands for data aren\u2019t met, turn the tables. \u201cAsk them what could they offer given the situation,\u201d he says. Then you can start improvising from the solutions they propose.