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Data migration: 8 things to know before you begin

Data is at the heart of every organization, and data migration projects are important undertakings for many businesses as they strive to keep up with the pace of technological advancement. Data migrations to more updated systems underpin the success of many strategic initiatives. While 35 percent of organizations have a data migration project planned for this year, a staggering 80 percent of all data migrations fail!

Yikes! That’s an intimidating figure—especially if you’re gearing up for a data migration. Don’t become another statistic; you can beat the odds if you are adequately prepared.

What exactly is a data migration?
A data migration is the process of transferring data between storage types, formats or computer systems. These are essential for any system implementation, upgrade, or consolidation.

Why/when do you need to plan one?
Most organizations engage in data migrations when there is a merger or acquisition, a de-merger of buy-out, a system replacement, a system upgrade on new system purchase, or regulatory changes.

What do I need to know before a get started?
These are the eight ‘to-dos’ you need to know before getting started if you want to be successful.
1. Pre – migration assessment
A thorough analysis of what your data, processes, and pain points look like prior to working on your migration is critical. You need to understand where you are now before you can successfully chart the path forward.

2. Clearly defined scope of work
Before starting your project, you need to make sure that you have a clearly defined goal and a strategy to accomplish this. This should consider budget, timeline, team, etc.

3. Understanding of current state of data
What does your data even look like? Do you need to go through a cleansing process? You don’t want to push bad data into a new system, so you need to complete an analysis on all your databases before moving forward with a migration.

4. Assembling the best team possible
Getting the right team in place for a project of any size is essential.
a. You want to ensure that you have all stakeholders represented; this means you may need someone from each department that relies on the data.
b. A successful team isn’t complete without a project manager. This role is critical as they will be responsible for wrangling all the stakeholders, maintaining the budget, and ensuring the timeline is enforced.
c. Leadership/Management needs to be involved in data migration because of how essential data is to the organization. They need to be kept in the loop, and can act as the final decision maker on crucial steps throughout the process.

5. Alignment on priorities
When it comes to any projects that touch multiple departments about the organization, you can also see competing priorities/objectives and lots of opinions. Before initiating any data migration project, you want to make sure that everyone is on the same page with a clearly defined scope of work, goals and objectives, and that the project manager keeps everyone up to date with a solid communication plan.

6. New definition of data quality management process
Most departments across your organization rely on the data that you have, and many collect and analyze pieces of information specific to their roles. You must have a clearly defined process to ensure consistency and standardization so everyone can confidently depend on your data.

7. Tools to speed up the process
Data migrations are not cheap, so you want to make sure you stick to the timeline as to avoid budget overruns. One way to do this is with the assistance of tools. Whether you wish to use a more comprehensive data migration tool, an extract, transform, load (ETL) tool, a data quality tool, or any combination of these, you should consider what will work best for your migration based on cost and the amount of information being transferred.

8. Training plan and schedule
Anything new to an organization can disrupt business as usual. Ensure you have a solid training plan and schedule in place to bring all employees (including future newcomers) up to speed with the data management processes you have defined. You want to minimize the amount of downtime and errors made, so making sure that everyone who will be impacted by the migration is taught how to use the new system needs to be a priority.

Thirty-five percent of organizations have a data migration planned for this year. If you are one of them, you need to ensure that you have a well-thought-out plan, including timeline, budget, people and tools you will use to seamlessly migrate your data. After all, data is one of the most strategic assets you have, so don’t fall victim to the typical pitfalls of a data migration; use these eight steps to overcome the odds.

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