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Why data conversions fail

Data conversions are tricky undertakings. There is no way around that. They are time-consuming, expensive, and can feel downright overwhelming. For many agencies in the public sector, the constraints on budgets and resources are a challenge day in and day out. When it comes to data conversions or modernization projects, there is no exception. Across organizations in the United States, approximately 80% of data migrations fail. Why, you ask? Let’s take a closer look.

In our 2017 global data benchmark report, we surveyed public sector agencies to learn about the greatest challenges they face when it comes to data conversions. The markers for success for a conversion are that the organization completes the project on time and on budget, and that the target system functions optimally post-migration. For one in three public sector agencies, data quality issues were a key cause of delay for data conversion projects. Similarly, one in three cited lack of budget as the primary cause of delay. While both lead to delays, data quality issues can also prevent the target system from operating effectively, and going over budget spells failure as well.

In addition to data quality issues and lack of budget, public sector agencies cited ineffective tools, lack of standardization, and not enough man power as reasons they failed with their data conversions. Given these reasons, it should come as no surprise that some of the top ways to improve the conversion would be through better tools to prepare data (49%), and more emphasis on data quality (47%). One of the interesting results, however, was that the top way to reduce potential delays in a migration would be through better communication. More than half of the organizations surveyed agreed that communication is a significant factor behind success.

So how can you beat the odds when it comes to a data conversion project? Try these tips:
1. Have a solid plan in place. Consider the people, the processes, and the tools you will use to complete your conversion, along with a clear budget and timeline.
2. Choose a strong leader. Your leader should have both expertise in data and business processes, while also facilitating open communication with stakeholders from across the organization.
3. Don’t forget about data quality. As data quality is a leading factor in delays within a conversion, you should work to proactively mitigate that risk. A data quality tool can help you better prepare your data and prevent quality issues from hindering your migration.
4. Secure buy-in across the agency. Having an ample budget for your conversion starts with buy-in from the leadership at your agency. Ensuring that you have input from users around the agency provides context to guarantee that the information migrated to the target system is usable and useful.
5. Keep the end in mind. As you plan and throughout the process, always keep the end in mind. What do you wish to achieve through your modernization or conversion project? What information is critical to your agency’s mission and operations? What will success look like? Continuing to revisit the end goal will help you stay on track and adjust course wherever necessary.

Data conversions are often expensive, time-consuming, and labor intensive. With such high rates of failure, you’ll want to make sure you set yourself up for success. Keep in mind these common pitfalls that many agencies run into, and learn from their mistakes. Remember how important communication, the right tools, and an emphasis on data quality will be to completing your conversion on time and on budget. When data quality can be the difference between success and failure, you don’t want to leave it to chance.

Are you interested in how the right data quality tool can lead to your data conversion success?

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