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Data Migration Butterfly Effect

I recently published a Data Migration research study (sponsored by Experian). During a recent interview with Rebecca Hennessy, I also explored some of the key findings and recommendations from the research.

In this post, I want to expand on those earlier insights by introducing the ‘Data Migration Butterfly Effect’.

This phenomenon occurs when a few simple oversights, typically at the beginning of a data migration project, can cause a chain reaction leading to widespread chaos and delays as the project develops!

Start as you mean to go on (by reducing risks)

As I mentioned in my last interview, a key warning sign in the research was the relatively low adoption of an impact assessment on data migration projects.

Only 36% of respondents said that their project had carried out a thorough impact assessment of the impending migration.

The problem here is that, without a robust impact assessment, you’re already starting to make fateful decisions about the migration ahead that have serious ramifications down the line.

A decent impact assessment of a migration aims to cross-check the goals of your migration with the ‘reality on the ground’.

Battlefield commanders would never send their troops blindly over a hilltop and into unknown territory. However, far too many data migration project managers fail to adequately survey the data landscape before committing their ‘troops’ and tactics to the battle ahead.

What struck me in the research was just how many people could point to the problems that poor scoping, forecasting and planning had caused on the migration, despite these activities having been carried out many months, or in some cases years, before.

Building on a solid foundation (not guesswork and assumptions)

As a project leader, a thorough pre-migration impact assessment ‘sets out your stall’ for the project by advocating a risk-management strategy for decision-making. You’re not ‘shooting from the hip’ with your thoughts and tactics for the data migration plan. Instead, you’re taking a data-driven approach, guided by the accurate and timely intelligence that the impact assessment delivers.

With your impact assessment complete, you will be equipped with reliable information on your legacy landscape, its data issues, sponsors, subject matter experts, relationships, interfaces, data feeds and dependencies.

You’ll get a much richer view of which skills and specialist tools you’ll need and where external suppliers may need to take an active role.

But most importantly, you’ll create a positive butterfly effect.

This small investment in time and skills will channel directly into a more accurate scoping exercise, which delivers more accurate planning and forecasting, which assigns the right people, expertise and tools, to specify and complete the migration.

Data drives the strategy

On one project, the client was adamant that their strategy was to migrate the data ‘as-is’, without any cleansing, using some in-house tools they had at their disposal.

Following the impact assessment, they discovered they had a data proliferation problem; there were far more systems that needed to be migrated than they had bargained for.

Examining the data quality, the customer soon realised it was so poor that a major improvement was required which they hadn’t budgeted for.

Finally, the impact assessment uncovered that one of the systems, which was core to the migration, consisted of elements of unstructured data, so their assumed choice of migration tool was inappropriate.

With the new information available, they steered a new course to avoid disaster.

Next Steps

Ultimately, your goal as a data migration leader is not to migrate data but to satisfy the needs of the users and customers that depend on the functionality of the target system. You can only meet their needs if you build on firm foundations at every phase of the project.

No-one will thank you if you migrate data to a system that fails to live up to the aspirations of the users and stakeholders.

(Then again, don’t expect too many thanks when you migrate perfect quality data on time and in-budget, that’s just considered doing your job ;-))

If you’re planning a data migration, please take some time to study the findings of the research study.  You may also be interested to read another of my blogs on this subject which also touches on how modern technology such as Experian Pandora can facilitate a pre-migration impact assessment.

Alternatively, you can visit our Data Migration Leadership hub where we have put together a comprehensive leadership resource that features further guidance from Dylan Jones, including data migration checklists, survival guides and more.

Got a question about the research and what it means to your project? Feel free to post in the comment section below.

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