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Seven Steps to Successful Data Migration

Excerpted from Campus Management’s CRM best practices series

As part of Campus Management’s CRM best practices webinar series, strategic consultants Adam Hopkins and Genise Schuette provided guidance for ensuring successful data migration and integration between platforms and systems. Whether you are replacing a legacy system, upgrading databases, establishing a new data warehouse, preparing for disaster recovery, reducing storage footprints, or merging new data from another source, here are the seven steps to ensuring a successful migration.

Step 1: Identify the data format, location, and sensitivity

The first step in the data migration process is taking stock of where you are today with your data. Take a good hard look at what you’re migrating. Is there information you’re storing that is obsolete and can be excluded in your migration? What format is your data in? Where is your data currently stored? Is there regulated data that requires security controls and specific access management? Determine who is using the data now, who will use it in the future, and how it will be used.

Step 2: Choose a method of tracking your findings

The point here is documentation. It’s not the format that counts. It’s the fact that you do it. So whether it’s a spreadsheet, a whiteboard, or a good old-fashioned notebook, the point is that you need to keep track of what you have found and where you are in the process. We all start projects thinking “I’m going to remember this. I don’t need to write it down.” Keep good notes so that you can keep yourself on track and report to others where you are in the process.

Step 3: Plan for the size and scope of the project

Set up a data migration plan that outlines each step considering who will be affected, what the downtime will be, potential technical or compatibility issues, how to maintain data integrity, and how to protect that data during the migration. You will want to make sure that everyone is on the same page with goals and objectives and a clearly defined scope of work. The project manager must keep everyone up to date with a solid communication plan.

What resources will you need to accomplish this task? Are there budget restrictions? Is there anything new to the institution that can disrupt business as usual? Ensure that you have a solid training plan and schedule in place to bring all employees up to speed with the data management processes you have defined. To minimize the amount of downtime and errors, make sure everyone impacted by the migration stays informed throughout the project.

Step 4: Write out a flexible timeline

Any time you talk about a timeline, people get nervous. So it’s important to emphasize that this is a flexible timeline. Ask yourself questions like “will the migration interfere with normal business operations?” “Will it require downtime?”

One very important aspect of any project is keeping your stakeholders informed. Communicate with them about the timeline. Be open to discussion and questions. Be mindful of schedules and priorities, backup and replication settings, capacity planning, and prioritizing. The important thing to remember when creating a timeline is be realistic. It’s important for your team to feel successful and to maintain positivity even with challenging projects, so make your goals and steps attainable. It will help to keep everyone on track and make your migration project successful.

Step 5: Assess staff

Getting the right team in place for a project of any size is essential, so determine if your team has the knowledge and skills necessary to accomplish the project or if you need to reach out to an expert. This can go back to step three: identifying resources and budget restrictions.

Do you and your team members have time to tackle the project? Are there ways of freeing up more of their time to dedicate to the project? All of us can relate to the issue of being assigned a large project and not having enough time for our other tasks. You may not be able to bring in reinforcements, but you might be able to help redistribute workloads to accommodate for the extra time this project might require.

In addition to time, you want to make sure that you have all stakeholders represented. And this means you may need someone from each department that relies on the data to be involved in the decision making. Your end-users may have anxiety over the success of the migration project. If you treat the data migration project as a business process instead of simply a set of technical steps and involve your end users, you’ll have a more successful data migration project in less time and at a lower cost.

Step 6: Make sure your data is clean

You don't want to push bad data into a new system, so you need to complete an analysis on your databases before moving forward with the migration. Even if you’ve done a pretty good job of keeping your data clean, you will still benefit from taking the time to do a data cleanout before you migrate. If you’re familiar with your data, you’ll know what to look for, including any anomalies or inconsistencies. Take advantage of those queries that you run to look for records that are clearly incorrect or inconsistent.

You can enlist the help of others to help look for errors and correct the inaccuracies. You may want to delete obsolete files, abandoned email accounts, and outdated user accounts. Another important thing to check for is duplicate records. When you migrate with clean data, you can be confident that you’re starting in your new system with accurate data.

And most importantly, don’t migrate bad habits. As you’re doing your data cleanup, you might come across some bad data that is the result of bad habits. Make sure you identify and correct the problem before you migrate.

Step 7: Back up all data

This is kind of a no-brainer. You want to make sure that backing up all the data takes place before you migrate. Leverage all your resources to make sure that this is done correctly and thoroughly. No one wants to migrate data and have issues arise because a data backup wasn’t performed or was done incorrectly.

Whether you are migrating data to a new CRM, SIS, ERP or other core system at your institution, these first steps can help ensure the data integrity of the new system as well maximize the potential of the new solution for improving workflows, insight, and results.

View the On-Demand Webinar "Seven Steps to Successful Data Migration"

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