September 2, 2014

4 Important Questions To Ask Before You Take The Data Migration Leap

4 Important Questions To Ask Before You Take The Data Migration Leap

Data is the lifeblood of your organization, so it makes sense that you want to make sure your data is right. Data cleansing, as we’ve discussed before, is an important part of this process. But understanding the overall process of data migration is also key as you’re moving information from one system to another. Let’s dive into the topic of data migration a bit further.

Data migration explained

Data migration is the process of importing data into a new system. Most of the data that will be imported is legacy data - the data that exists in your current storage system and can include database records, spreadsheets, text files, scanned images and paper documents. All of these data formats can be migrated to a new system. You may also have data from other sources, like from trade shows or external vendors, that may have to be parsed and migrated into the new system too.

The decision of what data to migrate and what to leave behind is an important one. To figure this out, you’ll want to ask certain questions about your data. The idea is to ascertain data value, which is how important the data is to your system, what condition it’s in and how effectively it’s being used. There are several things you’ll want to ask to discover data value.

Is the older data in your system being used?

If users are not using the older data in the current system, then more than likely it will not be used in the new system and should be looked at closely as to whether it should even be a part of the migration.

"If users aren't using your older data now, more than likely it won't be used in the new system. #data migration”

If older data is migrated, you may want to narrow that older data down by a data parameter that limits the amount brought into the new system. Criteria can include the date the data was entered, but can also include other factors like types or overall usage. Keeping it simple is the best approach. However, there may be times when filtering data may make sense for your organization.

How far back do you want to migrate data from?

An important consideration to make is how far back you want to migrate data from. This question is usually asked for records like open invoices, payments, events and event registrations. Do you need to track financial transactions all the way back to 1975? Do you need to migrate information from the 1990 Annual Conference? The choice is yours, but know that the further back you go, the longer and more expensive implementation usually is - and you’ll like get rapidly diminishing returns on your efforts. Many organizations choose to only bring in financials from the past 5 years, for example, or to only bring in annual conference registration information.

Are there tables in your data that have little or no information?

Once you’ve determined which data you want to migrate, then determining what parts of the data record will also be important. Are there tables in your data that have little or no information? These are usually the candidates for data that can be left out of your next implementation or cleaned from your system entirely. Many people leave data out of a migration when they no longer report on the data, no longer need it or were not sure what it ever used to track in the first place.

Do you have a large amount of duplicate records?

Another thing you should also stop and think about is what you’ll do if you have a large amount of duplicate individual or organizational records. Taking a hard look at your individual and organizational records is a good idea to do periodically, especially prior to a data migration. If possible, duplicate records should be cleaned up prior to the migration, in the legacy system by the users of that data and that legacy system, to insure data integrity is kept. You’ll also want to decide, ahead of time, what will be critical to be used for data verification from the legacy system to the new system. Developing a plan of what you’ll do with your duplicate records now will prevent lots of headaches, unexpected time and unexpected expense in the future.

A vital first step

Data migration is a vital step when implementing new association management software. There are a lot of questions you’ll want to ask to make sure this is done right. These are the most common, but if you have any others, feel free to connect with us in the comment section below or to contact us. Good luck with your data migration!

Alan Moss

Alan is the Director of Data Services. He is responsible for managing all aspects of the migration of historical client data into MemberSuite. He has 20+ years experience in data migration, has a strong love of all sports and enjoys spending time with his family.

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