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Data migration – It’s all about the data


Jon-MilwardJon Milward is Operations Director, Integrated Solutions at Northdoor.  From experience, he knows that data migration is not for the faint-hearted.  In this article he covers some of the key drivers for undertaking a data migration project, the challenges involved and the vital role good quality data plays in delivering a successful outcome.

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Today’s IT environments are unbelievably complex and littered with thousands of hybrid technologies.  Environments tend to evolve over the years, often through multiple acquisitions and this can lead to a patchwork effect within the IT environment. Typically an organisation will need to replace legacy applications to upgrade old systems, or as a result of an acquisition they may need to move data from one application to another.

Organisations need to seriously think about what is involved from the outset.  When tackling a project of this nature, organisations should not underestimate the size and complexity of the task and the impact that will be felt by the business both during and after the migration. If not planned carefully, the project will be in danger of losing its way and failing to deliver the benefits that made the business case in the first place. Worse still, the project may get abandoned all together.

Drivers for data migration

With such risk involved, why do organisations undertake a data migration project in the first place? In a typical scenario, an organisation may decide it needs a new line of business application.  While the original application was suitable at some point in the company’s history, it is now no longer fit for purpose and is limiting the organisation’s ability to grow – and now all of the company’s historic data needs to move over to the new application.

A risky business

Undertaking a data migration project is a significant undertaking, with potential pitfalls at every turn. With the scoping and purchasing of the new application usually the primary consideration, the data migration element of the project is often not considered until much later on.  However, the migration strategy of the target application vendor must be considered upfront as the decision to purchase product A versus product B may come down to how easy it is to migrate the data.  There is no point having an all singing and dancing application if you cannot migrate data onto it.  Add to this the fact that data migration projects are only usually experienced in one management’s lifetime, resulting in a lack of senior expertise and knowledge, and the challenges really begin to stack up.  Without careful planning and expert advice, undertaking a data migration project can be akin to walking through a minefield. Risky at best, deadly at worst. 

Top 10 considerations to successful data migration

Adopting a cautious approach to the data migration element of an application replacement project is the smart approach.  Here are ten considerations to help ensure your project is a success.

  1. What is your migration strategy? Work out what it is that you want to migrate and when. Remember, you are in control.
  2. Don’t underestimate the importance of the migration and what’s involved. Consider this when you are determining what new application to purchase.
  3. Consider the new application vendor closely. Do they have a robust migration strategy and platform? Be sure to consider the migration as part of the overall purchasing decision upfront.
  4. Break the migration down into manageable chunks and think about data migration staging and phasing.
  5. Flexibility is important. Working with a partner that can accommodate changing requirement as the migration progresses can make all the difference.
  6. Make sure that you have full visibility and auditability.
  7. Automation is important because it cuts down cost. Make sure you get rid of as many manual jobs as possible because human beings will make errors.
  8. Commit resource and accept that upfront.  There needs to be internal commitment and involvement, you can’t outsource it all.
  9. Remember you are trying to move to a new application because it will give you new functionality.  The new application will only deliver value if it has clean data to pull down.
  10. Monitoring and transparency is important. Data migration is a big decision as well as a big risk. You need clear visibility of where you are in the process so you can understand the issues and make informed decisions.


Successful projects require careful planning and management, as well as constant communication to ensure the end goal is achieved. Do not underestimate the size and complexity of the task. Make sure everyone knows what is happening, what benefits are expected and why it is important to the business to make the transition.  Finally, remember that the value is in the data so migrating as much of this as possible will help to reap the returns on the overall project. At the same time take the opportunity to eliminate or ring fence any unwanted data as this will also help to reduce the time and costs involved.





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