Industry experts agree that Data Migration poses the largest risk in any implementation. While there is a common misconception that Data Migration is simply moving data from Point A to Point B, the reality is almost always much more complicated.
Gartner has recognized the risk inherent to Data Migration. “Analysis of data migration projects over the years has shown that they meet with mixed results. While mission-critical to the success of the business initiatives they are meant to facilitate, lack of planning structure and attention to risks causes many data migration efforts to fail.” (Gartner, “Risks and Challenges in Data Migrations and Conversions,” February 2009, ID Number: G00165710)
What exactly causes Data Migration to be so risky? How can Premier International (PI) help you avoid the pitfalls?
- Poorly understood / undocumented legacy systems: Every company’s data landscape is unique. It may encompass everything from decades old mainframes to homegrown one-off databases, each with its own level of support. Documentation may be non-existent, institutional knowledge may be limited, and key staff may be nearing retirement.
PI Solution: An up-front data assessment can help unravel data relationships across your landscape, providing comprehensive data facts. Our Applaud® software can seamlessly connect directly to many different database types, including mainframes, and quickly generate an overview of your data landscape.
- Incorrect / incomplete requirements that don’t reflect reality: Data Migration requirements are often developed based on assumptions around the data, rather than actual fact. Mappings and translations based on assumptions may miss key values. Duplication between or across legacy data sources may not be expected or accounted for. Data structure disparity between legacy data sources and the new target system may not be fully understood.
PI Solution: Comprehensive data facts provided by our data assessment helps ensure requirements reflect reality. Analysis reports identify duplicated data for resolution, which can be automatically corrected by the migration. Error handling built into the migration programs call out unexpected discrepancies between source and target data structures.
- Poor Data Quality / Incomplete Data: Your new system is only as good as the data underpinning it. Missing, invalid or inconsistent legacy data can cause ripple effects when it comes to the new system. While data may never be 100% clean, lack of attention to Data Quality can cripple even the most straight forward projects, leading to last minute cleansing initiatives. How do you ensure that any data gaps are filled and that you are not migrating too little (or too much) data?
PI Solution: Cleansing is a key pillar of our Data Migration approach. Defining a comprehensive Data Quality strategy right from the start allows time to account for the most pressing issues, including violations of your business specific policies. Starting on day one, we identify data gaps and initiate a data enrichment project to address any missing or invalid data.
- Lack of Attention to Detail: It is very easy to overlook seemingly innocuous changes between source and target systems. Fields with the same name may mean different things, both within and across systems. A different field name may be used for the same purpose across systems or multiple values may have the same underlying meaning. Date and time formatting and field length differences can also easily be overlooked, with disastrous impact.
PI Solution: Our proprietary software, Applaud, automatically alerts us to differences in field length or field types. Our Profiling, Analysis and Deduplication tools are put to work from the start to sniff out field level overlap and disconnects.
- Constant Changes: Data Migration projects are all about the changes. Even the most thought through business requirements start to change once testing gets underway and the business sees how the new system performs. Changes can easily number in the hundreds and need to be applied and tested quickly to avoid putting the schedule at risk by delaying test cycles.
PI Solution: Applaud allows the team to quickly modify the Data Migration programs to reflect (and test) requested changes. Changes that might take days with traditional tools can often be turned around in hours, allowing the team to implement and test changes multiple times a day, if necessary. Our project management tools keep track of all outstanding requirements and requested changes so that everyone knows exactly what’s going on.
- Lack of Planning / Testing: Data Migration is a complex process, but comprehensive testing often takes a backseat to other concerns. Testing needs to be done throughout the project, and not just by the developers. The functional team and the business need to be engaged with testing to ensure that all requirements are properly met and that all rules are properly applied. Bypassing or delaying testing can allow corrupted data to sneak into the new system or result in Go Live delivered data which does not meet the needs of the business. Just because a record loaded doesn’t mean its correct.
PI Solution: Testing is built in at every phase of the project, with full formal test cycles and shorter unit tests validating and confirming the Data Migrations well in advance of Go Live. Extensive error reporting highlights potential issues early on.
- Poor Communication: Data Migration is generally part of a larger project and must coordinate reams of changes to complex technical requirements while also engaging the business functionally. Without strong IT and cross-functional team communication, unintended results are bound to occur.
PI Solution: Our consultants act as the bridge between the functional and technical teams, questioning and challenging illogical requirements to ensure the Migrations meet both sides’ requirements. Constant communication keeps all parties informed
When you keep these risk factors in mind, you can approach every Data Migration with a comprehensive plan to avoid falling behind before you even start, reducing the risk and helping to ensure that the overall project succeeds. At Premier International, we help companies all over the world do this every day. Visit us at premier-international.com or contact us directly to learn how we can do the same for you.
Next time, we’ll be taking a look at what happens when Data Migration goes wrong, and the impact this has on projects, businesses and individuals. See you then!