Plan your data migration

Companies need to plan their data migration comprehensively from start to finish - it's not something you can patch together as you go along.

Johannesburg, 15 Feb 2017
John Bancroft, JMR Software Sales and Marketing Manager in the UK.
John Bancroft, JMR Software Sales and Marketing Manager in the UK.

Data is one of the most precious assets of any business, and it continues to grow in volume and complexity, but there is also more pressure for businesses to migrate to new applications. Yet organisations resist doing so out of fear of the consequences of failure - a valid fear, as it turns out, with Bloor Research from 2013 putting the failure rate for data migration projects at 38%.

However, the inherent benefits of embarking on a data migration programme cannot be denied. Moving from outdated legacy systems to a centralised, streamlined system results in more efficient operations across the business, reduced overheads and improved customer service levels.

"There is increasing pressure on companies, particularly in the UK, to move and consolidate data, for example to embrace new systems, achieve a single view of customer or simply to reduce operating costs. Yet, often the focus is on the new functionality and not on how to get the data safely moved across," says John Bancroft, JMR Software Sales and Marketing Manager in the UK.

Just a few of the concerns expressed by organisations avoiding data migration include that the data could be irretrievably lost, that it won't be kept secure, that downtime will be experienced during the data migration or that the project will exceed budget.

For these reasons, some companies opt to do their own data migration in-house, but this strategy has its own inherent set of challenges:

* Off-the-shelf data migration products are costly and only used once.
* Staff need to spend time familiarising themselves with the software.
* The business has to allocate a staff member to actually do the migration, which could take up to nine months.
* If an international product is chosen, technical support could prove a challenge.
* Does the business have up-to-date knowledge of legal and compliance issues, particularly when migrating sensitive data?

The impact of the above-mentioned risks can be widespread and, in certain circumstances, some organisations will just refrain from migrating to new systems because the risk is too high. A poorly executed data migration programme can impact on both the business and its IT.

Bancroft says: "We often find ETL (extract, transform, load) tools gathering dust on shelves as this element is only one piece of the overall data migration solution required. From the outset, organisations need to seek out a complete solution involving highly skilled teams, a proven methodology and a data migration application that combined significantly reduce both the cost and risk normally associated with data migrations."

From a business perspective, it can result in unhappy customers if their data is lost or corrupted, employee productivity can suffer, a breach of legal or regulatory requirements can cost the business time and money, and there's also reputational damage if, for example, customers' personal data should be inadvertently revealed.

The impact can be just as bad for the organisation's IT division, as key data could be lost, application stability could be affected, extended downtime can place additional pressure on technical staff and the negative impact on projects down the line could be unavoidable.

All of the above can result from a DIY approach to data migration, however there is another option - finding a partner to travel the data migration journey with you.

Tips when choosing a data migration partner:

* Look for a comprehensive and fully managed approach to data migration.
* This includes a tried and tested data migration flow.
* Choose a technology-agnostic supplier.
* Transparency is key - seek a provider that'll provide you with accurate data mapping, detailed reports and visibility of your data in flight.