Plan. Don’t Panic. 7 Tips for a Successful Data Migration.

Hypothetical question for you. Let’s say at the sporting goods store, a bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. If the bat costs a dollar more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

Seems simple, right? Well, if your answer was 10 cents, you’re wrong. It seems like a very easy problem to solve, right? But it is actually more complicated than most people think. (The answer is five cents.)

Similar to this math problem, consolidating, migrating, moving, or cleaning data seems easy enough but can quickly become more challenging than you initially thought.

You need to move data from one system to another. How hard can it be?

Data migration isn’t something you can figure out as you go. These projects are famous for straining budgets and time if not done correctly. Data is often spread across the organization in different systems and formats, and there are probably many duplicate records or incomplete records. Is this the type of data you want to migrate? Probably not.

Without the right plan and tools in place, you are risking a significant amount downtime, data loss, or very messy data. That doesn’t sound like a good approach, does it?

The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to help prepare for data migration. Below are seven tips to help jump-start your project.

1. Get Your Team On Board

A data migration project can’t get off the ground unless you have identified the people who are going to be moving this effort along. Who is going to manage the process and provide clear guidance to other members of the team?

Data migration is a process that involves many areas of your organization. So anyone that uses your data in any capacity are stakeholders in this project. Looping in the people that use your data is critical.

2. Clean Up the Mess

Now is the time to “clean house” and start assessing the data you have and tidy it up before any data migration. Keeping messy data can lead to making misinformed decisions, a poor supporter experience, inaccurate reporting, decreased fundraising, and more.

You need to talk to your stakeholders and determine what data you have, what you should keep, archive, or remove and get to scrubbing. Only healthy, clean, and relevant data should be migrated.

Now is the perfect opportunity to document and review data management rules and get everyone on the same page. This will help address issues with your current data and the use of your future data.

3. Set Clear Goals

What are you looking to accomplish? What will this data migration mean to your organization? What will it mean to each area of the business that is contributing data? What is the goal of each phase of the migration? Setting clear goals along the way will help keep everyone on the same page and answer the “why” of needing to complete certain tasks.

4. Get Organized

Your current data probably varies from system to system. Create a map that accounts for all of your different data sources, fields, and formats. Decide where everything will live, what should be combined, and if anything needs moving in or out.

5. One Step at a Time

By this point, you know why you are migrating data, what you hope to accomplish, and where all of your data lives and breathes. Now, you need to start thinking about a timeline that makes sense. Break down the migration into manageable steps and set goals. More importantly, create a way to measure the success of each completed step. This will help build trust with your team that the project is running smoothly.

6. Use the Right Tools for the Job

Now is not the time to cut corners. You want to minimize any amount of downtime and prevent any data loss from happening. You also want a tool that can help you improve your data quality, streamline functions, and reduce confusion. Use a team of experts that have an in-depth knowledge of nonprofit data and data structures. Don’t risk causing more chaos with your data. Your supporter data is what allows you to fulfill program goals and make the biggest impact possible!

7. Plan Long-Term

After you go through the process of cleaning your data, you should establish a long-term strategy that can be used to keep your data healthy and protected against duplicates. The last thing you want is a solution that cleans your data once. Your data needs routine cleaning.

Omatic has become the go-to team for organizations that are consolidating databases, converting to a new system of record, or migrating a database to a new platform. Omatic’s deep knowledge of nonprofit data and data structures, and our focus on effective system design and required data mapping has set us apart as database migration leaders in the nonprofit industry. Omatic’s comprehensive methodology – that includes assessment, design, mapping, training, and testing – ensures effectively migrated data and clients who can use their ‘new-and-improved’ systems productively and efficiently.


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