Understanding Data Migration: Basic steps, most common approaches, risks, benefits and ROI.

Data migration is a critical process for most data-rich and complex businesses that involves the transfer of data from one system or environment to another. This is not to be confused with Data warehousing which on the other hand involves the transfer of multiple data sources into a common environment.  

Generally, an organisation will use one (or a mix) of these five most common data migration approaches: 
  • Manual Data Entry
  • Extract, Transform, Load (ETL)
  • Database Replication
  • API-based Integration
  • Data Migration Tools and Software
Data migration involves extracting data from the source, transforming it to fit the target's structure, and loading it into the new system. The primary objective of data migration is to ensure accurate, complete, and consistent data transfer while minimizing disruptions to business operations.  

Whether businesses are upgrading their software, consolidating databases, adopting new platforms, or undergoing a merger, data migration ensures a smooth transition without compromising the integrity and availability of crucial information.

The Basic Steps in Data Migration 

While data migration can be intricate and vary based on specific requirements, there are fundamental steps that most migration projects typically entail.  

Each step of the data migration process brings specific benefits that contribute to the overall success of the migration project. By recognizing and leveraging these benefits, businesses can achieve improved data quality, enhanced system compatibility, and seamless operations in the target system, ultimately driving better decision-making, efficiency, and competitiveness.  
Planning and Analysis:
  • Define Objectives: Clear objectives help align the data migration project with business goals, ensuring a focused and successful migration.
  • Assess Source Data: Understanding the quality and structure of source data allows businesses to identify potential data issues and plan appropriate solutions.
  • Determine Migration Strategy: Selecting the right migration approach minimizes risks, reduces costs, and ensures a smooth transition to the target system.
Data Mapping:
  • Identify Data Elements: Comprehensive understanding of data elements ensures accurate mapping and preserves data integrity during migration.
  • Map Source to Target: Mapping data fields between the source and target systems enables seamless data transfer and reliable information retrieval.
  • Handle Data Transformations: Applying necessary transformations ensures compatibility between systems, reducing data inconsistencies and improving data usability.
Data Cleansing and Pre-processing:  
  • Identify Data Quality Issues: Resolving data quality issues leads to improved data accuracy, reliability, and trustworthiness in the target system.  
  • Standardize and Normalize Data: Consistent data formats, units, and naming conventions enhance data consistency, facilitating efficient data analysis and reporting.
Migration Execution: 
  • Extract Data: Extracting the required data efficiently minimizes downtime and ensures the availability of critical information during the migration process.  
  • Transform Data: Accurate data transformation enhances data compatibility, enabling seamless integration with the target system and supporting business processes.  
  • Load Data: Efficiently loading data into the target system ensures timely availability of accurate information, minimizing disruptions to business operations.
Verification and Validation:  
  • Data Integrity Checks: Thorough data integrity checks ensure that migrated data retains its quality, accuracy, and consistency, enabling reliable decision-making.  
  • Reconciliation: Resolving discrepancies between the source and target data ensures data consistency and trustworthiness in the new system.  
  • Perform Test Migrations: Test migrations allow for issue identification and resolution in a controlled environment, reducing risks during the final migration.  
  • Post-Migration Validation and Transition:  Ensures the integrity of the combined data, at a business level, following completion of the migration 
  • Data Quality Assessment: Assessing data quality in the target system ensures the availability of accurate and reliable data for ongoing business operations.  
  • Functional Testing: Comprehensive testing validates the functionality and performance of the target system, ensuring smooth operations with the migrated data.  
  • Transition and Go-Live: A successful transition to the new system minimizes downtime, allowing uninterrupted business activities, improved efficiency, and increased productivity.  

Anticipating your Return on investment from completing a data migration 

Whilst Data Cleansing and Preprocessing often yield the quickest ROI across the business by increasing the overall data quality through error removals and formatting standardisation, it’s important to note that the entire data migration process is interconnected, and the successful execution of each step contributes to the overall ROI.

Therefore, a holistic approach, considering all steps in conjunction, is necessary for maximising the positive impact on business ROI. 

Additionally, the specific needs, challenges, and priorities of the business should be taken into account to determine the steps that would yield the highest ROI in a given context.

What are the longer-term risks of not migrating your data?

It's important to recognise that data migration is a strategic investment to mitigate the risks of limiting your business growth, customer experiences and operational advancements at pace.

Inaccuracies, security concerns, and the simple lack of access to ‘trusted data’ when you need it will not only hold your business back, but potentially also expose it to compliance breaches, privacy breaches and an inability to make informed business decisions when you need them.

Whether you choose Cloud, On-Prem, Hybrid or Virtual Private Cloud, proactively migrating your data to modern and scalable systems means your businesses can position itself for growth, operational efficiency, and improved decision-making capabilities at pace.  

If you are considering a data migration, as well as looking for ways to unleash the true value potential of your data across your business, let’s chat. 

Find out more about all of our Data Services here.


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