Building a Data Migration Strategy: Key Factors for Any Business

In any strategy, regardless of type, there can be different approaches to accomplish the strategic goals to see positive outcomes. No one strategy is right for all and each player involved will have their stake in the ground to drive due to their business need. Therefore, when building a data migration strategy, bring in the siloed players who will add value to the migration. These players are IT and business users alike. Collaboration and partnerships are the key to the success of the migration and the overall happiness of the business users needing the data.

So, what is Data Migration?

Data migration is the process of selecting, preparing, extracting, and transforming data and permanently transferring it from one computer storage system to another. Migration occurs for a myriad of reasons such as, relocation of a data center, maintenance, upgrades, or decommissioning of systems or data bases, replacing servers, migrating to a new application, consolidating like systems, and adhering to disaster recovery plans.

If you are considering a system upgrade, new implementation, or a consolidation, you want to automate as much as the data migration as possible to eliminate human error. Building a strategy to actualize your approach and results are key to a successful migration.

What are the Key Factors of Data Migration?

Factor 1.

Communicate the Why! Business needs to be aware and communicated to often about the migration of their data. Afterall, they own and use it! Therefore, they must be involved in the planning and the process.

Factor 2.

Know Your Data! You never know what trash is coming over so, examine the data for accuracy. Get the business involved. Archive what cannot be actioned.

Factor 3.

Cleanup Your Trash!  Make the data as clean as possible! Garbage In; Garbage Out! This process may need added people, extra internal or third-party software to assist.

Factor 4.

Protect and Maintain! We all know that data worsens over time. Ensuring data quality is maintained and protected from birth to death is a sure-fire way of keeping the business owners and users happy. Privacy implications are always a factor to address in migrating data. With so many new privacy regulations cropping up in the U.S like NYPA, CCPA let alone the existing HIPPA, ITAR and the GDPR concerning European data subjects, the business and IT must properly account for the safety and security of data. Ensure the right people have the right access to the data they need to do their daily work and are aware of their privacy obligations are critically important to get right. A data governance risk assessment may be needed to cover privacy, security, retention, and risk register aspects required by the organization. 

Factor 5.

Govern! Automate where possible to ensure data integrity. There are tools out there to help. Tracking, reporting, metrics. Give insights into your data to bring about transformation.

Key Approaches to the Strategy

Approach 1.

Migrate Everything! A full migration is typically inside a specified timeline. Systems of engagement will have genuine downtime. Data must go through extract, transform, and load, (ETL) processes and migration to the new database.

The benefit of this approach is that the migration happens all in one swoop. Be mindful this can be stressful on the business as one of their resources will be offline and added IT stress as there’s specific timelines to be met. There is higher risk of disruptions to the business with this type of migration.

Approach 2.

Phased Migration. Old and new systems run in parallel. This eliminates downtime or operational interruptions. You can keep processes running in real-time and can keep data continuously migrating.

This type of migration can still be fairly complex, but it will normally reduce your risks of disruptions with the business.

Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s

Detailed project plans are going to be extremely helpful in navigating the waters of your migration. Make sure you have a strong project manager to keep everything afloat and documented. Nothing is worse than going down rabbit holes and getting off track especially since migrations typically have a direct impact on the business.

There is a great website called that provides valuable resources to help you chart through your migration project, what you need to know as various stakeholders or industries, data quality guidance, checklists, and much more.

Taking the time to incorporate the right people, system resources and planning will lend to a righted ship in the end. Getting the migration right is right for the business!


Donda L. Young, CIP