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Foolproof Data Migration in 4 Simple Steps

Massa Inc - foolproof data migration ImageData migration means transferring data between silos, formats, or systems. You might need to append your data before migrating over to Salesforce, or convert your data before doing a direct mailing.

Whether you’re cleansing, appending, or de-duplicating your data, foolproof migration is possible – as long as you follow these 4 simple-but-important steps.

  1. Get everyone – and I mean everyone – involved

When faced with the prospect of data migration, many of our clients wrongly assume that only those directly involved in the actual physical migration (developers, IT folks) should be involved in the planning process. Not so!

Anyone who works with your data in any capacity should be considered a key stakeholder in the project. Depending on the type of data you’re migrating, that could include salespeople, customer service reps, inbound and outbound marketers, leadership, IT, and more.

Consult everyone who:

  • Uses the data in its current form
  • Will use the data in its new form/home
  • Use the data to achieve any type of goal in your organization

In addition to thinking about how your data will be moved from one system to another or one format to another, it’s important to consider how stakeholders access and use the data on a daily basis. This knowledge will inform and transform the data migration process.

  1. “GPS” your data

Think of your data migration like going on a road trip. If you’re driving from Chicago to New York, you’re probably not just headed for New York in general. Instead, you’re more likely to get directions to a specific hotel or landmark. In other words, you know exactly where you’re going – and what you’re going to do when you get there.

It’s no different with data migration. Instead of moving your data to a “new system,” you need to map each and every field to a specific location in the new database.

Let’s say your data includes a field called “secondary address.”

  • Does your new system already have a place for that data field?
  • If not, where is that data going to live?
  • Do new fields need to be created? Who is going to perform that function?

In order to have a successful migration, you need to get crystal clear about where you’re going and what things look like on the ‘other side.’

  1. Define and segment your records

Which records are being migrated, and how do they stack up in terms of hierarchy?

You might be migrating data for

  • A company
  • A contact for a company
  • A customer
  • An individual
  • A volunteer
  • An employee

Define the hierarchy of your data as it relates to other points in your database. Determine what’s most important and in what order the migration will take place.

As you’re getting clear on how all your data is segmented, consider how individual companies and people are segmented as well. For example, what happens if you have a customer who’s also an employee? Does your new system allow people to fit into more than one category?

Make sure you understand how the new system you’re migrating to deals with segmentation before the migration begins.

  1. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need

I don’t like speaking in absolutes, but this is one case I’ll go out on a limb – data migration always takes longer than 3 days. In fact, it usually takes many months, and sometimes more than a year to complete. That is, if you want to do it right.

By giving yourself even more time than you think you’ll need to complete the migration, you’re setting yourself up for the highest chances of success. And a successful data migration to a better system means increased productivity and a boost in your bottom line.

Food for Thought: Apple Pie Ice Cream

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I LOVE ice cream and I like to make my own. One morning, I got an idea to make an apple pie ice cream by adding chunks of a store-bought apple pie during the churning stage.

My mother’s warm deep-dish apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is the memory that stirred this idea. So I went to the bakery and bought an apple pie and put it in the fridge when I got home. I thought it would hold up better in the churning if it were cold.

Here’s a fair warning: NEVER do a data migration the way I make apple pie ice cream! This recipe is creative, innovative, and made with emotional inspiration. I got an idea, tossed some ingredients into my cart, and decided to get playful and see what happened.

While that’s a recipe for success in dessert-making, it’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to data! Instead, data migration needs to be pre-planned, strategic, and a careful step-by-step process.

But let’s get back to the ice cream!

I made the ice cream base and put it in the fridge to cool down. When I was ready to churn, I got the apple pie out of the fridge. While the cream was churning, I cut about 1/3 of the pie into 1-inch chunks. Once the ice cream began to form in the churn, I began adding some apple pie.

Because I prefer hard ice cream, I put the completely churned ice cream into the freezer – two hours later, what I had was great. Frozen chunks of apples and crust inside vanilla ice cream, infused with those great apple pie flavors. It made my brains fall out. Next up – cherry pie!

At Massa & Company, we do the heavy lifting so you can get back to running your business. Find out how we can streamline the data migration process for you.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofits to make the best use of their information about customers, partners, donors and sponsors. With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and predictive analytics, Bonnie is passionate about helping clients make informed, data-driven decisions to increase the value of their customer base. She strongly believes that making pasta and ice cream from scratch are worth the effort, and she spends much of her free time testing and re-testing that theory.

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