Halloween might be scary but data migration doesn’t have to be

Owen Pettiford
- Leadership - Oct 31, 2019

Owen Pettiford is SVP of SAP Digital Transformation and SAP Mentor at Syniti (formerly BackOffice Associates)

Running a successful business is all about staying one step ahead of your competitors, and you won’t be able to keep up if you are unwilling to change and move with the times. Yet, it is in our human nature to fear the unknown. A towering and abandoned mansion will always seem like a haunted house until you know who’s living inside. Similarly, undertaking a data migration whereby you are moving critical data from one place to another can be incredibly daunting unless, that is, you fully understand the challenges at hand, what lurks within those systems.

The fact that 83% of data migration projects either fail or exceed their budgets and schedules (Gartner) is enough to scare any IT team this Halloween. But data migration is not something you can hide under the duvet from, it is essential to ensure the success for a business. The reality is, business transformation requires data transformation. 

Today, old legacy systems are a real hindrance to business growth; adopting new technologies and upgrading IT is the only way for businesses to stay relevant. Data migration which goes hand in hand with digital transformation is a huge part of this. The long term benefits are manifold -- cost savings, increased efficiency and improved security are just a few. But this doesn’t mean it has to be scary. Businesses can fully prepare by overcoming these four ‘migration monsters’. 

 

  1. The creeper: Lack of visibility 

A creature lurking in the shadows is far harder to fight than a monster that is face to face. Likewise, migration problems are hard to solve when you can’t trace what’s going wrong. When there is a lack of visibility of progress, this slows the migration down and causes duplication of effort. Thankfully, there are technologies that solve these visibility issues for us. 

Centralised project management tools are designed to keep everything on track; this results in unparalleled efficiency when handling critical information. Real-time processing leverages data with speed and agility through a core system, which means IT teams completing a data migration can see what’s happening and have the confidence that things will run smoothly. 

A lack of visibility can result in a mismanaged data migration whereby the sheer volume of information most companies have leads to the process being more time-intensive than expected. And wasted time can be a huge business risk. For example, if a data migration is taking too long, this will mean employees can’t concentrate on their day-to-day jobs. Moreover, a slow migration can ultimately delay digital transformation which is the thing driving businesses today.

 

  1. The restrictor: Lack of automation

Rapid technological advancements mean that automation and autonomous decision-making will soon become the norm. This doesn’t mean machines reminiscent of Doctor Who’s Cybermen and Dalek’s will take over the world, it means technology supporting employees. IT teams might be reluctant to get on board with digital transformation over the fear of being replaced, however technology is there to enhance performance not hinder it. Data migration tools are a perfect example of this.

Unautomated and spreadsheet driven data migrations are slow. An employee might, for example, not realise they have been sent a spreadsheet and this can sit in their inbox for weeks. When moving critical data from one place to another, humans might make a mistake. Machines won’t. Businesses must make sure they don’t stand in their own way by relying too heavily on employees when there are migration tools that combine data design, mapping and integration features that ensure tasks are completed for them. 

 

  1. The trickster: Lack of orchestration 

The trickster is an ancient creature derived from mythology known for disrupting social and natural order. In data migration, the trickster disrupts the order in which tasks are completed. The data migration projects that fail often have vague timelines without a precise workflow plan, and a team without an accurate set of responsibilities. This means it is unclear what they are expected to deliver or in what order, meaning tasks are completed out of sequence. Advanced data migration tools that can actively support a migration’s workflow are the answer.

Such tools can monitor tasks and timelines as well as provide the necessary technical support. Without software that sit on top of your migration, delays and costs can scale out of control. What’s more, these tools can also help identify and fill any gaps in the resourcing model where skills or budgets are lacking. Such an investment will quickly pay for itself in insights, time saved and the assurance that everything will happen on time so as not to disrupt business as usual, defeating the trickster.

 

  1. The blob: Poor data quality 

Just like the all-encompassing blob in the 1950s film devours innocent citizens, poor data quality will devour any chances of successful data migration. But it’s easy for businesses to build up bad quality data over time. Years worth of data collected from day-to-day activities, acquisitions, different cycles of employees, organisational changes and more, often means hoarding irrelevant information. During data migration, poor data quality can cause confusion and a loss of vital business knowledge. It can also it can also hurt the environment, for instance, training AI requires huge amounts of computational power which is exacerbated by poor quality data. Therefore it is arguably the most important monster to overcome. 

There are a number of things you can do to improve data quality. Formulating a solid data governance and quality strategy is a good place to start, as this provides an organisation with valuable transparency into its data. Knowing where data comes from, how much there is and if it’s relevant enables organisations to identify opportunities to improve efficiencies. 

But once again, technology is the real key to overcoming this data migration hurdle. Advanced tools offer complete visibility into any emerging errors which helps migration teams set rules for transforming data, making sure it is of a good quality ahead of flowing it into target systems. 

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Data migrations are hard, but unless your business has been through one before it’s difficult to know what challenges you face. This might be a scary thought, but running away from a migration when it’s essential to helping your business grow, is not the answer. Technology will be your organisations best defence in overcoming these migration monsters. Make use of automation, centralised project management, mapping and integrated systems which are all tools readily available in today’s interconnected world, and ensure your migration suffers no scares this Halloween. 

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