Overcoming Data Migration Challenges: 3 Essential Steps for Success

by The fme Team |
Jun 16, 2023 |

All too often, when a heavily-regulated company (e.g. in Life Sciences) puts out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for data migration in line with a major system update, there is a significant mismatch between the work they specify and what will actually be needed to do the job properly.

That’s because moving data across to the new system, and ensuring it’s clean, compliant and optimized to deliver everything that the new software enables, is far from straightforward. It is a major undertaking in its own right, and needs complete buy-in and active partnership from the client side.

The following three tips will help enormously in planning next migrations:

1. Be realistic in your project scoping.

Once Procurement teams and their respective KPIs become involved in the purchasing process (after initial discussions of the project plan and the need for a Class I Project Manager), talk typically moves swiftly to cost and the use of offshore resources.

Yet, this massively undervalues the importance of the data and its integral role in the success of the overall system project. To get the most out of the new system, any imported data will need to be checked, cleaned and enriched so that it delivers as needed, and is fully compliant and can be relied upon to support new operating models – such as IDMP-based Regulatory exchanges, in the case of Life Sciences.

We would always recommend a ‘Best Shore’ approach to data migration, combining the right skills sets and knowledge to do the job as effectively as possible – for instance, with a Class I Project Manager and other strategic capabilities more locally, drawing on other resources on an off-shore basis to fulfil delivery. (We have service locations across the US, Europe, and India.)

2. Understand your role in the engagement – even if you want the external partner to assume the bulk of the work.

It is one thing deciding on the right software for a major system replacement or update, but when it comes to preparing the data to be migrated to it there are all sorts of considerations that need careful thought and communication, which will need the active involvement of the client. This is not about throwing a project over the wall and letting someone else get on with it.

Ideally, for every role that is assigned to an external expert, there needs to be a counterpart internally – from a Project Manager, to business people who can make the time to attend workshops and collaborate with the external service provider on what’s important, who will perform what roles (e.g. enrich the data to ensure its future compliance).

Our experts at fme can take care of every aspect of a migration project – from business consulting and data enrichment, to migration and any system integrations. BUT, this needs to be scoped and resourced appropriately as part of the project plan to keep control of costs and timelines, and ultimately to ensure that the new system project doesn’t fail.

Trying to set a fixed price for a project without first agreeing the parameters is a bit like trying to build an Airfix model without the instructions – a recipe for disaster.

3. Agree effective timelines, based on both priorities and contingencies.

Again, this comes back to the need to be realistic and pragmatic from the outset. This requires total transparency between client and migration partner, and a collaborative approach to the project from the outset.

So, for example, if the reasons behind tight deadlines are to do with a need to be out of a data center by a given date, or are linked to targets and bonuses, it’s important that all parties understand this and can work with those priorities. Often a staged approach to migration can work best, and this can be adapted so that the right elements are scheduled first. Staging can also allow for the reality of team members taking time off for vacations.

Thinking back to projects that have gone off the rails with other vendors can be really useful in all of this. As long as you view your migration/full-service partner as a strategic and integral part of your team, you can’t go far wrong. Speaking for fme, we can bring talent density, knowledge and experience right across the project spectrum – spanning business consulting, technology services, and managed services – as long as all of this has been factored in from the start.

So, let’s start talking.

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Tracey King
Technology Success Manager