How to Outline a Data Conversion Plan For a Seamless Move For Your Company
Moving your organization to a new ERP system is a daunting task. Here at IIMI, we understand that more than most. It’s often necessary to better serve your customers and get a more detailed view of your business, but the process of converting and migrating all your existing data is often riddled with hiccups and headaches.
But, with a detailed data conversion plan put in place, you can avoid many headache-inducing issues. In this article, we’ll help you create a simple, 7 steps outline for converting and migrating your data seamlessly and painlessly.
Establish a data conversion timeline
First, you’ll want to establish a timeline for your move. Data conversion is a complex process and left unchecked the move can easily drag on for way too long.
That’s why the first step of any solid data conversion plan is to establish a timeline for the projects completion. This will help to guide the work and put pressure on all parties to get it done in a timely manner.
When setting your timeline, it’s best to adopt the agile methodology. If you’re unfamiliar, agile methodology calls for breaking down a large task into more manageable 2 week sprints. So rather than establishing a timeline that says the move will be complete in 3 months, your timeline may look something like this:
- Sprint 1: All transactions
- Sprint 2: Serial numbers and Quantities
- Sprint 3: Vendor data
- And so on.
This allows for your discovery, conversion, and testing of each data set within its sprint, providing higher accuracy, efficiency, and even lower costs!
Find ALL your data
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when creating their data conversion plan is failing to include all of their data. Your data may be in databases, files on individual PCs, websites, content management systems, shared drives, file servers, in email attachments, or even locked away in a file cabinet.
A plethora of formats and locations for potential data can make it difficult to truly find all your data but if you don’t you may be missing out on important data. You’ll want to create a list of possible locations for data including both physical and digital hiding places, then during the initial part of your sprint, search for that data in each of the locations on your list.
Even if data shouldn’t be there, you should always check. It’s better to find and bring all your data with you than to miss out on important information that can cause errors and inaccuracies in your new system. Completeness is key!
An opportunity for spring cleaning
Take the move as an opportunity to do a bit of “spring cleaning”. Often, as your business collects data over the years, small things such as duplicate data, outdated files, and unnecessary information will accumulate.
Before you know it, these small blips will accumulate and result in less accurate data, a slower system, and even errors. A move is the perfect time to analyze the data and files you’re converting and to clean it up. The end result will be more accurate data and a more efficient data set.
Of course, be sure to plan for legal and industry requirements as sometimes you need to hold on to documents for a set number of years in order to be compliant. And sometimes it’s the other way around too; information must be destroyed after a set period of time.
Clearly define data that needs to be moved
Cleaning out your data is great, especially considering the accuracy increase you’ll attain, but if it’s done without a clearly defined list of data that must be moved, you run the risk of forgetting vital information.
Things like customers, vendors, and financial info are obvious; but it can be easy to forget just as vital info like serial numbers, quantities, and more.
So, before you begin your move, it’s absolutely vital to have a list of all data that needs to be moved. Clearly define what data sets and files are to be moved and create a checklist that can be used to verify you’ve moved everything properly once conversion’s complete.
Prepare your files and data first!
This step is so crucial, but so often forgotten. Many files may be formatted in a way that doesn’t transfer properly. A great example is Microsoft Word documents. These often will result in formatting errors when converting to a different format, and so they must be prepared beforehand.
Other data can be tricky to convert too! A database may need to be tweaked before conversion, a PDF may need to be converted to a newer or older format, and more. Unfortunately, this is a complex task and can rarely be done with in-house resources. Which is why the next step is equally important.
Utilize the right data conversion tools/services
Occasionally, the move may require you to manually enter new data into the system. In this case, utilizing data entry services from an outside firm can help you do so accurately, and within your timeline.
You also may need to convert the data to a different file format or version to be compatible with your new system. This too can be done with outsourcing, and in many cases may be more convenient as you won’t need to worry about purchasing expensive licenses for data conversion tools.
Data conversion is a complex process and there may be anomalies and errors that only an experienced eye can pick up. Many initially want to keep things in-house for fear or pricing, accuracy, and confidentiality; but outsourcing is often cheaper, and result in higher quality and efficiency.
Test the new system before shutting the old one down
The final step of any solid data conversion plan is to test, test, and test again. You should be testing and verifying after each data set is moved over, each batch of files is moved over and then again when the entire system is ready to go.
Ideally, you’ll be running these tests on the database before the system is live. This prevents you from launching with errors and missing information that could cause a massive headache for everyone in your organization.
The agile timeline and checklist you made earlier come in handy here. After each sprint, you should test the system looking for any anomalies that may occur. Then, when everything is moved over and your last sprint is completed, use your checklist to ensure that all of your data is present.
Be sure to do in-depth testing too! Don’t just look that the file is there, compare it to the old file. Things like tables, figures, and even equations may not convert so easily and could result in errors in your new system.
Once you’ve done these tests, it’s time to go live, but don’t abandon your old system and its data just yet. You’ll want to set aside some time to test the system live as well since you may find errors when interacting with your new ERP.
Files that are not in the proper format, have broken or missing data, or just aren’t converted can be quickly found after your system launches.
There are 7 steps to outlining a successful data conversion plan when moving your company to a new system:
- Establish a timeline
- Identify all your data
- Clean house and remove unneeded data
- Create a checklist for data that must be moved over
- Prepare data for conversion
- Pick your data conversion tools and data entry service providers
- Test your system extensively after the move
As long as your plan follows the above outline, you’ll be on the path to a seamless move for your company.
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