Is your data migration project lacking an artefact librarian?

In this article we have introduced the concept of an artefact librarian role.

Put simple, this is the person responsible for defining and coordinating the vast number of materials and documents produced in a typical large scale data migration project.

Having a dedicated resource to fulfill this role just might help your next project run smoother than ever before.

Why do we need an artefact librarian?

If you have ever worked on a large scale data migration  project you will have been accustomed to the sheer volume of  artefacts that are created.

System documentation, analyst interviews, software versions, workshop minutes, timesheets, test scripts, cleansing scripts –  the amount of project paraphernalia can be vast.

A common theme I have witnessed on many projects, particularly those that are slipping, is a complete lack of structure and coordination surrounding these artefacts.

Developers create their own methods of working and store  local documents on their hard drive, data flows into the project  without any tagging or trace-back, version control is often  ignored due to complexity or lack of appropriate software and  particularly when there are multiple partners involved there can  be no clear standard for document format in place.

Data migration projects are often extremely complex and  require a huge amount of cooperation to run smoothly so it is  imperative we coordinate and control how artefacts are  created, stored and utilised during the project.

What does an artefact librarian do?

First of all, chances are that your project is probably carrying  out elements of the artefact librarian role. Project coordinators  typically undertake many basic artefact management activities  for example but what I would like to see on more projects is a  clearly defined role throughout the project.

The artefact librarian should therefore start the project during  pre-migration initiation and continue all the way through until  decommission and handover.
Here are some of the activities I believe the artefact librarian  should be responsible for:

  • Creating, teaching and enforcing the documentation  standards for data quality rules management
  • Setting up a unified project office documentation set that is  compliant with the particular project methodology e.g.  PRINCE2
  • Creating, teaching and enforcing the procedures for any  project documentation repositories such as Wikis or online  project stores
  • Setting up the version control and audit trail processes to  ensure the lineage of any project artefacts
  • Creating the categories and document naming standards  throughout a project

Isn’t this already covered by standard project documentation?

To a certain extent yes, PRINCE2 for example has standard  documentation that is perfectly valid for a data migration  project.

However, in my experience, the coordination and management  of project artefacts is something that always goes astray when  there is a lack of adequate planning and responsibility in place,  you can have all the documentation in the world but it still  requires an experienced hand to implement the actual process.

Quite often this may be the first time an organisation has  undertaken a data migration project so it really helps if the  coordination of project artefacts is planned right from the  outset.

Data migration is a very different project to traditional software  development initiatives and as such requires some distinct  documentation. It is increasingly important for these materials  to be well defined before the project commences to eliminate  ambiguity during project ramp-up.

What if we can’t afford or find an artefact librarian?

Most projects have limited budget for tools, technology and  resources plus there are probably few people who have the  experience of carrying out this role so how should a company  proceed?
My advice is to first start by understanding the data migration  methodology you plan to implement.

Walk through the project approach and identify which materials  will be required at which phases.

Ask yourself questions such  as:

  • How will these documents relate to each other?
  • What will the dependencies be?
  • Who needs to sign off each document?
  • Who needs to contribute to each document?
  • Which documents need to be version controlled or audit  trailed?
  • Where will the documents be stored?
  • What levels of permission will be required for different  document types?
  • How will the file structure be enforced?
  • What wiki or project repository tools will you need?

Once you have a clearer understanding of the project artefacts  and processes required for your data migration then start to  identify what resources you have available to help you with  this process.

Do not underestimate the level of support you will need,  particularly on a large project this can be a major contribution  and my preference is for a designated role, particularly during  the project initiation and landscape analysis phase of a  migration.

Post-analysis and discovery you can gradually reduce the  level of support required as people begin to learn the artefact  management process but there should still be some form of  support all the way through the project so plan accordingly.

Summary

Many people will no doubt view the role of artefact librarian as  largely redundant or too costly.

However, the typical data migration project overruns by a significant amount as a result of excessive development costs or missed business opportunity.

The artefact librarian more than covers their costs by reducing  the amount of scrap and rework that can take place when an ineffective artefact management process is enforced.

Once you have implemented a dedicated team member for this role I am certain you will find it too difficult or costly to return to the old unregulated method of working.