6 tips for ‘selling’ a best-practice data migration

If your most recent data migration has failed or suffered major delays then chances are it was lacking a best-practice approach.

There are still countless tales from members and visitors to Data Migration Pro of projects being delivered with poorly conceived methodologies, a lack of data quality management, impossible deadlines and poorly skilled resources.

So how do we turn things around and convince sponsors and stakeholders to invest in a best-practice data migration?

1. Provide evidence from published analysts and industry research on the high failure rate due to a lack of best-practices

Companies like Bloor Research have published some excellent research on the high failure rate of migration and the main causes of failure. Use this data in your presentations to explain the importance of best-practice data migration. This data comes from everyday organisations who have tried and failed to migrate data without adopting best-practices.

2. Perform an up-front migration impact assessment to identify hotspots

I recently came across one company who was adamant they would not require any data quality improvement prior to migration. They cited a complete lack of complaints with their data as a basis for ignoring the need for a data quality process in their project.

The fact is that what your data does now and what it will do in the target environment is completely different. You need to assess the quality of data both in the current legacy environment and also against the needs of the target environment.

By performing an initial impact assessment and presenting the pain areas to the business, warts and all, you are far more likely to demonstrate the need for a best-practice approach.

The fact is that what your data does now and what it will do in the target environment is completely different. You need to assess the quality of data both in the current legacy environment and also against the needs of the target environment.

Dylan Jones 

3. Focus on the impact of a delayed migration to wider corporate strategy

The cost of implementing best-practices can be more than offset by the cost of delay to that new workflow system which is dependant on a timely load of data before it can be commissioned.

There will be major delays if best-practices are ignored so create a simple chart demonstrating the likely cost, not only to your project but other dependant projects for every week of delay.

Use the average delays quoted in the Bloor report above to forecast the likely cost of any project overruns and explain how you plan to prevent these delays with best practices.

4. Demonstrate the effects of poor data migration practices

One of our members recently commented on their frustration at the insistence of a project manager to postpone data quality improvement because the delivery timescale was slipping and the business "just wanted to get some data loaded".

In this situation you could provide clear examples of how the current levels of data quality will lead to:

  • Disruption and delays during the load phase as records are rejected
  • Broken functions and business services when the target system comes online
  • Increased costs overall as the cost of delay and fixing in the target environment will be considerably more

You can either pay for best-practices during the data migration or pay a whole lot more in downstream business and technical issues resulting from a lack of correct approach.

5. Have a thorough understanding of data migration best-practices so you can argue effectively for their inclusion

How can you argue for a discipline if you don't fully understand it!

A common problem in our profession is a real lack of data migration experience and education. There are currently two books on Amazon dedicated to data migration. Compare that to data warehousing where there are scores of publications, training courses, online classes and mentors to train you in every area of the discipline.

Because data migration is so poorly understood many people struggle to create a compelling argument for data migration best-practices. If you are going to fight your corner ensure that you fully understand the techniques not just from a technical perspective but also from a business angle.

For example, can your explanation for the need of a robust data quality rules management process really pass the "So what?" test you will no doubt face from sceptics who can't see beyond the need for additional funding and specialist resources?

Technical people can often struggle with presenting the case to the business so ensure that you have done your homework, tested your pitch on colleagues and backed it up with evidence and examples to make a compelling argument.

6. Pitch different benefits to different sponsors

Chances are that no one individual is responsible for signing off your migration strategy and resource requirements. There may be sponsors on both the business and technical side so make sure that you provide the relevant advantages to each sponsor.

For example, if you're extolling the virtues of scrapping hand-coded scripts in favour of a dedicated migration tool then you may focus on the benefits to the technical team of reduced maintenance costs, greater resource utilisation, increased security, easier run-time control, faster performance etc.

To the business you may discuss the benefits of business continuity, the ability to rollback data and perhaps mention how tools reduce the lead time to business benefit.

How do you demonstrate the benefit of a best-practice data migration? What 'sales' techniques have you found useful for convincing sponsors of the need for the correct approach? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.