Who Cares What “Color” Your Migration Is, You Need an Intelligent Data Migration

February 4, 2020 Rex Ahlstrom

There seems to be an ever-growing rainbow of colors to describe various styles of data migration. Some claim to be faster, some claim to be easier, some claim to cost less, some claim to do all three. All of these claims fall short at some point as they don’t address the real driver - successful data migration is about working smarter, not what color it is. 

Working smarter requires knowledge; knowledge about the business processes that are critical to the business, knowledge about how data supports those business processes and knowledge about the rules required to effectively transform legacy data. Some business processes may remain unchanged while others are re-engineered to take advantage of new application capabilities or to move back to standard functionality. Most ERP implementations have ballooned with customizations that are now too expensive to maintain or failing to deliver differentiated competitive value. Knowledge allows for the intelligent application of rules, based on decisions made by the business, to transform legacy data across multiple applications to meet the needs of the new application landscape. We refer to this as a “knowledge-driven data migration.”


Intelligent data migration also requires a plan that can be executed, often across multiple business units and geographies, while the Company is still operating its legacy systems. Many people, across multiple departments and companies, contribute to a successful data migration. Knowledge workers within the Company share details on what data is critical for running their business. System Integrators execute the plan for blueprinting and system implementation. Data migration consultancies share their expertise, best practices and packaged solutions for accelerating delivery and ensuring data transformation success. Organizing and streamlining how all of these constituents work together in an orchestrated, cohesive way, while also providing clear visibility into how the effort is progressing, requires much more than extract-transform-load (ETL), data prep, or data quality tools. Think of this as your “ERP for data” – coordinating and managing all of the discrete tasks and tools that lead to a successful data migration. 

A lot of time, effort and investment goes into executing a successful data migration. If done properly, it won’t just be a “lift and shift” of legacy data but rather, data that has been right-sized, cleansed and loaded with 99.5%+ accuracy. The issue is that like many things in life, atrophy sets in. Without ongoing attention, data quality will decrease, business processes will fail, costs will rise and the value sought through these new system investments will degrade. 


We’ve discussed the need to be knowledge-driven as well as having something beyond traditional IT tools to orchestrate the actual migration process. Another key question to ask is what happens to all of that knowledge that was created during the migration effort? Couldn’t this knowledge be leveraged to prevent atrophy? Is all of that knowledge buried in ETL code or in the heads of consultants that leave once the migration is complete? As discussed previously, the Company made substantial investments in executing the data migration, why shouldn’t it reap the ongoing benefits of that knowledge creation? 


The answer lies in the ability of a knowledge-driven migration to automatically capture critical decisions and code for ongoing enterprise information management initiatives. Rules that were specifically curated to deliver high-quality data during the migration should be reused for ongoing data quality checks. Decisions that were made regarding the overall data set required to execute a critical business process should be reused to drive master data management programs. Policies that were reviewed and implemented regarding personal identifiable information and access rights should be reused to drive Data Governance and compliance initiatives. Migration should be approached as a knowledge creation event rather than a single project that ends when the migration ends. 


An intelligent data migration that is knowledge-driven is automated with software built for making migration simpler, more efficient, and has the unique ability to retain the value generated during the migration itself. Smart Companies realize the incredible value of this approach and leverage it to think beyond the migration event to what it takes to become a knowledge-driven enterprise. All facets of the business will benefit as the criticality of capturing, retaining and reusing this knowledge will form the basis for significant competitive advantages when it comes to realizing the full value of the data that fuels your business.


Don’t worry about what color your migration is, approach your next migration with intelligence and implement a knowledge-driven data migration. 

About the Author

Rex Ahlstrom

Rex Ahlstrom, Chief Strategy & Technology Officer at Syniti, has over 32 years of technology industry leadership experience. He specializes in enterprise software within the data integration and information management space. Rex is responsible for Syniti’s current product strategy and technology in addition to analyst engagement and partnership development. Rex is a member of the Forbes Technology Council.

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