How to plan for a data migration project

In a world where most businesses are in some way or another built on data and the exchange of information, one of the key potential points of failure or areas of risk is when you have to migrate data from source to another.

There are a number of reasons why you may be considering undertaking a data migration. You may be switching the provider who manages your server, you may be transferring from one content management system to another, or your business may have grown in size or complexity and requires a new level of sophistication in its technology infrastructure.

But taking on a data migration project of any size brings with it risks and challenges. In this article we will take a look at some of the initial steps and considerations that you should be contemplating in order to begin to tackle a data migration project with confidence.

Understand the scope of the project

It sounds like common-sense, but before jumping into action-mode, take the time to fully investigate and understand the business requirements and map out what you need to move to where, and identify any dependencies that might need to be factored in to your project implementation.

Document as much as possible – this is essential so that everyone has a consistent understanding of the project requirements and that you have a clear audit trail as to what decisions were made when. One way of documenting your project requirements is to separate the details of the project structure from the technical requirements of the data migration that you are undertaking.

What you document at this stage does not have to be set in stone or the final version, things can change and evolve as the project progresses, but at least by documenting as much as possible you are giving yourself and your team a framework within which to plan and operate.

Some of the project aspects that you should try and document at this stage include: Deadlines and objectives for the project – try and define them as clearly as possible. Budget – build in plenty of contingency at this point, data migration projects are notorious for taking longer and being more expensive than everyone expects. Stakeholders – identify them and consider how best to engage with them. Communication – every project requires a communication plan. Resources – who is on your project team, have you got the right skills and expertise, do you need to bring in external support or advice. Tools – consider using tools such as Dynamics AX Migration.

Some of the technical aspects that you should try and document at this stage of the project include: Data extraction – how will the data be extracted from your current systems. Migration – what is the target data structure that you are migrating into. Mapping – how will your current structure map into your target structure. Testing – what is the testing process that you will follow. Recovery – what are your contingency plans if the migration should fail at any point. Go live – what steps will be required for your completed migration to go live.