Tips for successful data migrations

If data migrations themselves are relatively easy, why do they often take so long?

According to Gartner, 83% of all data migration projects fail and more than 50% will exceed their budget. There are many reasons a migration project may end up unsuccessful. In our experience, the time and resources required by successful migrations are often underestimated or, worst case, not really considered at all. And then, to top that off, migrations in heavily regulated industries like Pharma and Life Science require the alignment of stakeholders beyond IT - including Business and QA who often all have varying requirements.

But what takes so much time?

That is a great question. The answer? We will give you a hint. It is not the data migration. The task of migrating data from one system to another is actually quite simple. The greater challenge lies in the steps leading up to the migration, specifically the step of preparing your data to be migrated.

At first, the concept of data migration seems relatively straightforward – move your documents and data from your old system to your new one. Easy, right? Think again.

Because migrations are frequently downplayed as part of the implementation process, companies often think that they can be approached as one, singular task. Yet, the process is more complex than they think.

In theory, you could just move all your data. But that would cause more harm than good. Why are you implementing a new IT system? If we could guess, it is probably to benefit your business. However, the system can only do this if the data that it holds works for your business too. And the best way to make your data works for you, is to ensure you only migrate high quality data.

High quality data = increased efficiency and value

Before you migrate the data, you must know which data you actually want to move by answering the following questions:

  • Do you need ALL existing documents and data?
  • How is the data structured? And does that format fit our new system?
  • Do we need to make any updates or changes?

These are broad questions, so let us help you start.

  • You probably don’t need all historical documents from your legacy system
  • The data is probably not structured 100% correctly for your new system
  • Regulations and guidelines are constantly changing. So, for example, if you’re preparing to file soon, you will likely also need to make some updates or changes.

Now that you’ve considered the above questions, your migration plan might look a bit more like this:

  1. Gather data
  2. Remove unnecessary data & documents
  3. Clean and enhance the remaining documentation to meet system / regulatory requirements
  4. Migrate

This may sound like a lot of extra work, but if our data was a perfect fit everytime, then we are sure Gartner’s statistic would read more like, “83% of all migration projects succeed!” In reality, for most companies, data must almost always be cleaned and prepared to meet the requirements of their new system.

How much work will it take to clean my data?

That depends a lot on the quality of the data to be migrated. The quality of your data should be understood before beginning the migration process. One way to do this is with a Data Quality Assessment. By understanding how well your data already fit the new system, you can get a better idea of how many internal resources you will need to dedicate to preparing your documentation.

For example, Veeva allows up to 100 characters in a title field. If the titles in your dataset are longer than 100 characters, you have 2 options. The first option is to accept that your titles will be cut off at the 100-character mark. The second (and better) option is to invest the time into properly formatting your titles for Veeva.

Final Thoughts

Be sure to include the right stakeholders

Like with any other project, make sure the right stakeholders and experts are involved from the beginning. For migrations, we recommend you include team members from compliance, technical experts, and line of business – at least. By including these stakeholders from the start, you ensure that you have people with appropriate knowledge to cover the scope of the project.

Aim for intelligent information, not just data

You want intelligent information not just data. That is why cleaning and preparing your data is so important. It helps guarantee that you think about the future of your business. Will you implement new systems? Is there duplicate data? What information do we need to migrate to meet future business requirements? Remember, quality and future efficiency is more important than quantity.

Migration is a process, not a one-step task

And most importantly, don’t underestimate the task of migrating. Regardless of who you hire to do the migration task they cannot make decisions for you on the business side. That is where your internal resources come into play. Make sure you are prepared to dedicate the time and resources necessary to cleaning your data so that it works for you in the long run.

Epista’s technical services team has experience tackling complex migration projects in ECM systems like Sharepoint and Veeva (including eTMF, RIM, Safety, and more). Over the years, we have amassed the skills and knowledge to help you avoid pitfalls and common missteps that often lead to extended project timelines and budgets. If you are planning a system change, let our migration experts help you stay on time, in budget, and in scope – get in touch!

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Nick Larsen
Manager Technical Services

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