“All Aboard!” ERP data migration on the run

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Tried and true. That’s what it is and seemingly, what it always will be. Not the rising gasoline prices nor the quest to secure viable human existence on Mars, but rather, it’s the bane of every IT integrator’s professional acumen, ERP data migration.

Regarded as the most uncertain and even the dodgiest phase of your ERP software implementation project, it’s also right up there on the “just as critical” list with integration with other systems. Even if you’re new kids on the block, young, straight-laced conservatives and you know absolutely nothing about ERP, you can and will be able to perform a myriad of functions and tasks single-handedly, all leading up to the devil incarnate, ERP data migration.

Data migration is the process of transferring data between storage types, formats, or computer systems, but for our purposes, it’s a big, fat catalyst in system implementation. We migrate data for a multitude of reasons, but ultimately, we strive for flawless automated migration that frees up human resources, namely our IT teams, from tedious tasks. When implementing a new ERP system into your organization, changing vendors or upgrading to the latest version software, the transition will always effect your data models, data and your apps. We’ll be bold here and add… “with the exception of Priority.” Upgrading Priority and similarly other systems, does not require data migration – one of our big advantages.

Once you’ve mastered the basic functionality and found your way around some of the modules, you’ll be able to handle a few system processes. But even as you embrace your new-found expertise, if your data does not flow, if it’s not effectively carried over from old to new, from one system to another – if your ERP data migration does not perform without a hitch, you (and your implementation) are doomed.

But there’s also a bright side. Because data integration is a critical part of any ERP implementation project, before you leap, it’s best to become familiar with some basic data lingo and a bit of the migration process. Generally, there are the two types of data that you or your team members will have to either stare down or just handle. Master Data – it’s the proverbial ‘core’ of your records and data that rarely changes, such as parts catalogs, accounts, price lists and Bill of Materials (BOMs). And then there’s Transactional Data, those mundane and familiar daily transactions, such as purchase orders, invoices and inventory that’s constantly changing data.

To achieve effective data migration, data on the old system is mapped to the new system using a design for data extraction and data loading. Data migration may involve several phases but as a rule, it includes data extraction where data is read from the old system and data loading where data is written to the new system.

Based on the recommendations of your ERP software vendor, consultant or guru, carefully consider the old, the new, the shelf and the trash. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and similarly, don’t hesitate to demand answers. Some solid sample questions are: Can you store old data elsewhere and not in your ERP? Will your old system still be available for backup (aka, emergencies)? And if so, will you be able to store external files no longer needed?

ERP data migration requires some pretty serious thinking, planning and nerves of steel. The good news is that today’s ERP systems have all the fancy footwork in place to help you maximize your time and resources. Automatic internal system mechanisms will bring over all (or most) of your master data and it’s up to you to fine tune your data migration. You may want, for example, to move a decade of RFPs but only those from publicly traded North American prospects, or two years of invoices, but only one year of corresponding bills of lading.

Ready to migrate? If you are, then:

  1. You need a really good ERP data migration plan (and an even better fallback plan)

  2. After you migrate, test, test, test, (and test!) to ensure the data is valid

  3. After you test, (just in case) make sure you can view, access and manipulate ‘live’ data to see that even the well-tested data transferred successfully

Presumably, your data is now ready for the real world. You’ll know if data migration was a success if the number of user complaints remains at a minimum. If you did good, users will hit their keyboards as they do each morning and the only thing they’ll notice is a new user interface from the new system.

As for the newfangled, newly-transferred data, hope for low tide and smooth sailing from here on in.

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The Author
Keren Sherer Taiber
VP Product Management

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