Six Steps to a Successful Migration: The Enterprise Data Migration Checklist

December 21, 2017

4 minute read


Three Advantages of Implementing Digital Mailroom SolutionsMany organizations are under the impression that a data migration is a simple undertaking. The truth is, it’s critical to get your data migration right, and there’s so much more to the process than simply moving your content from one system or repository to another.

The “extract, transfer, and load” method of data migration is the enterprise equivalent of throwing all your belongings into one giant unlabeled “mystery box.” To ensure a smooth move, you must know what data you have, secure what’s risky, delete what’s redundant, and capitalize on the rest.

Read on for six tactical data migration steps to ensure a successful, cost-effective move.

Step #1: Develop a Data Migration Strategy 

A data migration is a highly strategic process. As a first step, get clear on what business objectives your migration project will facilitate. Do you need to consolidate your systems following a merger or acquisition? Are you struggling with a surplus of content? Are you moving to the cloud?

Depending on your goals, there are a range of vendors that can assist. However, keep in mind that many vendors typically only handle one part of the data migration process: moving your content. That means paying a fortune in storage for bloating, unusable data that you’ll need to clean up later.

Carefully evaluate the capabilities that your organization needs, and make sure you choose a vendor that can deliver. Once you’ve completed the proof-of-concept stage and are confident in the solution you’ve chosen, it’s time to get your team up to speed. For a greater chance of success, ensure that your technical and business teams are aligned on what your migration project needs to accomplish.

For additional tips on how to align your team and see your data migration project more strategically, review this article on data migration best practices.

Step #2: Analyze Your Content

Once you’ve developed your data migration strategy, the next step is to assess the content you have. Start by answering the following questions:

  • How much content do you need to migrate?
  • What format is your content in?
  • How much of it is duplicate content?
  • What attributes do the files have?
  • How much of it is redundant, obsolete, or trivial (ROT) data?

Treat this step much like you would a physical move, and make sure you don’t leave anything valuable behind. That means combing through all shared drives and workflows to determine where and how your data—structured or not—is used.

By searching using a variety of filters, you can discover how your content is being stored and how it can be organized further. This step isn’t exclusive to born-digital content, though. By also sifting through your paper-based content, you can ensure you’re not missing any important documentation.

Step #3: Prepare 

During this phase of your data migration, you can start digitizing the rest of your paper-based content. By ingesting all your paper content, you fill two needs with one deed: you migrate important documentation, and your team will never have to waste time leafing through file folders again.

Once your content has been digitized, it’s time to turn your attention to removing ROT content and pre-processing the rest of your data. Other possibilities in this step include compressing your content, enhancing metadata for greater searchability, and converting it into PDF or another universal format. Some solutions—but not all—will allow you to redact confidential information or personally identifiable information (PII).

It isn’t always possible or practical to complete all these steps manually, so be sure to link up with an experienced technology partner. Many vendors only deal with digitizing content and can’t help beyond that, so be sure to look for a partner who offers a robust data migration software solution.

Step #4: Classify & Extract

In this step, you can begin sorting your content into relevant categories. Now that your content is high-quality and useable, you can start routing it into the right buckets. How you categorize your content will depend on file type, age, or whatever other criteria you determine.

This is the time to conduct more advanced data extraction. The extracted information—such as supplier names from invoices, or different entities in your legal documents—can then be leveraged to create the data rules that will determine how your content is sorted throughout the migration process.

Step #5: Validate & Stage

Although the whole process of a data migration should be iterative, this is the step in which it’s really time to review how the process is working. Take the time to assess your data rules and ensure they’re working the way they’re supposed to, in addition to mapping out any exceptions to your data routing. Although much of the process should be automated, depending on which vendor you choose, checking this information along the way will ensure you don’t hit any potholes in the road.

Step #6: Export  

Now that you have a clean dataset to work with, it’s time to transfer it from one content system to another. Congratulations! Your content is now fully accessible and can be leveraged for various organizational needs, whether you wish to reduce manual effort, fuel big data analytics, improve data security, tighten up compliance, or all of the above.

The Final Verdict 

Although a full-scale data migration project might seem intimidating at first, breaking it down into smaller chunks makes it much more manageable. In closing, it’s important to remember that a full-scale data migration is best conducted with the assistance of an experienced technology partner. Once you’ve chosen the right partner, be sure to follow the tips outlined in this six-point data migration checklist. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to improving your data before you move it.


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