Conversion of data from an existing system, is one of the most challenging and critical tasks a company must accomplish during the implementation process of a new software system. For the conversion process to be successful, a company must not only plan and prepare, but also understand the functionality of the target database and commit time for robust testing of the migrated data during mock iteration review sessions.
Plan: During the planning stage, the company or specific department in charge of the data conversion project should assemble a Conversion Team. Ideally, the team should consist of IT personnel, agency decision-makers and most importantly, end-users who are considered to be subject matter experts (SMEs) in understanding the functionality of the current system and how the data has been entered and utilized. The SMEs should include members from all divisions of the company or departments. Once the Conversion Team is assembled, the next step is to determine what legacy systems will be needed for the conversion. It is also important to determine what data from each system should be included in the conversion e.g. how much data do you want to convert, how many years’ worth of data to bring over, etc. Ultimately, the decision is up to the stakeholders involved. It is important to keep in mind that the more data that is converted, the better the new system becomes. However, converting more data also increases the difficulty of each conversion task associated with the project. Focusing on key records that will build the new system into a valuable resource of historical data is a good place to start. Finally, the conversion team must consider how the historical data will be utilized. For example, will the queries be housed only outside of the live database, through a broker on the same server but different database outside of production or in the production database? These are all important questions that the team must address during the planning stages of data conversion.
Prepare: After a company has determined what data to convert, it is time to focus on cleaning that data up. You may ask, why is it important to take time to clean up the data? The main purpose of data conversion is to have access to important historical records with quick easy access — remember the saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” Focus on duplicate names, blank or incomplete records. Make note of any custom fields or fields that have been adapted to track specific information; (i.e. phone number stored in contact name field). Identify any new standard operating procedures and/or changes with the new system and how it affects how historical records are converted.