Data Migration Fundamentals: The Importance of Planning

Migrating data to a new system is not unlike moving to a new house.

From house-hunting to closing to saying goodbye to your old home, you’re laser-focused on the end goal: making your new house a home. But sometimes, we can get so caught up in the excitement and vision of our end goals that we end up facing a ton of roadblocks along the way. Furniture that doesn’t fit in the new space, unorganized moving boxes, outlets that are spaced out undesirably – just to name a few.

You’ve spent so much energy researching and touring houses, making offers and finalizing the deal that you haven’t really thought about what happens after you finally move in. Unfortunately, weeks of small to medium-sized projects (and additional costs) pile up, and you’re feeling the consequences of not planning appropriately – by not asking some fundamental questions.

  • How much/what do I really need to bring to the new house?
  • How do I make my possessions work well in my new home?
  • How long will it take to fully complete the move?

These are very basic questions to plan a move, and they are equally relevant to life sciences data migration efforts.

Data Migration as a Software Project

Within the context of a new system implementation, it is too easy to treat data migration as an afterthought – an unavoidable and tedious task. For this very reason, many migration efforts come up short or even fail spectacularly resulting in delays, cost overruns, or, in the worst case, bad data that compromises system integrity and corporate or regulatory compliance.

Organizations often fail to treat data migration efforts as a distinct project (as part of a larger project or an overall program). But that’s exactly what they are, and they are no less deserving of meticulous planning, rigorous project management and adherence to a SDLC.

The Importance of Planning

Let’s reconsider the moving day questions above.

How much/what are you bringing with you?  

An astute mover should realize, as much as you love that old sofa, size-wise and stylistically it would never fit in the new home.

Likewise, the data migration team that plans well knows that some legacy data may not fit well in the new system – and may not be needed.  One example is old data (some even coming from earlier legacy systems), that does not comport with the data and process requirements of the new system.

Too many times, unnecessary effort is expended to bring unnecessary data to a new system. Unnecessary effort, frustration and fatigue could have been avoided if the data migration team, like the mover, had accurately identified the core requirements and scope upfront.

How do you make your possessions work well in your new home?

In your old home, that large juicer sat proudly on your kitchen counter, but in the new one – as nice as those quartz countertops look – there is just no place for it.

Like home furnishings, data is a fundamental asset, but how to make it fit in its new home (system) is always the great challenge of data migrations. Truly successful migration projects take a holistic view of how the data will fit into not only the new system (it’s data requirements and processes) but also the company’s overall enterprise data architecture. Like in a home, it all must work. Defining how to make it work is fundamental to the planning process.

How long will it take to fully complete the move?

You, the house mover, set a goal to be fully moved in one week after the actual moving date. Unfortunately, you made unrealistic assumptions and did not think ahead about all that was truly needed. In other words, you did not prepare well.

Likewise, a successful data migration, like any other software project, requires realistic well-thought-out activities, schedules, assumptions and risks identified. The highest-quality data migration that is delivered on-time, benefits from all of these; had the house mover taken similar planning steps, she would have been relaxing and enjoying a movie, family and friends shortly after the actual move day.


When you embark on a new system implementation project, don’t forget to include data migration as part of the scope. Data migration should have its own meticulous plans, rigorous project management and adherence to a SDLC.

The following key points are fundamental to planning data migration efforts:

  • Identify core data requirements and scope of migration upfront
  • Define how to make data work in the new system and overall enterprise data architecture
  • Identify realistic activities, schedules, assumptions and risks

Daelight Solutions believes in comprehensive life sciences data migration planning. We have a team of highly experienced IT professionals specializing in large and complex data and document migration initiatives. We treat all migrations as software implementation projects and bring formal project management and development methodologies to bear to ensure our customers’ success.