Data Migration Planning: 4 Steps to Success

Data migration depends upon thorough planning to mitigate risks, ensure data integrity, and comply with regulations. This blog offers four steps that set your data migration up for success.

Whether from a merger, acquisition, or upgrading to a new system, a data migration fully leverages the benefits of your change by pulling your portfolio of content into a consistent format in your system. Whatever business change triggered the decision to move your content, you want your data migration to go smoothly, delivering as promised and maintaining the integrity and traceability of your data.

Data migrations may have some complexities; you need to know where to look: 

  • Changes in data standards: Expectations and requirements for data format may change by user group or may have changed over time. Plan for the work to understand and accommodate these mapping and transformation complexities.
  • Data integrity rules: Inconsistent, inaccurate, or duplicate data can foil the best efforts. Invest the time to identify and remediate these situations before your migration to ensure the data fits into your new system and does not introduce unreliable data.
  • Data dependencies: Value is optimized by using your reference data across multiple data records. Maintaining relationships between data elements is critical but challenging to achieve.

As promised, here are four foundational steps you can take while planning your data migration to make the process smooth.

4 Steps to Plan a Successful Data Migration

Step 1: Who, What, & When

Who will be involved in your migration and what they will be able to accomplish often comes down to time. Data migrations do not happen in a vacuum. Your successful migration requires key, skilled resources at certain times in the process. Resource availability limitations must be accommodated in conjunction with the business drivers to complete your migration. Consider these factors when fitting your migration into everyone’s schedule:

  • Strategic goals: Is this a time-dependent, key business objective, e.g., finish before EOY?
  • IT goals: Are there concurrent projects changing the IT landscape in tandem?
  • Business goals: Is this goal key to the ability to see the full view of the progress and health of your portfolio? 
  • Individual studies: Are there planned audits, inspections, or other key milestones at risk based on the timing of the migration? 

Once you pull these factors together, you can determine the approach for what will migrate, during which timeframe, and the commitment needed from key resources.

Step 2: Technology & Standards

Representing data within a particular technology has a language of its own. Comprehending what the data in a system means includes: 

  • Comparing the meaning of data across both source and target systems, as the names are not always the same. Understanding the definitions used in each system is a critical piece of the puzzle; allow time for this mapping in your plan. 
  • Finding the key pieces of reference data. Organizing in a file structure is different than managing in a relational database. You have the same records, but it will take some thought to extract and use the context provided by reference data, e.g., site or investigator names in the clinical domain.

Step 3: Acknowledge the Impact to People

Technology does not exist in a vacuum. Processes used by people daily may morph with the introduction of new system(s). Allow time in your plan to build comfort with new ways to interact with data records. Here are a few instances which need to be accommodated:

  • Let teams know about upcoming changes and provide education on how and when it will impact their work. 
  • Partner with teams to recognize how a new system will change available data records, e.g., by default, migrated content will be part of the integration process flows. 
  • Model for senior leaders the use of operational metrics available with migrated content.
  • Assure quality representatives have adequate opportunity to review and comment on the changes expected from the data record migration.
  • Service desk personnel are often the first line of support for any questions. Ensure your support teams have appropriate training and time in the schedule to create any needed tools.

Helping people work through change impacts in advance reduces frustration and resistance to accepting the changes brought by migration.

Step 4: Organize Process Changes

To adapt business, IT, and support group processes, it’s essential to establish a clear framework for how the new system will be used. This shared understanding feeds the development and approval of new controlled documents, such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). 

Depending on the organization, approval and use of a modified SOP may take weeks to months to complete. Release timing is often dependent on updated SOPs. Build adequate time into your activity plan. 

Bonus Step: Partner with a Data Migration Expert

There’s an additional step you can take to make your data migration easier: partner with an expert. Data migrations are intricate. A data migration partner can fill in the gaps and guide you through the entire process.

The correct data migration partner will work with you to understand your new system and business processes, allowing them to provide valuable insights based on real-world experience. A seasoned partner can raise red flags, present alternative options, and help you make well-informed decisions within the constraints of time and budget.

Since data migration isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, having a knowledgeable partner can be the key to a successful and efficient process.


In the fast-paced and highly regulated life sciences industry, a well-planned data migration is necessary to maintain data integrity, compliance, and operational excellence. You can start this with careful planning, which respects timing constraints and resource availability. Your selected technology and adopted standards drive changes to team skill sets and current processes.  Allocating time for each of these considerations in your migration plan will position the project for success. 

Another suggestion is to partner with a data migration expert who can help you navigate the challenges of data migration and reap the benefits of a smooth transition to new systems, ultimately advancing your mission of improving scientific knowledge.

If you need help preparing for your data migration, turn to the experts at Daelight Solutions for assistance. Our team has the expertise to handle any migration from start to finish. Contact us to get started.