The do’s and don’ts of data migration

When a company implements new software (for example CRM, ERP or accounting software), the key to a smooth implementation is the successful migration of data from your old system to your new one.
Problems during the data migration stage can cause delays and frustration, and in the worst cases, could even cause the implementation to fail altogether. For this reason, we thought we’d provide you with the do’s and don’ts of data migration to help make your project a success.

DO: Decide early on which data you want to migrate

Decide early on which data you actually want to take into the new system, and identify how many years of historical data needs inputting. For example, how many years’ worth of sales orders and invoices do you want to move? This decision should involve the business owners.
Tip: Don’t waste time moving redundant data. Over the years, you may have started keeping a vast array of data – much of which isn’t actually needed or useful. Don’t waste time and clog up your new software. Work with your business process owners to decide which data you really don’t need to keep.
At this stage you should also take the time to decide if you have a wish list for data that you would like to be present in the new software that you don’t currently store.

DO: Make sure you have ‘clean’ data

One of the biggest issues companies may encounter when attempting to migrate data to their new system is if this information is poor quality or not ‘clean’. You must ensure the data in your existing system is cleansed to ensure it adheres to the business logic and field restrictions in the new system.
It might seem like a lot of work for companies that have been less than diligent with their data over the years, but it’s a key part of a successful migration. Your data must be of a high quality, which means the right information must be in the correct format and in the correct fields.
For example, entries such as ‘same as phone number’ written in the fax column or email addresses that are in the wrong format are likely to cause issues during the data migration process.
Therefore, checking all your information is a must before attempting any migration.
Tip: Make sure you start this data preparation early and allow plenty of time.

DO: Test small amounts of data

Before completing a full data migration, test small amounts of data and work it through the new system. This allows you to confirm all expected fields have been populated and all relationships are made where necessary. For example, check all the screens and form layouts work the way you expect them to. This can highlight any potential problems, which you can fix before attempting the full migration.

DO: Document the whole process

This is vital – you must document everything in case there are changes to project team or if you need to move your data in the future. Documenting the process prevents this knowledge from being lost.
Typical information that you should document:

  • How did you decide which data to migrate / not migrate? And why?
  • Lessons learnt, including how long it took to prepare your data for the migration. This way, if you move your data in the future you have a better idea of how much time to allow.
  • What exactly have you had to do with the data to ensure it is migrated successfully?
  • Note the data restrictions for the fields in both the existing system and the new system.
  • Project timelines including milestones and key dates you achieved them.
  • An issue log which includes any problems you came across.
  • The relationships between the records (primary keys and foreign keys).
  • The project team and their roles.

DON’T: Forget your record / field mapping

During a data migration, it’s important to confirm exactly where the data from your existing system will be placed in your new software. This means mapping the records / fields in your existing system to the records / fields in the new system.
It may be the case that you require a specific field / record type that is not available in your new software. In this case, you may choose to create a new custom record / field to house this data.

DON’T: Forget your data due diligence

Wherever your data is stored, be it on your own in-house servers or on a third party’s servers, you are still ultimately responsible for it and will have to answer to regulators like the Information Commissioner if there are any issues relating to data protection.
If you don’t have the right processes in place, your business-critical information may be compromised. Therefore, you must understand what you are responsible for, which audits you need to undertake or review, and what you need to be aware of during the data migration process.
Tip: If a US third party is storing your data, ensure they are signatories to the Safe Harbor Agreement.
You must also ensure that your data is subject to the highest enterprise-grade security including strong encryption and authentication practices, access and permission controls, comprehensive back-ups, strong password policies and disaster recovery. If you are using a cloud provider, ensure they have secure data centres and data redundancy.

DON’T: Fall into bad habits going forward

Following all of your hard work with cleansing and preparing your data, don’t fall into old habits when inputting data into your new software. Your high standards need to be retained going forward, so that if you ever want to remove the data in the future, it will be as straightforward as possible.
This means that you need to provide quality training and ensure all staff are aware of the importance of entering the data in the right fields and in the correct format.
I hope you find this useful when the time comes to migrate your own data into a new software solution. Please go ahead and share your tips and experiences in the comments box below.
Here at NoBlue, we work with our customers to develop and implement NetSuite’s cloud-based business management software. NetSuite is a single solution to support all of your company’s back-office processes, so implementations usually involve the migration of large amounts of data from our customers’ existing CRM / ERP / accounting / inventory management software.  
If you’d like any further information, please get in touch with us!
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at


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Stephen Adamson


[email protected]

(+44) 115 758 8888
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