Migration: How to Begin and Where to Go

Given the fast-paced nature of technology and how quickly systems and formats can reach obsolescence, inevitably state agencies need to migrate agency information, data, and records to newer systems and devices. Whenever TSLAC receives inquiries on this topic, it’s a Catch-22; the analysts exist to help and guide state agencies on records management, however the nature of migration is that each situation and system will be unique.


To combat this, we’ve gathered resources in order to provide some best practices and starting points for records management personnel to get the ball rolling on their respective projects.

Project Planning

Any sort of data migration, no matter the scale, should be considered a project. Outlining and defining the scope, expectation, and details of each phase of the migration should be executed in a project plan in order to manage the project appropriately. See additional resources below for templates to consider in order to frame and outline your migration endeavor.

The general phases of a migration project are:

  • Phase 1: Pre-Migration

Also considered the planning phase, during this time you need to understand what you’re working with, including stakeholders, subject matter experts, the source data, and resources. Start developing a plan. Ensure the new system is designed and ready to receive the source data.

  • Phase 2: Migration Production

The migration begins, but not before all policies, procedures, and plans are finalized. As the migration progresses, ensure the timeline and expectations are being loosely met in order to stay on track. This phase might consist of several sub-phases as you move from one department or area of the agency to the next.

  • Phase 3: Post-Migration

Verify all the data has been migrated and goals of the new system are being met—whether it is improved data quality or elimination of obsolete information. This phase will also include any other post-project tasks and updates that need to be completed on an agency to agency basis.

Implement a Strategy

Having already mentioned the propensity for migration projects to differ widely depending on the agency and the systems in use, I want to address this more fully by encouraging the use of a strategy—or strategies—to increase the success of your project. In his 2009 article, “Proven Strategies for Large-Scale Data Migration Projects”, Satyajeet Dhumne lists strategies that can help projects not to fail from “underestimation of the scale and complexity of the data migration”.

Many of these strategies align with recommendations for each phase of your project; Data Migration Pro publishes an exhaustive “Data Migration Checklist: The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Next Data Migration” supporting these strategies.

One of Dhumne’s strategies is to define roles and responsibilities up front.

Inform Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and stakeholders before the project begins in order to establish buy-in and understanding. This mirrors the data migration checklist to make the various business and IT groups aware of what their level of involvement will/needs to be in order to cement commitment during pre-migration planning.  This includes achieving senior-level buy-in to avoid any obstacles in access to the necessary SMEs and their knowledge.

Dhumne also discusses two more strategies, which go hand in hand; invest in source data analysis and create a process model.

The source data analysis will reveal a myriad of information about the data—relationships, quality, volume, and any anomalies— and the process map should have built-in steps to address the volume and quality of data coming through to ensure the migration stays on track. Data Migration Pro’s checklist supports these strategies by recommending the creation of a high-level project plan to use during migration using the information gleaned from a pre-work analysis/assessment. Along the same lines, do not exclusively rely on a carbon copy of a previous migration project plan—from either your agency or another—because each project brings with it different conditions and requirements.

Always have a Plan B.

Dhumne includes several more strategies, however perhaps the biggest strategic takeaway is to always have a backup plan; in other words, be ready for surprises and delays and potentially be prepared to have a backup solution at each stage of the process. Take advantage of your stakeholders and SMEs to formulate Plan B so that everyone is in agreement and keep them informed of any changes.

Dhumne outlines several more strategies, which you can review within the article and the Data Migration Checklist is accessible on Data Migration Pro’s website.

Go prepared into your next migration by not underestimating the effort required in your migration project.

What experiences have your agencies had with migration projects? Share in the comments below with any anecdotes or especially helpful resources.

Additional Resources

Data Migration – Wikipedia

Project Management Plan Template – Project Management Docs

Implementation and Migration Plan Template (MS Word Download)ISACA

“Top 10 Factors for a Successful Migration Strategy” – Kristie West

ISACA-provided Migration Information – ISACA

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