Chaos to Cohesion | The Art of Data Migration
  • Astrinos Andreadakis
  • 07 November 2023

Chaos to Cohesion | The Art of Data Migration


In the world of data migration, uncorrected mistakes can spell disaster. The potential threat of data corruption, downtime, compliance issues, or the loss of vital data is enough to strike fear in anyone.

Transferring data from one system to another involves several crucial factors that require careful consideration. The fundamental objective of any data migration is to 'do no harm'; in essence, this means maintaining the security, accuracy, and integrity of the information being transferred.

System transformation and the associated data migration are typically undertaken to improve data quality and processes and instil confidence in the data being used across the organisation, leading to valuable insights.

Executing this transfer demands careful planning and extreme care, as even the slightest mistake can cause significant issues down the line. Therefore, it is vital to clearly understand the necessary steps and approach the process with clarity.

Key Elements in Data Migration:

Let's delve into the key elements involved in any data migration:

  • Data Governance: Often overlooked, aligning data governance with the migration is essential. It involves formalising the roles and responsibilities of data owners during and after any data migration.
  • Assessment & Planning: A comprehensive assessment of the current data landscape and stakeholders is crucial. Legacy systems and processes often result in data silos and hidden data sources.
  • Data Cleansing: This requires a common-sense approach to what can be cleansed and how. Detailed analysis and prioritisation are necessary to ensure your data is clean and useful.
  • Data Profiling: This involves profiling all data and data sources to identify risks, priorities, ongoing use, and the needs of data owners.
  • Data Mapping: The source-to-target mapping can be a detailed and tedious process. Collaborating with the right partner can make this process smoother and less daunting.
  • Testing: Thorough testing throughout the planning, design, execution, and maintenance stages is crucial for a successful migration.


While data migration should be simply a means to an end, it's essential to answer some fundamental questions in advance. Creating the 'Perfect Customer View' and asking the following questions can be a helpful exercise:

  • Why are we doing this?
    Presumably to meet a specific organisational objective or as part of an overall strategy.
  • What do we need to know?
    To gain the most valuable insights, it is important to focus on the key aspects of our customers, members, stakeholders, or donors.
  • What data do we currently have, and where is it located?
    A lot of the time, you might have lots of data, but it's spread throughout the organisation across disparate silos and systems.
  • What's missing, and how can we bridge the gap?
    Obtaining relevant data and insights may seem effortless, but you might not have all the information you need. Have you thought about how you can collect the necessary data? Can your new and improved processes and systems be of assistance in this regard?

Armed with a clear Data Strategy, some organisations engage fully during a Data Migration with precise objectives in mind. Others aim to move their existing data to new systems, often leading to the repetition of past mistakes.

Despite its daunting nature, data migration, with the right partner and full engagement from key stakeholders, can present a tremendous opportunity for transforming systems, data, and organisational culture. The journey from chaos to cohesion necessitates careful planning, meticulous execution, and close collaboration.

Most of these questions should be part of an overall Data Strategy or your Organisational Strategy and objectives - perhaps we can tackle that in a future article…