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Increasing Efficiencies

6 Questions to Consider When Performing a Data Conversion

Jason Mayhall
Jul 12, 2017

Much like buying a house, your choice of an Enterprise Content Management System and conversion of legacy data is a huge decision that could lead to your dream home or a money pit. Let’s use a house-hunting analogy to help illustrate the things you must consider when performing a data conversion into a new ECM solution.

Do you want to rent or buy? You could go with a traditional in-house ECM system and handle all the maintenance and upkeep of owning “The House,” or you could go to an outsourced hosted environment where the hardware is managed and all data is maintained by the person you are “renting from.”

  • Consider the staff it would require to maintain, run, and support all aspects of your system if you brought it in-house. Does that cost outweigh the fees for it being outsourced?
  • Could outsourcing allow you to save money through natural staff attrition or by eliminating the physical space these systems would have occupied?

Do you want a Farmhouse or a Garden Home? This is where you need to consider how much “house” you really need. You do not want to buy a small house that you will outgrow within a few years, but you also have to be careful not to buy a mansion if you don’t require that much space.

  • Make sure you consider the scalability of the ECM system and the functions you can grow into. (Workflow, Core Integration, E-Distribution, Chain of Custody audit, etc.)
  • If you are converting only legacy data, you might be better suited to looking into a legacy data solution instead of a full-blown ECM system.
  • Don’t let price be the only factor in your decision-making process. You need to ensure that the new solution will fit your future needs as well. You might think you are saving money with your lower-cost choice, but in the end, you could spend much more than the original cost of the system if you decide you made the wrong choice.
  • If you choose the wrong type of system, you could be overpaying for years on a robust system you don’t need or falling behind the technological curve by being stuck in a system that can’t grow or expand.

Do you want a split-level or multi-level house? Choose the “perfect floor layout” for your new home. The mapping process will allow you to custom-build your ECM layout.

  • Mapping allows you to take the structure of your legacy system and tweak it to match your go-forward system.
  • It can also be used to correct filing mistakes from your previous system. Have you always wished you would have split your Signature Cards into separate cabinets? Now is the time.
  • Improper mapping can result in major issues that can affect data integrity and research efficiency as well as cause loss of data. Fixing these issues can be expensive.

Should we rent while we build the perfect house? Your legacy data may have issues that affect the consistency of your data. It may make sense to move it to a temporary location while performing cleanup on the data before moving it to its permanent location. This could relieve pressure on the timing of the conversion regarding your go-live date and allow you to make sure that the data is exactly as you want it.

  • Pick a location to “Rent”. Take your legacy data to a Browser or catalog-based hosted service while you clean up the data for the go-forward system. This will allow you and your staff to have access to the data and allow you to retire your legacy system while still working on the cleanup efforts.
  • Take your time “Building” the house. With this approach, you can take the pressure off the cleanup efforts as your staff will have access to your legacy data in your go-forward ECM system. This allows you to be thorough and very precise with your cleanup efforts and not stumble into mistakes due to rushing through.

  • This approach isn’t for everyone, but it will allow “do-overs” from some previous ECM mistakes. This approach can be costly unless planned from the very beginning of the legacy data conversion discussions, and it may not be the best approach for everyone.

When can we close and take possession of the house? Most data conversions will have a tight timeline with little wiggle room. The timeline is based on access to the merger and acquisition site, cutoff dates for the legacy system, and/or staff departures.

  • Get started ASAP with plans for a conversion. Conversions take time and should be planned out well in advance.
  • Choose a Bulk and Gap Solution so you can get most of your legacy data converted well before you lose access to the legacy system.
  • If you didn’t have time to plan, consider placing your data in a browser for access while the conversion is still going.
  • Failure to plan your timeline properly can cause major financial and reputational issues for your company. You run the risk of failed audits, online customer-facing production systems with no records for the customers to access and view, and possibly the inability to generate statements during a current cycle.

Do we hire professional movers or save money and do this ourselves? Legacy Data conversions consist of a field-by-field translation of information from the old system to the new system. There are differences in the structures that will require customization to match the way the new system will handle it.

  • Be wary of a “Do-It-Yourself” conversion approach from a vendor. Although they are cost-effective, it is incredibly time-consuming and complex, and data can get lost during the move.
  • Hire the right “movers.” Make sure that they perform audits on all steps of the conversion and have years of experience dealing with these types of conversions.

Your choice of a conversion approach can have a huge impact on your organization if you make the wrong choice. Missing data, Data breaches caused by invalid indexes or improper translation of data, or even federal regulatory fines for not being able to produce the data when you need it most are all possible consequences of a failed conversion.

Please make sure to consider all the options available for ECM systems and your associated legacy data conversion. Do you want to outsource the work and the risk? Is this product going to be able to support your needs five years from now? Can the approach and vendor meet your timelines? Is it worth the risk of trying to convert cheaply or doing it yourself? With these questions answered, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the comforts of your new home.

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