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Increasing Efficiencies

6 Tips For Planning Stress Free Data Conversions

Jason Mayhall
Mar 15, 2017

With mergers and acquisitions, changing systems, or decommissioning systems, data conversions are inevitable. Without proper planning, you may expose your financial institution to missing data, data breaches, conversions dragging on for months and months, legacy hardware failure, recurring maintenance cost, increased staffing, and efficiency delays, among other risks.

With proper planning data conversions can go smoothly. The following tips can help you speed up the arrival of your data and insure the quality and accuracy of your conversion.

#1 - Determine if you require a full conversion or if you can operate from a viewer.

A really quick way you can avoid a conversion is to just place your data in a viewer. This will grant you access quickly, but has some major drawbacks. Here are some drawbacks of a viewer only option:

  • Your research staff will have to search two locations for your data: the viewer and your go forward ECM solution.
  • There will be no Integration with your CORE application to view legacy data.
  • There will be minimal functionality, as most of these type of viewers only have search, view and print functions available within the viewer.

Your best option is to convert your legacy data into your go forward ECM product so that all of your data is together and you aren’t having to support two systems.

#2 - Find the right conversion vendor.

Vet your vendor carefully.  This is the biggest risk you will encounter when performing a data conversion. Vendors will be in total control of your data and they will be responsible for an accurate data conversion and a secure data conversion to prevent missing data or data breaches. In addition, you may have to defend the vendor decision to your board if something went wrong with the data or the timelines. Do not get caught looking for the cheapest or quickest solution, but instead, look for the vendor that fits your data conversion needs.

  • Ask for reference sites, and not just any one of their customers, but also ones that have converted the same data types that you are going to convert. If they can’t provide you a quality reference site for the data you are converting, then this is a big risk.
  • Look at the history of the company. Is this an upstart with minimal experience looking to break into the market or is it an established brand with experience dealing not only with data conversions but also with your particular data type? Each legacy system is unique in how data is stored, where it is stored, how indexes are used and compression types of the data. Choosing a vendor that isn’t familiar with your data type increases the risk of data being missed in conversion.
  • Ensure you are evaluating financially stable companies. You want to make sure the company that converts you today will still be around to support you for years to come.

#3 - Have your vendor perform discovery on your data before you sign the contract.

  • Some vendors will perform discovery at no cost to ensure the conversion will be successful and to help flush out any potential issues with the source data or databases prior to your conversion being started. Each legacy system is unique in how data is stored, where it is stored, how indexes are used and compression types of the data.
  • Without Discovery, there is a major risk of your vendor running into issues that will cause major timeline delays or even contract cancellations due to them not being able to convert the data at all. This risks will cost you money in renewed maintenance on your legacy system, the need to retain your subject matter experts on the legacy system longer than needed and explaining to your board why these financial obligations are still needed.
  • Discovery also allows you to address the conversion approach before a contract is signed. This will allow you to choose the best approach that fits your institution’s needs.

#4 - Can they perform a conversion and an upload into your ECM system without using your production system?

  • Some vendors have a virtual environment that mimics an institution's live production environment. This allows a vendor to load data 24/7 into the virtual environment without disrupting your normal daily activity.
  • If they have to load into your production environment, it could adversely affect your staff with performance degradation around research and scanning and could be stalled while your ECM system is performing end of day functions. You also run the risk of having your entire production system crash due to the amount of activity.

#5 - Will your vendor provide a certified professional project manager?

  • Some vendors will provide a certified project manager at no additional cost to you to help track the project. Conversions are complicated and without a project manager, the conversion could drag on for months.
  • The project managers will be a central point of contact for all conversion items, rather than having to worry about dealing with multiple contacts.

#6 - Assign the subject matter expert on your system that you are converting out of to this project.

  • If you have acquired legacy data through merger or acquisition, make sure and retain the subject matter expert until the conversion is complete. Their knowledgebase will help you immensely when it comes time to assign the data into its new location in your new system, and they can also provide valuable insight to the history of the system, such as database changes, release information, etc. The risk of not using a subject matter expert could result in items being placed in the wrong location of your new ECM system, slowing down your ability to search for an item or the ability to find it at all.
This information can prove vital to you and your institution to ensure you have a successful, accurate and speedy data conversion. Do not run the risk of data breaches, the inability to provide data for a subpoena or having to explain your recommendation of a vendor to your board when a conversion goes sour. Do your due diligence up front and remove all the stress from your conversion. In the world of “Big Data”, data conversions are inevitable and proper planning is key.

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