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Data migration – a business-critical process with tangible benefits

Are you planning a switch to a new information system? Would you like to transfer your data to another environment? Is there a new system or data source being integrated? If your answer to any of these is yes, a data migration is required. In this  blog post I will dive into the topic of data migration and how to ensure a successful data migration process.

What is data migration?

Data migration is the process of transferring data from one database or system to another. At its simplest it is an ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) where data is extracted from a legacy system(s), transformed to a desired format, and then loaded into a target database. In reality data migration is much more. It is a process which requires thorough planning, careful execution, and aftercare. 

When is a data migration required?

There are multiple reasons why a data migration might be required. Below you can find some examples and some benefits related to a successful data migration project.


A successful data migration process

Migrating data is only a small part in a multi-phase process. Next, I will dive into some of the critical aspects of a successful data migration process. How a data migration process is carried out depends on the why and the scale of the migration. Migrations can be manual, automated or a hybrid of the two, which is the most common way. There are many migration tools, both free and fee based. Big database providers, such as AWS, IBM, and MS Azure have specific tools for migrations into and within their environments. 

However, migration tools are only a part of the big picture. Relevant stakeholders must be included and listened to. Most importantly, the data to be migrated must be of high quality: there is no benefit in migrating low quality data. A successful data migration project requires carefully thought actions before, during, and after the migration, all of which we can help you with.

Before the migration

As they say, a well-planned project is already half done. This also applies to data migration where planning is the most crucial part of the whole process. There are many steps to take into consideration in the pre-migration phase but three of them stand out as the most important. 

  1. Plan the migration and determine requirements.
    It is crucial to map the scope of the migration as well as related risks and constraints. What data is included in the migration? Who does the migration affect? The business environment, culture and IT infrastructure also determine limitations and requirements for the migration. 
  2. Assess the migration environment.
    It is important to assess the current state of the data: where is it, why is it, what is it for, and how high is the quality. Based on the current and future data related architectures, a suitable migration technology must be determined.
  3. Design and build the migration solution.
    As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to go about this: manual transfer, building your own system, or utilising an existing one. Free, open-source applications have the advantage of being open to modifications and case-specific tailoring but might lack in other areas.  

Closer to the migration

As with the before-phase, there are also multiple aspects to consider closer to the actual migration. However, once again, there are three areas that stand out as the most important.

  1. Build a staging area for the data. The staging area represents the target environment and thus, provides a perfect place to test the migration tool and asses the data quality.
  2. Data cleansing is probably the most time consuming of all the phases. Usually when a data migration is required there are multiple data sources to be consolidated, and if not, there is always improvements to be made in data quality. Migrating low quality data can be compared to buying a new car and putting the stuttering engine from the old car into it. Data is the heart of the new system and high quality data ables you to utilise the full potential of the new environment. This is also a good opportunity to catch up with data privacy standards.
  3. Migrate the data. After multiple pre-steps, the actual migration happens this late into the process. This highlights how broad data migration processes actually are – the actual migration is just a small step towards the end of the whole process. However, for the migration to be successful all steps before and after are crucial.

After the migration and other critical aspects

Auditing, monitoring, and testing are crucial throughout the process. These ensure that the migration is done with high quality data and that the migration’s purpose for the business and its people is clear. After the migration the new system must be closely monitored to ensure its performance. A process review can provide a look back to the project and help evaluate its success.


Data migration is a process that affects the business and its people. A successful data migration requires careful planning and execution but brings multiple benefits once complete: better data quality, a new environment that serves the business’ and its customers’ needs better, cost reductions due to less data-related mistakes and more efficient use of available technology, improved process efficiency and other indirect benefits. Together we can complete a successful data migration project based on your needs.

Interested in working with us? Give us a call and we’ll talk more!

This blog post is written by our consultant Markus Helminen.