Migration Readiness Assessments, Part 2: Reaping the Benefits

How to leverage the results of an MRA as you develop migration strategies and staffing plans, establish rules for data conversion and system cutover, and move further to mitigate project risk.

by Arvind Parthasarathi

Far too often, organizations approach a data migration with their eyes wide shut, possessing little visibility into what they are getting themselves in to. As discussed last week (http://esj.com/Enterprise/article.aspx?EditorialsID=2416), a migration readiness analysis (MRA) framework can shine much-needed light into a migration project before it begins. Like a dry run preparatory to a major household move, an MRA enables you to move one or two critical data elements to illuminate project challenges, scope, and risk. This article discusses how you can leverage this advance intelligence to jump-start your data migration project and mitigate those risks.

A two-week MRA exercise will uncover many of the data and mapping risks inherent to a specific migration project. Based on the results of data analysis and profiling, you will have documentation on source data issues including issues around data and metadata, entities, and attributes. Based on the results of an exploratory, dry-run mapping of one or two chosen entities, you will see the mapping issues encountered in mapping to the target, and how the various source data issues were handled.

This information can be leveraged in many ways:

  • It enables you to develop an optimum migration strategy and step-by-step project plan


  • It can help you engage the appropriate business users in the project. Migration is more than just an IT challenge.


  • It requires business-user involvement (they understand the semantic meaning of the data), without which the project not to deliver its benefits. By spotlighting potential data and mapping issues up front, an MRA can help shift the project emphasis to the business users and get managers and users of the target system to buy into the project.

In the remainder of this article we will explore several key benefits that come from a data migration readiness assessment.

More Accurate Scoping and Estimates: Being able to accurately scope and estimate a migration project is essential to the project’s success. Using a migration specialist to physically map one or two entities lets you see exactly what efforts are involved to successfully move the data to the target. From this, you can extrapolate what it will take to move all the other entities. In working with the business users who understand the data, you can assign high, medium, or low classifications to each entity to come up with a good timeline and cost estimate, and have confidence in your projection.

Optimized Staffing and Teamwork: It is highly unlikely that a company will have migration specialists on staff, and “re-purposing” inside people to play leading roles in a migration isn’t necessarily the right approach. In fact, it likely will subtract value from other key projects while not doing justice to the migration.

The key is to engage the proper outside migration specialists and match them to the appropriate inside people (experts in your data and your processes). You will need a business-oriented subject matter expert for each source system as well as one for the target system. Happily, they are usually the same set of people, and an MRA will help determine who they are. You will also need a technical person who understands how to get the data out of each source system and how put it into the target. The migration specialists will significantly reduce the amount of time the inside people will have to devote to the migration process, and starting this off with an MRA will set the stage for successful teamwork.

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Streamlined Conversion Process: An MRA also sets the stage for streamlined data conversion. The typical conversion process consists of three discrete phases: analysis (mapping, discovery, and technical), build, and test. Usually, less time is spent on analysis than on the other phases. Because the analysis is typically insufficient, things tend to fall apart during build and test, and you have to go back to the analysis phase and start over. Conversely, it is easy to get into analysis-paralysis mode and waste time over-analyzing. In either case, serious project slippage can result.

Performing an MRA using advanced analysis and automated profiling techniques helps put proper emphasis on the analysis phase while jump-starting the build and test phases. An MRA is a good first step towards discovering relationships, uncovering quality issues and validating assumptions. From this base, you can proceed with refining designs, applying best practices and building leverageable in-house expertise. The result is a faster conversion with less need to return to analysis.

Improved System Cutover and Legacy Retirement Planning: Eventually, users are going to have to move over to using the migrated data in the target system. During an MRA, you can start planning how and when to wean users from the legacy system. As you have business users already involved in the MRA, you can better plan where people will go for their data during cutover, what will happen to transactions, etc.

You will also be able to plan when to shut down the legacy system. As long as it is running, after conversion you essentially have two systems running the business. An MRA can help you project how much time and effort it will take to retire the old system.

Improved Risk Mitigation: We have discussed the data risks and mapping risks inherent to migrations, but there are many other risks that can contribute to cost and budget overruns. These include personnel, technical, and implementation risks. Performing an MRA can help you identify these risks and create backup plans for such contingencies as target system implementation delays, sudden personnel departures, and technical glitches.

Small Investment, Great Return

An MRA is a strategic framework for a migration project with benefits that resonate throughout the entire migration process: improved planning and budgeting, better understanding of challenges and risks, better resource utilization, and enhanced risk mitigation. It helps an organization deal with unknowns and uncertainties at both ends of a migration project—in the source data and in the requirements of the target system. It fosters teamwork and gets business users involved in a migration at the earliest possible point, thus helping to drive overall project success. In addition, it helps put a data migration project in the proper perspective within the overall new application implementation or system migration initiative.

Given the failure rate for major data migration projects—an 80 percent likelihood of exceeding time and monetary budget, and a 33 percent likelihood of failing all together—leveraging the MRA framework is not a nicety, it’s a business imperative and the best and least costly way to avoid becoming a statistic.


Arvind Parthasarathi is senior director of solutions at Informatica, a leading provider of data integration software. He has a wide experience managing data migration projects at some of the world's leading ERP and supply chain implementations. You can contact the author of this artuicle at aparthasarathi@informatica.com.