3 Key Data Migration Strategies for Associations and Non-Profits

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Whether you’re moving important data to a new database or migrating it to the cloud, the process can be messy, problematic and highly disruptive without proper preparation. As the IT lead for a nonprofit or association, you have data migration options. You can bring in a trusted IT partner to advise you and help facilitate the transition or you can work with the software provider directly or, in some cases, you can do both.

What you cannot do is go it alone and without advanced planning.

Whatever your data migration path you choose, keep these thoughts in mind as you plan for your data migration:

Have a Strategy

This sounds so obvious, right?

But you’d be very surprised how many organizations jump in head first, drawn in by the bells and whistles of some new shiny software product, and wind up struggling mightily or only utilizing a tiny portion of a given software product’s capabilities.

Build a strategy and stick to it. If you need third party help from an IT service partner, get it and then work hand-in-hand with them so that when their work is done, your team is equipped to protect the data integrity and effectiveness of your new system moving forward.

As much as you want it to be, the data migration process is not a simple. You need to look at this like any strategic endeavor: you need to plan, collaborate and implement with purpose and monitoring. Here are a few things you can do to make the process easier:
  • Identify reliable and trusted colleagues and form a data migration team to help manage the process
  • Meet regularly and collaborate from start to finish, meaning from software selection through training, implementation and beyond
  • As part of your strategy, request that your core migration workgroup become ambassadors to the rest of the organization. Let these early adopters train the rest of the team.
  • Roll out a rewards/incentive program with the new launch so that employees are motivated to adhere to data entry and security policies. One or two rogue team members entering data chaotically can cause a major bottleneck for the process moving forward or become a major security risk.

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Live the Mantra: “Junk in. Junk Out.”

The latest and greatest new software with outstanding capabilities can get undercut by the problems found in the original data source. When it comes to CRM or cloud migration, there is no truer phrase than “Junk in. Junk out.” Here are a few steps to avoiding polluting your shiny new CRM or new software platform with junk:
    • Use a template. Even if the data you are migrating is squeaky clean, you and your team will have to make adjustments to it before migrating to the new system. The way you enter data, the fields you use and even your abbreviations and acronyms will not automatically be a one-to-one match with the desired data standards of your new platform.
    • Once you have worked with the transition team for a bit, you should be on the same page about how your legacy data (i.e. the data as it is currently constituted pre-migration) needs to be altered to ensure a smooth transition to the new system.
    • Develop and use a template. Even if the data you are migrating is squeaky clean, you and your team will have to make adjustments to it before migrating to the new system. The way you enter data, the fields you use and even your abbreviations and acronyms will not automatically be a one-to-one match with the desired data standards of your new platform.
    • Start Fresh. Use the migration as an opportunity to reevaluate what data is essential to your business. As you transition data to the new system, don’t become too attached to data just because it’s there. Be ruthless about scrubbing your data. This is your chance to start fresh. You want both clean data and the right data migrated to your new system.
 

Establish Standards During and Post Migration

As part of your migration strategy, work with your software or IT service partner to distribute a guide for your core user team for reference as they go through the migration process.

The same kind of resource should be provided to the entire user team post-migration. Similar to a brand document that details the proper use of fonts, logos and document standards, this data handbook documents the do’s and don’ts of ongoing data entry and management. The handbook creates built-in accountability for all employees and will help limit any confusion and/or non-compliance with CRM or new platform standards.

The opportunity to invest in improving your data infrastructure and performance can be an exciting time. It can also be a time of strong anxiety on multiple fronts.

Remember, plan ahead. Enlist trusted colleagues as partners and advocates. And bring in outside managed IT services experts to assist you in areas where you lack experience.  

Keeping these best practices in mind can get you beyond analysis paralysis and propel you toward realizing the benefits of your new and improved data platform.