7 Important Steps to Migrating Data Before Your Next Software Implementation


Government data is important to a city for the purpose of budgeting, forecasting, and creating public trust by painting a picture of transparency.  The pillar of trust heavily relies on having reliable data that is both available to the public and the governing body of the city.  Technology improves data migration daily. Vendors produce software that improves access to reports, graphs, and other necessary reports, graphs that contribute to the overall success of a city.

The keys to reporting data are quality, accuracy, availability, and reliability. Software, if configured incorrectly, contributes to inaccurate data entry, challenging forecasting, and reporting.  A major negative outcome is basing a decision based on the lack of factual data.  The potential results in voting on legislation or fiscal budgets predicated on accurate data can cause problems or present future challenges.

When deciding on a city software application, there are several factors to consider. Especially when going through the review process, specifically geared to the data phase of the implementation.  The number of software vendors grow annually, and they likely offer similar modules.  The factors to consider in selecting the appropriate vendor suitable for your organization relies on deeper discussions to uncover potential hidden costs.


Why Migrating Government Data is Important

The importance of migrating data serves many purposes.  For one, it allows for historical reporting to occur in a new system without interruption to continue analyzing data. There is little benefit to the analysis of your data from the point of implementation forward if the data is not migrated.

Secondly, the opportunity also exists to properly conduct an in-depth review of the system and how historical data is viewed.  In retrospect, government data is data. Where the question arises is how each unique system represents the data.  A properly conducted migration will help expose holes in the data and allow changes to be made to the new system.

And finally, the importance of migrating data allows for city audits to continue without delays.  Audits are a key component in maintaining the financial health of a city.  The presence of historical and current data to verify findings found by the auditor helps to prevent any future instances of errors.  The cleaner the data, the cleaner the audit, and the results will improve the overall health of your city.

The 7 Items for Migrating Data


The outline of the project requires clarity, including a robust plan for delivery and scheduling.  Stakeholders are identified to indicate key personnel who will play a role in the data migration project.  Clear lines of communication create points of contact will require an in-depth discussion in order to identify responsibilities along with consistency in reporting on the data migration project.


Once the scoping is complete, and the deliverables are met, the preparation portion of the project begins.  Defining record layouts by the software vendor who will receive the data is critical during preparation.  The record layouts for the current system will also help in the preparation phase in order to define data dictionaries that will assist in mapping the fields to the new system.  Extraction of data and its method of delivery is key during this phase, as security roles may require other departments to take a look. Cleansing scripts are created with initial loads of tests or full combination datasets introduced into an environment.


Validation of the data requires control totals and an initial load of the data during preparation for the purpose of validation of the information.  The critical piece of validation is if the dataset prior to loading has a certain number of records and yielded a specific amount of dollars. Control totals are used against the loaded data to ensure accuracy. When figures are unequal, it requires a deep dive into the scripts and datasets.


Once the validation phase is completed, and all data is verified, confirmation of the control totals subsequent to loading is the next step.  The step is important. It requires stakeholders to confirm the data prior to the preparation phase and after validation to ensure accuracy.  Signing off on the dataset that results allow for all parties to agree the records are correct.


Standardizing is the process of reforming the confirmed dataset to the receiving software vendor.  Most applications will gladly accept comma-separated values or fixed-width files.  Others may accept Excel, dBase, SQL, and many commercially rated database systems.  It is important to verify record layouts with the software vendor. This helps to ensure that the data adheres to their specifics.  There may also be required specific locations to upload the data, such as FTP.  The details of file delivery are meant for discussion during the preparation phase and looked back upon during standardizing.


As standardizing requirements are met, the final dataset is placed in its final location, and the import process begins. At this phase during the data migration project, control totals verify the process to be accurate.  The deliverable discussed during the scoping phase indicates who is responsible for importing the standardized files.  In most scenarios, the produced reports indicate statistics of the final tables where the import process data was loaded. The number of records, matched fields, and dollars is merely an example of the control totals.


The most important phase is finalizing the data after the upload successfully completed.  Testing the new system to ensure accuracy is critical to the success of the project.  When working with the software vendor, it is important to perform a complete test of all modules that contain the migrated data. During the finalizing phase, identify and correct errors. Stakeholders should be readily available to meet and coordinate any emergent solutions.  By doing a complete audit of the project, it uncovers any potential issues as users engage in the new software product.  A meeting of all stakeholders will allow for a discussion on project challenges, communication issues, and data inconsistencies. This may assist in the development of improved standards for the next data migration.

POLITY Consultants Can Help
with Government Data

As discussed, government data migration is an extremely important phase in any software and data migration project.  The steps to prepare data and load it into a foreign system require a great deal amount of time, patience, and expertise.  For larger cities, there may be departments that employ skilled individuals to embark on the project.  For others, it may require consultants who specialize in assisting municipalities in migrating data from one software platform to another.

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