< Part 1: Planning Your PMS Migration – First Steps

This is Part 2 of the “Migrating Practice Management Software Successfully” series. See all articles in the series here.

Part 2: Figuring Out How to Transfer Data

Your next step in the planning process is to figure out how to transfer data. Test your hypotheses early and often during this stage. Corruption and loss of data are two of the biggest risks in any migration project. Your data transfer method should help to minimise data loss. Good test cases can also cut down on the need for time-consuming manual validation.


Have you accessed your data?

If you don’t already have the full access you need, get access to your data early in the data migration process; this will save you a lot of time and grief down the road.

  • Check out individual files.
  • See what types of security permissions they have.
  • Will you need to change these permissions during the transfer?
  • What types of security permissions will they need in the new PMS?
  • How is the existing database configured, are there are any quirks that you’ll need to account for, such as date formats or naming conventions?
  • Looking at your data will let you test out these hypotheses.


Do you have a plan for validating the data transfer?

Validating the data transfer is a crucial step in data migration; after all, corrupt or lost data is often a costly problem. Planning for data validation from the get-go is the way to go. There are three types of data validation possible:

  • Validating random samples
  • Validating subsets of data
  • Validating the complete data set

In an ideal world, it would be possible to validate the complete data set. But in the real world, do you know anyone with the time and resources to validate a complete data set? Consider validating random samples or subsets of the data to save time and sanity.


Do you have a recovery plan for data that didn’t transfer properly?

Despite your planning and testing, some of the data might not transfer properly. These can include minimal issues like using the wrong delimiter, or the core and target columns using different units of measurement. But it can also include major issues like data loss and corruption.

Two issues you should consider now include:

Semantic data and file naming conventions: It’s common for departments to develop unique file naming conventions, or to use database fields in unusual ways. Usually, this is not a problem. But when you’re transferring data to a new system, it’s important to understand your users’ idioms. If you’re transferring modified data or data stored in fields that weren’t intended for that data type, well before the migration consult with all users to make sure that you understand any unusual ways that they input data. Consider getting various team members to visually validate test samples of their data configured for the new PMS before the migration.

Data loss and corruption: During the planning process, you should also consider what to do if the data doesn’t transfer; this is a situation where prevention is the best cure. Will you be able to access a backup of any corrupted data? What can you do to prevent data corruption from occurring? Consider things like cleaning and deduplicating data before starting the transfer.