ERP Data Migration Steps and Best Practices

Last Updated: October 20th, 2023
Researched and Written by: Lexi Wood

Migrating data is one of the most complicated parts of successfully implementing a new ERP software. Everyone undergoing the process asks the same question: Can’t data migration be easier? Fortunately, by following 5 key steps and best practices, your business can optimize the complex data migration process to streamline ERP implementation.

How to Migrate to a New ERP System

  • Build a team to manage the entire migration from start to finish
  • Perform data analysis to clean up existing data, reduce duplicates, and ensure order in the new ERP
  • Test different migration processes to find the best one for your business
  • Begin the actual migration
  • Maintain support by testing and evaluating performance

5 Key Data Migration Steps

These are the 5 necessary steps for migrating data to a new ERP system:

1 Build a Team

The very first step is to build a team to handle the migration process from start to finish. Data migration needs consistency and expertise to work, which a dedicated team can provide.Should any issues arise during the migration or implementation, they can be the first responders and know exactly what is happening.

Members on the team should first include representatives from the IT department, preferably those who are already familiar with the company’s current data management methods. They should also have some knowledge of the new ERP and how it works.

Next, the team should include members from different departments to provide additional context to data. For example, an accountant can point out which information needs to be migrated from their department in order to stay compliant with financial standards. By involving multiple areas of the company on the team, there’s a smaller chance of important data being overlooked.

2 Perform Data Analysis

The next step is to analyze the data your business already has. Pick what information will actually be migrated to reduce redundancy from duplicate data. This is also an opportunity to clean up digital clutter so the new ERP can start as fresh as possible. And if you want to modify any business processes in the future, such as updating inventory codes, now is the time to make those changes.

Remember: don’t bring what isn’t needed! This is what slows down a lot of ERP implementations: exporting bloated, unnecessary data. The assembled team should consider what data is no longer useful for current operations and leave it behind during the migration. This part of the migration process can get tricky due to data compliance regulations and security measures, as some information needs to be saved even if it is otherwise outdated and unnecessary for continued operations.

Just a few of the governmental regulations which dictate the storage of data include:

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Applies to medical information stored by businesses within the United States to protect patient privacy.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Applies to all businesses operating in the European Union and European Economic Area to protect the personal data of individuals.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): Applies to businesses operating in or with the state of California to protect consumer privacy.

Some of these regulations require user data to be saved and protected almost indefinitely. As such, it’s important to know which data security regulations impact your business to ensure you migrate the correct data and avoid violations.

Next, determine where the data needs to go to stay organized after migration. The mapping process ensures that moved data will be easy to find in the new ERP. This is a great opportunity for reorganizing data to make it more manageable.

3 Test Processes

The next key step is to test the migration process before implementation to prevent issues later. First, that means finding the best method for migration, as every company will have different needs. For instance, an online retailer will have very different datasets to migrate than a local manufacturer. And the more information there is to transfer, the harder the process will be, even if everything goes right. As such, the selected migration method will largely depend on the scope of data, the industry, and number of users.

Migration types include:

  • Application: Data is transformed to ensure compatibility with a new application.
  • Business process: Data is collected based on business processes, most often to be shared during a merger or acquisition.
  • Database: The entire business’s database is moved from one database management system (DBMS) to another.
  • Storage: Physical storage units are used to transfer data from one location to another. May involve data center migration, which is when the physical infrastructure used to store the data also changes.

The ERP itself is crucial to determining the migration method. Vendors may have their own preferred ways based on how much conversion is needed during import. Deployment type also matters, as there are substantial differences between on-premises and cloud-hosted systems.

This is also the step to begin training users on the new ERP system so employees can hit the ground running after implementation. The team can test out different features to familiarize themselves with the software.

4 Begin Migration

Now it’s finally time for the actual migration process to begin. Remember to start small and work up to minimize disruptions. Following the previous 3 steps correctly should make this easier. Of course, there are always situations where things can go wrong, even after following each step. Follow the best practices listed below for more tips.

5 Get Support

After the data migration is complete, you need to continue testing and evaluating performance for the duration of ERP implementation. There’s always a chance some data got missed and still needs to be brought over.

This is where the team gets a chance to shine. Ideally, their continued support through the entire migration process will now pay off with a seamless transition to the newly implemented ERP system. And if the ERP itself is causing problems, then the vendor should be able to help sort out issues.

Finally, it’s time to evaluate the new ERP implementation and data migration process. Were there any unexpected issues? Can users find their data? Is everything secure? Looking critically at what did and didn’t work can smooth any future migrations or software implementations.

Best Practices for Data Migration

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Successful data migration begins with everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals. Remember: You can’t make the switch to new software if your data isn’t ready, so be ready.
  2. Reduce and organize: Clean up current data as much as possible at the start of the ERP buying process. Discard old and outdated data if possible.
  3. Work with experts: Be purposeful when picking an ERP vendor, as they’ll be with you through the entire migration process and beyond implementation. Read testimonials, verify user reviews, and find the right fit. Consider if there are any industry-specific options, as they can better meet your needs.
  4. Start small: Rather than migrate all data all at once, it’s best to test small batches first. For instance, you might start by sending over all HR data from the past year or sales records from the last fiscal quarter. It’s better to correctly move small batches than risk losing big batches.

How Long Does It Take to Migrate Data in an ERP System

Moving data to a new ERP system depends on several factors, such as how much data there is, if it has been organized, and the complexity of the new ERP. Small businesses can usually migrate data within 3 months. Medium-sized businesses can expect 3 to 9 months for the process to complete. Migration for enterprise and international businesses might take years.

Challenges of ERP Data Migration

  1. Bad data: Whether it’s corrupted, old, or just unnecessary, trying to migrate bad data slows the migration process.
  2. Too much time: Any delay to data migration can delay the overall implementation. And ERP implementation is already a time consuming process, with every setback increasing the total budget.
  3. Poor communication: If the team doesn’t speak up about potential issues during migration, testing, and training, it can lead to a poor user experience.
  4. Not using the new ERP to the fullest: The new ERP can streamline work, if you let it. Don’t try to force old processes which require old data.

By following the above steps and best practices, you can make data migration easier. Need help finding the best ERP software for your organization? Request free recommendations from our software experts to get demos and pricing information.

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