This is a guest post by Ashley Goad, Senior Technical Consultant

                 

Hi, resident data geek here!

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about how converting your data is a lot like moving.  Since publishing, I’ve received feedback that the post was helpful, and have been asked to dive into further detail on how best to prepare for this move (data conversion) to your new home (new database).

Let’s begin.

The best way to tackle this move is to start with these 4 data preparation steps:

1. Take Inventory

You own your data, you know your data… get your resident data geek(s) on board with the project as soon as possible. 

If your organization has gone through staff changes, now might be the time to get some extra assistance from your software vendor. Your vendor will be able to analyze what you have to help you better understand your data and the conversion process.  They are experts in their applications and know how to move data to a new system, but will need a great deal of input based on YOUR knowledge of your data. Having this person involved from the beginning will also help with the scoping process of your data conversion to ensure the scope matches the needs of your organization.

2. Organize

Sit down with your team to discuss known issues – everyone has them.  It is likely that your database has already suffered through conversions between systems, staff changes and inaccurate data entry, so you’re bound to find issues you weren’t even aware of.  Take this time to uncover those issues and make plans to address them. (It is always easier to address issues in a system you’re familiar with).

However, if you can’t or simply don’t have time, many companies offer data services during conversion to help clean that data for you.  Most anything is possible if the data supports what you are asking for.

3. Label Everything

In step 2 you created a list of issues. Now, it is time to address them.

Here are some examples of common data issues:

  1. Duplicate records
  2. Invalid addresses such as bad state codes or zip codes
  3. Misspellings
  4. Broken relationships – orphaned records in your database such as gifts with no constituent to relate to.
  5. Missing/incomplete data

4. Move it!

You are now ready to move!  Get your boxes (database) ready and load the truck.  Your mover (a conversion expert) will pick up your boxes and start working with you on the best route to get you there.

Moving data is almost just like moving to a new home.  The steps to move are pretty straight forward, but the work involved can be time consuming and difficult.  We have probably all done that move – the one where you just put everything into boxes, no labels, no organization, no cleaning.  The end result is lots of work after the move, and,  in many cases, more work than it would have been had you taken the time to organize in the beginnig.

So, put on your Chuck Taylors and comfy pants, and roll up your sleeves… it’s moving time! And here’s a little something to get your team pumped up.

 

photo courtesy of Flickr: Creative Commons

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From time to time, a guest blogger will appear on npENGAGE. Guest bloggers are industry experts contributing useful, relevant content to the conversation on npENGAGE. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, contact the editor.

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