A master plan: why master data management is key to successful
migration projects

Thumbnail | Blogpost | A master plan: Why master data management is key to successful migration projects
Colleague | Timothy Scudder

Timothy Scudder
Principal Consultant @ fme US

July 24, 2019

Content migration projects are complex and time-consuming. It’s well understood that time needs to be devoted to planning and identifying the data for systems migration. But many organizations overlook the importance of master data management. This oversight can create huge problems when executing a data migration project, leading to significant delays.

Master data management is the method that an organization uses to define and manage its critical data in order to achieve a single source of truth across the enterprise.

The importance of master data cannot be overstated. Master data represents the most critical data for operations within an organization or function. It is data that can be trusted, is unlikely to change, has been verified as correct and error free, meets compliance requirements, is complete and consistent, is common to all stakeholders, and is crucial to the business’ operations.

The term “master data” is often applied to databases of business-critical information, such as customer information files, product information files and so on. This is true, these types of databases are usually the authoritative source of the master data values. That master data is typically used by other applications, such as content management systems, which must be kept in synch with changes in the authoritative source.

What can hinder the use of master data in a content migration project is inadequate resources, lack of standards, failure to implement an internal governance process, poor planning, changing direction part way through a project, and not having a business owner or champion that understands the complexities of master data.

In one example, errors occurred early in the migration phase because the master data requirements and master data interdependencies were unclear. That meant the team responsible for the migration had to unexpectedly address a lot of master data issues. Adding to the problems faced was the fact that the organization was in the process of developing and changing naming convention standards for drug products, so the data in the system and the data used for mapping were different. Finally, further problems were encountered as the company decided on a last-minute major change to its approach to handling application master data. This occurred because the business users failed to understand how the original approach would affect their user community. As a result, the project was delayed, and huge effort had to be expended to tackle the issues.

These problems can be averted with the right approach.

Five lessons learned on how to mitigate migration issues

  1. Plan early. A successful content migration project needs to evaluate master data requirements at the planning stage to ensure a complete set of the right data is made ready for migration. If master data is missing, incorrect or not available at the right time, it can lead to delays and increased costs. It may even result in projects being cancelled or suspended.
  2. Develop a cross-functional team. Often, anything to do with data management is seen as an IT issue. However, it’s important that a cross-functional migration team, comprising IT and business stakeholders, works together to determine the master data required for migration. It is essential that one or more business representatives take ownership of the master data aspect of the project.
  3. Bring in the resources needed. Many organizations don’t understand how master data affects the application or migration process. That’s because many simply don’t have the internal resources or expertise to address master data management as an integral part of a migration project.
  4. Spend time on business analysis. Another issue is that few organizations have a business analyst function sitting between the business and IT. Spending the time upfront on analysis of the master data needed for the migration and comparing it to master data in the existing system can prevent project delays and disruptions.
  5. Always consider master data context in determining which master data to use in a content migration. If the documents are being used for a specific part of the business, it makes sense to only incorporate master data relevant to the project and end users. For example, if manufacturing documents are being migrated, the master data should be relevant to manufacturing users. In this case, internal drug product names are probably more appropriate than drug product trade names.

Experience has shown that making master data management as a key element of any migration project vastly improves the success of a project. Master data, developed and supported through a collaborative process, should be the bedrock of any migration project.

Interesed in learning more about the importance of master data management?

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