Data Migration

We rely, in part on data to manage our businesses. So, when moving to a new system, particularly an ERP system, one of the most daunting and important tasks is migrating all that important data from the old system to the new. 

A new software implementation project also presents an opportunity to cleanse, purge, and standardize data to greater value from it going forward. 

If you need some help getting into the details and some ideas on what to think about, check out the Data Migration Considerations tool.


1. Evaluate the Current State

Reflect on the current state of your data and identify challenges and gaps. 

  • What decisions are made based on data and reports today?
  • What decisions are difficult to make in the absence of data?
  • Is there any data not captured today that you wish you had?
  • What is the source of truth for each data element?

With the answers to these questions, design a data structure that helps the company make better, faster decisions. Mapping this out will help in the data cleanse process.

2. Data Types

Data falls into three primary categories:

  1. Master Data
  2. Transactional Data
  3. Historical Data

A) Master Data

Master data is the core data that is essential to operations. It is the structure of data, the buckets, categories, and filters in which numbers live.

Master data can differ from company to company, but generally includes the following elements:

  • Account Master – A categorization of how the numbers hit the books through G/L accounts and financial mapping 
  • Product or item master – For example, physical products and services
  • Business Partners – Including customers, vendor/suppliers, manufacturing partners or any other entity or individual you work with
  • Bill of Materials (BOMs) – For those in manufacturing 

Data migration and cleanse activities start with master data. As you reformat and categorize this data, be sure to document current state and the future state, highlighting the changes. Knowing the changes will allow you to easily map the legacy data into the new system.

B) Transactional Data

Transactional data includes the data that makes up the revenue and expense numbers. This data is in constant motion and encompasses all the transactions in the system. This is the data that you report on most actively and where clean up pays off. The data insights are within reach!

Transactional data includes, at least: 

  • Open purchase orders
  • Open sales orders
  • Current inventory levels
  • Open A/P and A/R

C) Historical Data

Historical data includes all closed transactional data records and outdated master data. This data provides historical reporting and is used for business analysis and decision making. However, when planning data migration, this is the data to be wary of. Including historical data in cleanse and migration may be more work than it’s worth. 

Significant effort is needed to align historical data with new system standards. Within a few short years this historical data may also become irrelevant, negating the value of all that cleansing effort. Instead, when transitioning to the new system, consider saving a snapshot of the old database and printing the most valuable reports to use as references for the next year or two. Once the new system is up and running, you’ll quickly have new data that is more valuable to your business. 


Before data can be migrated from one structure to the next, from system to system, it needs to be cleansed or updated to match the new data structure. This is a big undertaking and grows exponentially when historical data is involved. 

Improving your existing data and importing only valuable clean data is essential to any software implementation project. It leads to better reports that support confident business decisions and provide accurate insights to efficiencies, trends, and opportunities. 

Data clean up and migration may be daunting but, when done right, it pays off!