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Data migration vs. data conversion: What are the differences?

Data migration and data conversion are related, but not the same. Discover how each one factors into an ERP or other software implementation and its importance.

Data is the lifeblood of any modern organization, which is why it's a critical factor in an ERP or software implementation.

It's therefore important to understand the roles data migration and data conversion play in an implementation scenario.

Data migration

Data migration is the act of taking your data out of one system and putting it into another one. This situation arises when you implement a new ERP or human resource information system (HRIS) and plan to decommission the existing one. The movement of data is a one-time event. Once completed, you will no longer maintain the data in the legacy system. It is important to note that multiple test migrations may have to occur to ensure that all the mapping is correct. However, the final migration before go-live is only done once.

While developing your data migration strategy, you may also want to consider migrating data from other sources, such as spreadsheets and custom applications used within your organization.

Data conversion

Data conversion is often a step in the data migration process. If your legacy system and new system had identical fields, you could just do a data migration; however, this is rarely the case. Usually, you need to modify the data from your legacy system before you can migrate it to the new system.

Here are a few examples of when a data conversion would be required.

Your legacy ERP system has four fields to store an address, but your new system only has three. When migrating data from the legacy system, you will have to convert the address data to match the new requirement of three fields.

Your two HRIS systems have different data types for the same field. For example, the current system may have an ID field that accepts alphanumeric characters, but the new system only accepts numeric characters. In this case, you will have to remove the alpha characters before the data can be loaded into the new system.

The number of characters you can enter in the field is different in each system. This is only an issue when the new field is shorter than the field in the legacy system. An example may be the field to store the name of a product in an ERP system or the business title of an employee in an HRIS. If the new system accepts fewer characters, you will have to shorten the data where needed to meet the new character requirements before migrating the data.

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