Data Conversion Strategies for Success

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Vitech Talks: The Podcast

Episode 4 | Data Conversion Strategies for Success

Join Alice Rischert, Vice President at Vitech, and our host, Steve Brandt, as they talk Data Conversion. Best practices are critical to successful migrations and can make all the difference for streamlining and future-proofing operations. Listen in and learn more.

Transcript of Data Conversion Strategies for Success

Steve Brandt: Hello, again! I’m Steve Brandt here with Vitech Talks: The Podcast and I have a very special guest with me today. Her name is Alice Rischert. She’s a vice president here at Vitech and we have her here today because we are talking about data conversions, data conversion strategies, namely for success, a very important topic in today’s technology world. Alice, vice president at Vitech, has been with the company for over 18 years. She has been leading our conversion team through many, if not most of our clients, with great success over those years. And she’s done all sorts of conversions from big-bang conversions to new business only and convert, migrate, after a go-live, so she really knows her stuff. She’s also the author of four technical books on SQL. So Alice, great to hear from you today, and why don’t we just jump right into it?

Alice Rischert: Thanks, Steve. Thanks for having this very important topic on your podcast.

Steve Brandt: You got it. We’re excited to have it. I know personally I’m excited to have it because in my role at Vitech, where we bring on clients, conversion is always a huge part of their strategy, and the reason why they’re doing it, to get off of old legacy systems, and bring those plans and that data onto the new system, V3locity. And that’s really what supports their whole investment strategy as to making the investment in the new technology, is when they can be winding down those old legacy platforms. That’s where they get the true value out of our system. So it’s very important to me in my daily role. And I know it’s important to you. So we have a few questions here, Alice I’m going to take you through them a little bit, and we’ll have a nice conversation. So, I think the first question [is] kind of speaking to where I was going a little bit, what role does the data migration effort play in new systems implementation?

Alice Rischert: Most projects have some level of data migration. A system really comes alive with its data. That’s when it has meaning to the users and having accurate, clean, reliable, and complete data is really critical to a project’s success and data migration can be a road filled with challenges. And the reasons for that are really legacy source problems, dirty data, data inconsistencies, or missing data, and our extensive experience in helping clients migrate that legacy data allows us to recommend best practices and help our clients in this endeavor. And our data migration effort is supported by very experienced team members with a deep domain knowledge, excellent technical experience and skills, along with breed of data conversion practices and strategies. So yes, data migration plays a vital role in the project implementation and its success.

Steve Brandt: Yeah, absolutely. And I love how you put that first part of that answer, data is what makes the system come alive and, you know, there’s not, not a truer statement that you can make, right? I mean, that’s why we all do what we do. And that really is the end game for our clients. So without getting their data from their legacy systems and into the new platform to make that new platform really come alive, and bring the value, we’re really not having a successful relationship. So you mentioned the team, you mention our success, and your experience. What are some of the key success factors? I mean, what do you really see as the things that drive the success in these migration processes?

Alice Rischert: I think there is, it’s not just one item. It’s a number of factors that have an impact. But some of the most important ones are how much history to migrate, how to handle dirty or missing data. What are some of the best approaches to confirm that the legacy data is fully integrated with the new system and working as expected, how to reconcile the data, to verify that all the legacy data has been accounted for. And of course, another critical success first, the composition and the experience of the entire data migration team, whether it’s the legacy side together with the new target system.

Steve Brandt: Yeah. And I like the way you put that, dirty data. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that said before, but that kind of says it all, right? We take your dirty data, and we make it clean and put it into a new system and it all comes alive. That’s really kind of a great visual, in my head. So to get at these success factors, what kind of advice do you give organizations who are planning these migrations?

Alice Rischert: Well it really depends, like I said, on the number of factors, obviously the strategy is very important right off the bat. What do we, how do we handle, for example, historical data. And how do we approach the whole migration, as a whole, how do we phase it, how do we, are we doing a big bang? Are we doing a phased implementation? Again, this depends sometimes on the industry. But there are a lot of strategies and approaches to data conversion. It’s not one size fits all.

Steve Brandt: Right. Like anything else, there’s a lot of work that needs to happen up front to make it successful. You know, you mentioned and I mentioned big-bang versus I call it post-go-live-type conversions. Can you just spend a minute on the differences, I mean, for those out there in the audience who, when we say big bang, they’re kind of scratching their head, you know, versus not big bang.

Alice Rischert: Sure. So a big bang would be, a big-bang migration would be a one-time migration. You bring everything over at once and that’s most frequently done with some of our retirement clients, because they need the data all at once, versus an insurance client, we can migrate based on one of their groups or multiple of their groups, or based on certain criteria, because the data is much more independent, therefore it can be separated and brought in. And then, but even on retirement clients, you could also split the data and not go live with a big bang, for example, depending on the migration, on the implementation approach. So for example, if there’s [a] multiple rollout, the data always goes along with the appropriate rollout. So you could have a retirement client go, go a big bang and bring out all the, or implement all the modules and convert all the data for the modules. So you might decide on this retirement client might have, two or three rollouts, that’s potentially possible, too. And then we would convert the appropriate data for each respective rollout.

Steve Brandt: That’s really helpful. And what are the pros to a big bang, pros and cons to each? I mean, everything has benefits.

Alice Rischert: There are, I mean, most of the time the data conversion, it really follows the implementation approach. So if we decide, or if the client decides that the multi-rollout is a better approach than, than it is usually for business reasons, right? Sometimes it’s their legacy sources [are] already two separate systems. So sometimes the risk is lower if you migrate one set of data first, and then you bring over the other set because it’s already logically separated and the business is logically separated, and then you bring it together. I mean, that can be one reason. But there is not, there may [be] many reasons why you would do it one way or another. Like I said, it really depends on the legacy sources. It depends on many, on the rollout strategy. So there’s not one individual criteria that you would say, this is the way to go.

Steve Brandt: Yeah. That makes absolute sense. In your experience, what are the things that make a conversion most successful, [that you] consistently see as being the most important thing to be a success? And what do you see as the thing that mostly will cause an unsuccessful or troublesome conversion?

Alice Rischert: Well, one of the criteria is, as I mentioned earlier, is how much historical data needs to be migrated. And it really all depends, for retirement clients, you always need historical data just because that’s the nature of the business. However, even there not everything needs to be migrated. So there are conversations to be had around the data retention requirement, what’s necessary versus nice to have, versus an insurance implementation [which] typically requires far less history, than a retirement implementation. But regardless, you really want to start off with a solid data migration strategy. So it’s really important to identify the essential data that must be migrated and then, conversations with users, because some users have to recognize that history becomes less and less relevant over time and users like to hold onto their data, understandably. But really, it depends on the type of data, but the overarching model sometimes has to be less data is more, because these decisions on historical data have a wide-ranging impact on the timeline, the cost, the data cleansing, the testing, and the project team resources. So that’s why those decisions right up front have a significant impact.

Steve Brandt: And so much of it is, the dependency is spread out right across the vendor and the client or the client’s partners. This is not something that either one organization can do alone, correct?

Alice Rischert: Oh yeah. It’s very much a team effort. We work very closely together with all the teams to make sure that the data is properly coming over, that it’s accounted for, it’s reconciled, that it works as expected. So it’s really a team effort.

Steve Brandt: Yeah. And do you ever think we’ll see a day when this becomes easy?

Alice Rischert: I think it gets easier, over time, not to say that it is easy, but I think there is enough tool knowledge and experience out there, people who have done it over and over again, who can guide projects in the right directions. So I think that definitely helps. I mean, what I’ve seen, we’re converting more and more data, more complicated data, but at the same time, I think we’re all getting much better at it. And we understand where the risks are and accordingly, we know what the proper mitigation strategies are, what we should be doing and not doing. And so I think that overall helps.

Steve Brandt: That’s really good. We certainly should be able to, as a company that looks to convert data into our systems become better and better and better at it. The clients can become better at it too, but they don’t do it as much as we do. So that becomes kind of a variable that we have to deal with. And then just the fact that some of these systems are 35, 40 years old. So when we say legacy data, where we truly mean it, and those systems are getting upgraded. So the next time maybe we convert, maybe 10 or 15 years from now, [we] will be converting out of a more modern platform and it should make a difference, right?

Alice Rischert: Well, yeah, but I, I have to say even though sometimes the systems may be very, very old there, it’s not always the case. Sometimes we even have more modern systems, but it’s just a matter of consolidating and getting, adding more data, more functionality. So even younger systems have their challenges.

Steve Brandt: Got it, got it, Got it. Well, very good, Alice. This is, I think, has been really enlightening for me and I’m sure the listeners are going to appreciate it as well. We’re running up, just running up against our time. Is there any final thought or encouragement or advice that you want to give people out there if they’re entering into a conversion or a migration project?

Alice Rischert: The key advice I would say is having the right team on your side. That’s really important, getting people on the data migration team that are experienced, that have done this before, and know how to mitigate the problems. I think those are, those are really the key.

Steve Brandt: Great advice, and as is so true in so many of these things, even as we’re talking about technology and technology gets better every day, it always does come down to the people. Well said, Alice, and thank you for joining us today. It was a pleasure to have you on.

Alice Rischert: Thanks for having this important topic on your podcast!

Steve Brandt: Absolutely, our pleasure. Thanks again, Alice.

That was an incredibly enlightening conversion talk. And now we’re gonna convert over to the Brandt rant! And unless you’ve been living under a rock, anywhere on the globe, you have heard about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, an amazing woman who spent 70 years on the English throne and has taken England from a country that was ruled by a monarch, into a modern-day political system. But she stayed in her throne as a steady influence over that transition and quite frankly, a steady influence over the world. I mean, how many people get to do that and have that kind of impact on a whole globe?

She was certainly a bright light, for, I think everybody, over the past 70 years, who, whether you followed her or not, or whether you were a fan of the royals or not, you certainly knew who they were. You certainly heard about her, maybe watched some movies, read some articles, People Magazine. I mean, the reach was unmatchable and the amount of time that she was in that spot doing her thing was remarkable, to say the least. And you know, it’s amazing now, the past five days have been just honoring her life. And what’s even more amazing to it all is, is first of all, they haven’t done this in 70 years, because she’s been there so long and now they’re passing it on to her son, who’s now the king. In that moment, he became King Charles, which is amazing.

The question is, can he do the job that she did? Obviously, it’s a different era. The country of England, the region of the UK, is in a different place than it was, you know, 70 years ago, even 20 years ago or 30 years ago. So it’ll be interesting to see how now a king can follow on a queen who’s been there for 70 years. I know I’ll be watching. I think we all will, especially in the short term. So rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth II, you made your mark on the world and godspeed. Thank you.