The one thing COVID-19 has taught business owners is the importance of remote access to data and processes. Many businesses were shut down during the lockdowns experienced in 2020 and were left without any means of accessing crucial data short of sending an employee to the physical location to access data. Critical processes were impossible, creating huge inefficiencies and inconveniences. Opting for digital migration reduces these inefficiencies by moving data to off-site access.
Regardless of the reason for your digital migration, the change can bring considerable improvements to your business through improved data flow and processes. Among the numerous benefits to digital migration, are better customer engagement and communication, consolidation, integration, and streamlining processes.
However, digital migration of existing data isn’t an easy process and requires care through proper planning and understanding of how to migrate data without damaging or losing critical elements. Data security before and after the migration is also a serious concern.
But first, you need to understand what digital migration is and what it entails.
What is digital migration?
Digital migration involves any movement of your business processes from analog to a digital format. For instance, businesses move communication and transmission of messages from analog to digital formats that provide enhanced performance. The IoT (internet of things) similarly transformed manual monitoring of equipment to a digital solution whereby devices transmit performance data continually to a central hub.
Today, we’re specifically focusing on digital data migration to ease access when you have a distributed workforce. While the pandemic highlighted the need for such digitization, the fact is that businesses of all sizes were already moving to a distributed workforce rather than centralizing employees in a single location. The pandemic sped this evolution.
Digital migration is the process of moving data from manual processes to a central computerized system that’s automated and easily accessed remotely, such as cloud storage. Here are five essential pieces of advice for the digital migration of your business:
1. Begin by analyzing your data and manual systems
The first thing you must accomplish in preparation for digital migration is to analyze your data’s scope and its complexity because undertaking a digital migration project can bring many unforeseen issues. Your approach at this stage determines how well the project progresses, whether it’ll be flawless or full of setbacks and potential for data loss. Inspect and evaluate the data you want to migrate thoroughly. Know where it’s stored, its current form or format, identify elements you must accomplish, and how data will look post-migration.
Data on paper requires significant work, and therefore the digitization process is quite essential. Moving from paper records to a digital format is fraught with the potential for human error so consider devices able to digitize data directly from paper rather than typing data into a digital record.
Secondly, evaluate the manual systems you have in place and conduct an audit of the processes used. Determine the workflows and what you need to improve or eliminate in the new system. An audit helps you know precisely where digitization is required to improve these processes and specific areas where you should prioritize digital migration since the process of digitizing everything might involve significant time and effort.
These are some of the workflow audit areas that can help you figure out processes that benefit the most from digital migration.
- Any manual data entry processes
- Repetitive processes
- Workflow that requires sharing between individuals or departments
- Work that goes through multiple stages and becomes difficult to trace, track, or give a report on
- Any work that requires approval and signatures from multiple departments
- Work with manual computations
- Work that is prone to human error
- Any workflow that may require the assistance of remote staff
2. Create an action plan and stick to it
Digital migration is a sensitive, yet very intense process, that requires a well-thought-out strategy to ensure that every step necessary ensures data accuracy and includes keys necessary when building relational databases. Careful planning helps reduce errors, data loss, and other adverse consequences such as migration failure. Ensure that all aspects and possible outcomes are adequately analyzed and contingency plans developed.
To ensure your digital migration process goes as you want, create a thorough action plan with scheduled timelines, areas of responsibility, and costs then stick to the plan. This is the key to your digital transformation success since a plan helps you improve the chances of successfully transferring data. Create goals, requirements, and schedules for each phase of the migration.
Prioritize things such as backups to ensure that all your important information is salvageable in the case of a mishap. Planning also helps you to go over issues that may arise during the process soberly. You’ll also have a thought-out contingency plan in case there’s a setback. Below are some basic things to consider when creating a plan for digital migration.
Selection and assessment: You need to select and assess your digital system to check its capability and how it works. Check elements like user-friendliness, storage capacity, technology, i.e., can your system grow to match future needs and compatibility?
Create a migration map: After you selected a suitable system to suit your business needs, design a map for the entire process. Have a security plan, backups, different phases, and deadlines. Also, evaluate your budget to see if it can accommodate the whole process laid out.
Prepare data for the transfer: This is where you choose which data you require going forward, what’s obsolete, and its format. Design relational databases that are forward-looking as it’s awkward and cumbersome to add data you didn’t plan for in the initial transfer. Ensure you backup everything before you start the transfer.
Test your transfer software: The purpose of this phase is to confirm that the data transfer tools you have can handle the task of successfully migrating your data to the digitized system. Run a test using a small amount of your data then check the migration by comparing digitized data stored in a distributed network with the original data.
The migration process: Plan for the actual transfer of data to the new system.
Audit: Ensure your plan has an audit stage where you check data to ensure the migration successfully moved data to its new home. A thorough check of random data is a much better tool than trying to do a less thorough check of a larger dataset.
It’s essential to stick to your migration plan to keep you in line with what you set out to achieve. Without following a plan, things can quickly go awry.
3. Ensure utilization of quality data migration software
Digital migration is a lot of work if you decide to do it manually, although some of the initial processes are manual such as sorting, shredding, and scanning. However, for the transfer of data, consider using a data transfer tool that makes the process easier and promotes data integrity.
Your choice of transfer tools must fit your budget and migration strategy. However, consider other factors rather than rely on the lowest prices. Here are some factors you should keep in mind when selecting your transfer software:
- Ease of use
- Scalability and performance
- Customer and technical support from the vendor
Data loss during the migration process can occur and is devastating to your business. Some people lose all their data while others lose significant portions of their data. A survey conducted in the United States showed that 75% of the responders were unable to restore all data while 23% could not recover any data at all. This is the reason you shouldn’t rush to pick a data migration tool. Ensure your tool allows you to accurately transfer your data and provides a backup to test the transfer.
4. Communicate the digital migration process to staff
Your staff members are a crucial part of the process and for the success of your business. It helps the process move more smoothly if you inform them of the intended digital migration and undertake staff training early in the process. I once visited a firm as part of a research project. As I waited to meet an executive, I observed staff writing orders on paper forms, with their computers pushed to the back of their desks. As time allowed, they transferred data from the paper forms to their EDI (electronic data interchange) software designed to optimize the manufacturing, shipping, and invoicing process. The duplicate process was wasteful and error-prone. Granted this didn’t involve digital migration but the aftermath of moving data onto a digital platform. Thus, even if staff aren’t directly involved in the digital migration process, they’re the ones designated to use the systems eventually. Training reduces reluctance and increases compliance with new processes.
Involving staff early in the decision process increases buy-in, making the transition to a new process more efficient and reducing resistance to the change.
Ensure your staff is ready to use the new systems when the whole migrating process is complete. Training staff early gives them enough time to adapt and catch up with the upgraded systems with ease. In the situation I mentioned above, staff resorted to the paper order process due to a lack of trust in the integrity of data entered into the EDI system and wanted a paper backup. By involving them early in the process, especially in the testing stage, you can assure them the system works the way intended and reduce distrust in a new way of doing things. Training also reduces the need to replace existing employees who become frustrated with their inability or refusal to use the new system.
It’s also important to let every stakeholder know in advance of the planned digital migration with regular updates on the progress of the migration process.
5. Create a digital migration framework
One of the concerns that comes with digital migration is data security. Hackers get better and more sophisticated every year and the damage they cause is more serious. Ensuring your digital data is safe from cybercriminals saves your reputation, your data integrity, and, ultimately, your business.
It’s crucial to create a digital governance framework with clear guidelines and policies since your staff represents the greatest vulnerability. The cloud services provider should similarly provide a secure platform with stringent authentication processes, access control, and identity management. This reduces the concern of data loss or theft.
If you are working with physical servers on location, the IT manager should ensure the site and databases are secure. Similarly, you need access control so that only authorized personnel can access the data and require frequent password updates. Also, control the ability of employees to copy data for use outside the facility by allowing secure remote access since a lost or stolen thumb drive opens a huge security hole. Similarly, put operations in place to thoroughly erase data from discarded devices prior to disposal.
If you stick to the data migration practices outlines in this article, your migration is more effortless, seamless, and effective. If you prepare and plan for pre- and post-migration outcomes and challenges, you are better prepared to deal with issues or prevent them from happening altogether.
Develop a thorough action plan to help deal with any eventuality while staying on schedule and within budget. Once you complete your digital migration, your business is headed for significant transformation, improved efficiency, and data flow. Remember to deal with reputable software vendors and professionals for your digital migration process. This, too, goes a long way in ensuring a smooth transition of your business to digital processes. Employee training ensures you don’t waste your efforts through resistance and inappropriate use. Cybersecurity is also more critical once you digitize data.
Read more: 3 Data Migration Challenges
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