Successful data migration takes careful planning and execution for law firms. Even if your law firm employs IT professionals or contracts a professional service to migrate the firm’s data, understanding how the process works can be beneficial since it will help alleviate a lot of fear as well as help law firm management and the staff know if and when any systems or data will be unavailable. Successful data migration plans may vary depending on the company hired to complete the process. If they do not follow the steps listed in this article, that does not necessarily mean they are wrong. It just means they have their own methods. As long as they can explain their process to you and you can understand (and live with) their plan, that is perfectly fine.
What Is Data Migration?
In its simplest form, data migration is the process of moving data from one location to another. From the perspective of a law firm, it could be moving client data or law firm data from a computer hard drive to a physical server, cloud server, or law practice management system. It could be moving law firm data from one law firm practice management system to another. It could even be buying new computers and moving all of the software, data, and files you and your staff need.
There are four types of data migration.
- Storage migration. Storage migration involves moving physical data from one type of hardware to another.
- Database migration. Database migration involves moving an entire database from one vendor to another vendor. It can also involve upgrading your current software involving the database.
- Application migration. An application migration involves switching from one application vendor to another. This type of data migration requires substantial care because most applications require specific databases or a specific data setup.
- Business process migration. A business process migration occurs when there is a merger or acquisition and the data between the law firms must be brought together.
Planning a Successful Data Migration
To ensure that your law firm experiences a successful data migration, there are some steps you need to take to ensure the integrity of your data.
Get familiar with the data that needs to be moved. Keep in mind that the more legal tech solutions your law firm uses, the more likely it is that some of the products integrate and rely on the same data. This knowledge is crucial because moving one set of data could impact more than one program. You should also be able to identify all of your data and where it is located. You do not need to be an expert, but you should have a general understanding of the type of data you have, where it is housed, what needs to be moved, and which programs may be affected.
Quality data is a key component to successful data migration. Incorrect and duplicate data are two issues that can cause issues during data migration. It could cause the migration to fail or cause the system to act in a way that you weren’t expecting. Every second spent reviewing and ensuring the quality of the data before the migration takes place is time well spent.
Understand what is really necessary to have a successful data migration. While most law firms hire professionals to handle the data migration, it is still important to recognize that there is a process that must be followed. The process depends on the type of data migration taking place. If you’re switching to a new cloud server, the provider may have certain requirements for the migration process to occur. If you’re switching to a new billing software, you may need to export your client data into a certain format so that it may be reimported into the new software. Then, you must consider when the old system will be discontinued.
Create and test data subsets before deploying the data migration. To avoid any potential issues during the actual data migration process, create and test data subsets for each category of data that will be part of the migration. If the data migration is large, this helps you create a scalable test.
Set your schedule to execute the data migration. As a law firm, it’s important to keep in mind how the entire schedule will affect everyone involved. Consider the date you’d like the new system to go live. It might make sense for it to be at the end of the month or quarter. Then, work with your provider to make it happen.
What Comes After a Successful Data Migration?
After a successful data migration, life goes on, right? Well, not exactly. It’s important to make sure that your staff has the proper initial training on how to use the new system. Otherwise, they may not use it to its full potential, if at all. Also, go out of your way to gather feedback from the staff who use the software as a regular part of their job. Does it work as it should? Does it make their job easier? Could they use more training? If possible, designate at least one person in your law firm as a super user and send them to as many training opportunities as possible. They can act as in-person help for other staff members.
Additionally, it’s important that everyone be on the lookout for bugs or flaws. It’s important for all users to make sure that whatever occurred isn’t happening because of an operator error. However, keeping track of legitimate issues can protect the integrity of your data in the future.
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