When Your Data Is Headed To Capistrano

August 4, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

One of the most complex and potentially frustrating stages of converting to a new software system is data migration. Your new software vendor will likely offer help of some kind, but you might want a voice guiding you through the process that is impartial and whose first priority is your organization and its needs.

A skilled and knowledgeable consultant can ask the right questions and provide guidance that helps you get the system you want up and running. And while hiring a consultant can be costly, depending on the complexity of your organization and the system you’re imagining, the help of a skilled expert who knows the technology and how nonprofits work can save money over the long term. (To learn more about hiring and working with a consultant, read Idealware’s free article, How to Find, Hire, and Collaborate With Technology Consultants, at http://bit.ly/2aiF3yb)

There are three unique skills that you must insist the consultant possess for your organization’s data migration process:

1. Knowledge of Your Old System
Your consultant should have a good understanding of the system you’re leaving, including the general logic and setup and the specific ways your organization configured the system for its use.

2. Expertise in the New System
An intimate familiarity with your new system is essential for every part of the implementation process, but especially migration. A consultant who is not familiar with your new system will struggle to match your data to the old system and will likely have to run extra migrations to fix mistakes as he or she learns the system on the fly.

An expert will not only convert your data cleanly, the person can also offer nuanced insight into how to use your data in the new system and can make suggestions that help you get more value from your system and your data.

3. Technical and Nonprofit Skills
Moving data is not a simple drag-and-drop process. A lot of technical skill is required to import items such as pledges and payments. Often, a separate, technical consultant is often needed just for this part of the process, especially if you need to address systematic data issues during migration.

Beyond technical skills, most nonprofit technology experts agree that your consultant should have deep experience working with nonprofits and a strong understanding of the needs and terminology common in the nonprofit sector. It’s important to ask your consultant tough questions about his or her sector knowledge, the kinds of conversions he or she has done in the past, and how the consultant likes to work to find out whether the relationship will be a productive one.