Responsible Oversight of Data Migration Processes And Conversion Procedures for Legal Administrators
December 3, 2009 Leave a comment
As with most businesses that rely heavily on Electronically Stored Information (ESI) to function smoothly and manage risk, a law firm and its IT department are under constant pressure to adapt to the flood of new database applications introduced into the marketplace each year. As new technology emerges, firms are forced into conversion projects to migrate data from legacy databases into new software solutions. The projects rarely go off without a hitch, often involve “scope creep” and with it, have financial implications.
While these data migrations, conversions or data dumps are primarily spearheaded by a firm’s IT department, sometimes Administrators need to play a key part in negotiating with consultants and/or software integrators. Furthermore, active participation in this aspect of a firm’s IT infrastructure goals will exponentially increase an Administrator’s knowledge base. The Administrator might also play an active role in negotiating the contracts surrounding a software implementation.
The best way to support conversion projects is to become aware of the key roles, milestones and dependencies. If Administrators can exhibit a basic understanding of the fundamental concepts and ideas behind these types of projects, they are also more respected by their IT counterparts and the firm’s partners.
Administrators are wise to demand documentation for the project, such as flowcharts, timelines and detailed milestones. In doing so, Administrators will be able to better understand the financial justifications for the project by asking questions such as:
- Are there steps that don’t make sense or don’t add value?
- Is data being entered multiple times into the same system and/or other systems and how does this impact staffing?
- Is the new application integrated with other applications? If not, should it be?
Once these types of question have been addressed, the implementation team will analyze the source data from the current application, the functionality of the new application(s) and create a data map to allow the migration of the data. Following the data mapping step and review of the map, a script is written to actually migrate the data from the legacy system to the new system. The data is then “vetted” to understand if the logic of the data map translated correctly. After an evaluation, the data map is modified, the scripts altered, and the process repeated enough times until the team is happy with the final results.
Although the Administrator is not likely to be involved in these steps, understanding them cannot be underestimated. If the project is not going well, problems can often be traced to the data mapping.
If a firm’s Administrator has done their part to understand project benchmarks and expectations, they have likely prepared themselves to handle complications that may arise during the implementation process. More importantly, Administrators have a major stake in the final result and need to be able to speak to the partners they report to.