When you’re implementing new technology for your nonprofit, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system, a critically important step in the process is data migration.
It can be tempting to move every piece of data your organization has ever collected into the new system “just in case” you need it someday. And even though you probably know you should clean your data before a new technology implementation, you might think it would be much easier to just move everything now and vow to clean it up later. (How many times have you said that while moving into a new home and then never quite got around to tidying up later?)
Some nonprofit technology consultants accommodate this approach by offering inexpensive data migration options, such as those that use a script to quickly move data from one or more systems into your new system – often referred to as a “lift and shift” approach.
But many nonprofits are seeing the downsides of moving too much data (and moving bad data) into a new system, and they’re recognizing that a more strategic approach to data migration offers multiple benefits. We’ve also seen the market shift to placing greater emphasis on data certainty, which focuses more on accurate data over volume of data. With this approach, organizations can build more accurate strategies around engaging with their constituents.
There was a time when CRM systems were promoted as a “single source of truth” that led to a “360-degree view of your data”. With that perspective, you might think it would follow that you should collect and store as much data as possible in your nonprofit’s new CRM system.
However, that’s not always the most effective approach for modern nonprofits.
CRM systems today are often a core system for many organizations but are just one of multiple software systems in the technology mix. Also, organizations are now collecting more data than ever about their donors, volunteers, and other constituents. These factors are leading more nonprofits to shift away from collecting and storing huge volumes of data in one system to ensuring they have the access they need to clean, accurate, and specific data that truly supports their goals.
The idea of NOT moving all of your data into your new system can seem scary. We’ve seen organizations that have decades of data in their legacy systems. In cases like this, the tug from that old “What if I need it someday?” idea can be strong.
But keep in mind that being thoughtful and selective about which data you move into your new system doesn’t mean you have to throw out all of your old data. In fact, today there are many technology options available to house your older data. They range from simple (such as a spreadsheet or .CSV files) to more complex (such as data warehouses and data lakes).
Also, there are more sophisticated integration options than ever before, some of which allow you to use data without moving it. For example, Salesforce recently announced Genie, which allows you to use data about your constituents from across your entire technology ecosystem without actually copying the data to the system that’s using it.
The bottom line: Remember that being strategic with your data migration doesn’t automatically mean you’re throwing data away. There are ways to hang onto important data without having it clutter your CRM system.
A thoughtful approach to data migration starts with considering which data gets moved to your new system, and which doesn’t. The right type and volume of data moved into a new system will be different for every nonprofit. However, here are some general ideas to consider:
If you’re considering a move to a new technology system, it’s important to think about your approach to data migration. When it comes down to it, it’s all about using your data wisely.
Here at Heller Consulting, we believe data migration is about more than just moving data from one system to another. It’s about ensuring you’re using your data cost-effectively in a way that helps you truly get the most out of your technology systems and ultimately reach your organization’s goals.
If you’d like to talk about your data migration and technology needs, contact Heller Consulting. Our team is ready to help.
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