Don't Let Your Data Migrations Be Like “Spock's Brain”

June 1, 2018 Kevin Larsen

The episode of Star Trek that most fans consider the worst is “Spock's Brain.” If you've never seen it, a group of aliens (who look human) “steal” Mr. Spock's brain, and Dr. McCoy has to reattach it.

The story is ridiculous, but there is a parallel with data. In the episode, Dr. McCoy uses an alien contraption to gain the knowledge necessary to perform the seemingly impossible task of reattaching Spock's brain. Unfortunately, he loses all of this specialized surgical knowledge after just three hours and can't get it back.  But it isn’t just the knowledge that is lost.  Dr. McCoy also lost all of the incredible good that could have brought to the world with it.

The same scenario often plays out during migrations of data to new or consolidated business systems, or during M&A activities. In the process of analyzing, cleansing, mapping, and loading data, migration project teams generate a lot of critical business and data knowledge - such as a catalog of data, metadata that describes what data represents through terminology used by the business, and business rules that control data. This knowledge provides a more complete understanding and traceability of data - thus the business trusts it more.

For example, after a data migration is complete, data quality is usually at its highest as great effort is made to cleanse and harmonize data for the new business environment. Unfortunately, the people and machines that create and action data after a go live typically start to degrade the quality of data in the system once they start working in the new environment. Before long, data quality begins to decrease to pre-migration levels - which threatens to disrupt the business and negate the benefits that the business expected to receive from the migration. This could be avoided if a data quality program is put in place quickly using the business rules and data knowledge developed during the migration.

More broadly, this knowledge could also be used to jumpstart an information governance program. By capturing critical data knowledge, a business could curate trusted data, and more easily align data, policies, and people with the business strategy.

Unfortunately, most businesses don't have the tools, processes, or even the foresight to retain this knowledge. Data migrations are typically performed using spreadsheets by a small team in conjunction with an SI that disbands after the project concludes. No central facility exists to capture data knowledge, so it ends up being stored in the minds of the project team. As it was for Dr. McCoy, this knowledge persists only for a short time - during the execution of the migration project. And when the project ends, not only is critical knowledge lost but also the benefits that a business could receive by tapping into it.

It doesn't have to be that way though. Our Data Stewardship Platform (DSP) platform has consistently delivered on-time and on-budget data migrations for our clients by orchestrating and overseeing all migration activities in a single location. Now our Information Governance Cloud and DSP work together seamlessly to empower everyone on a migration project and beyond to contribute their data knowledge to develop more trusted data. In a single location, it catalogs business data, describes it through metadata, defines and orchestrates enforcement of the rules that control data, and aligns it all with your business strategy so that data helps achieve your business goals. And unlike with Dr. McCoy, this knowledge persists far into the future - ensuring that data helps the business act with agility in the face of changing environments.

You won’t be able to reattach Spock’s brain with Information Governance Cloud, but you will achieve more trusted data. And better data means better business.

About the Author

Kevin Larsen

Kevin Larsen is the Senior Product Marketing Manager at BackOffice Associates. With over a 25+ year career, he has held positions in Software Development, Business Development, and Product Marketing. Kevin holds a B.A. in Mathematics, an M.S. in Software Engineering, and an M.B.A.

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