5 tips for successful data conversion in an ERP implementation

Data conversion is one of the major causes for an ERP implementation missing its go-live objective, and/or exceeding its budget. This can be prevented by complying to some important 'rules'.

1. Make sure you are well prepared

When you start unprepared to a data conversion, you are asking for trouble. Before you begin, make sure you accurately define which data you want to convert out of which business applications. If the same data is in more than one application, choose the system that is most suitable to convert the data from. Also set up a detailed planning for the data conversion that fits within the overall ERP project and assign a dedicated resource to this activity.

2. Focus on the really important data

Decide on the size and period of the data you are going to convert. You should consider that on the one hand you want as much information as possible in your new system, but on the other hand is should be realistic and feasible. Of course you want to have master data and open orders in your system, but the complete transactional history is perhaps less relevant.

3. Convert clean data

Data cannot be too clean before converting it to the new system. Unclean data can trouble the data conversion. Think for instance about different formats of zip codes and telephone numbers. Or inconsistent data that is wrongly included in or excluded from the conversion. Or duplicate data in your business applications. An ERP implementation might just be an excellent moment to take a close look at your data and to clean it up or perhaps enrich it where necessary.

4. Do at least one test conversion

Before the actual data conversion takes place, it is wise to run one or two test conversions. You will then verify whether the data is complete and consistent. Any errors you run into can be fixed before the final conversion to the new system takes place.

5. Timing is crucial

Timing is crucial in conversion. The 1st conversion includes only a subset of the data and provides an understanding of the quality and size of the data. This can be done shortly after the start of the project in order to have more than sufficient time to take corrective measures. Later on in the project, when the system has been set up, a 2nd conversion is performed which includes all data. This will give you an understanding of all extra work that should be done and an idea of the lead time. During the final conversion you can often start converting data prior to the go-live. This takes away some pressure and gives you more control, it is all about timing.

The conversion should never be the bottleneck in your ERP implementation. However, data conversion to an ERP system is (hopefully) not something you get to deal with every day. It is your software vendor who knows all about this. Therefore, listen to the advices you get and make use of the conversion tools you are provided with.

Alex Bouwmeester is Project Manager Europe at Dysel and guides the customer from start to finish during the implementation.