“Sharpen your axe” ─ cleansing gives data migrations the cutting edge


One of the questions I’m most frequently asked by clients is “what is the most important factor in a data migration?” My answer is a single word: preparation. As Abraham Lincoln allegedly said, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

In my experience, for any data migration exercise it’s data cleansing that sharpens the axe.

However you approach a data migration, it’s a big undertaking involving a lot of time, resources and often money, so why blunt the effectiveness of the project by migrating across existing flaws? Cleansing before a migration offers huge potential for improvement ─ to really drive sales and marketing effectiveness, and ultimately the bottom line. Failing to do so promises a legacy of fire-fighting, damage limitation and wasted opportunities.

As an example, I’ve recently been helping a client that, owing to time pressures, embarked on a migration without first cleansing its data. Despite significant investment, the new CRM is now seen as unsuccessful because it’s plagued by the same old data problems. By sacrificing cleansing to meet their delivery deadline, this business perfectly illustrates opportunities versus costs.


Pre-migration cleanse: All unnecessary duplicates are removed, with customised rules to ring fence, merge or delete records as appropriate.


Post-migration cleanse: Existing data is transferred en masse with no understanding of its value or accuracy. Once entered, duplicates may be difficult to purge.

Inactive Records

Pre-migration cleanse: Rules are created to identify what an inactive record is, when it becomes one and if it still holds value (and so should be retained).


Post-migration cleanse: Out-dated data dramatically reduces sales and marketing efficiency and increases the risk that inactive but valuable records are deleted.


Pre-migration cleanse: Identify and populate missing data in records ─ such as postcodes, company size and revenue ─ to better target business opportunities.


Post-migration cleanse: Incomplete data delivers flawed intelligence to sales and marketing teams, wasting effort.


Pre-migration cleanse: Identify the data that does (and does not) drive the business. Engage other parts of the business to add new and delete old fields for real flexibility. Changing data needs are easily integrated into the CRM.


Post-migration cleanse: Once built, a CRM is rigid. Trying to add new data points can be expensive or outright impossible if doing so after initial implementation.


Pre-migration cleanse: An effective Quality Assurance (QA) process that ensures no data ‘leaks’ during the migration so the CRM maintains its value.


Post-migration cleanse: With no real idea of data value, important records can be lost during migration and the new CRM is less effective than the old one.

Cost and reputation

Pre-migration cleanse: Getting it right delivers on budget and on time. The business sees immediate benefits and values data. This bodes well for buy-in to future projects.


Post-migration cleanse: The new CRM demands continued investment and fails to deliver any obvious benefits to the business. Data is seen as a drag, not a driver. Future projects will be viewed with suspicion.

Getting the pre-migration data cleansing process right requires support, so I recommend engaging a data services partner to guide you through the process. Choose the right partner and you’ll cleanse at the right time and in the right ways to deliver a CRM system that demonstrates data value across the business. You’ll be prepped for the challenges and ready to seize all the opportunities of your data migration ─ giving your business and its data the cutting edge.I think you’ll agree it’s a compelling comparison. You will always stay on the right side of the line by simply asking yourself the question, why are we doing this? It will remind you that a data migration is about improving the business ─ including empowering marketing and sales ─ and not just about implementing a new technology.

Post a Comment

Add your comment