Bringing old data to life.


Behold, all things are new – with a little help from sound data governance and migration practices.

Fully restored 1936 Plymouth P2 Deluxe 7-passenger Sedan (photo credit: Randy von Liski)A couple of recent blog posts nicely complement each other to illustrate the value of legacy data and the need to ensure that these data are fit for purpose in today’s systems and applications.

The first post is by Robert Plant*, an associate professor at the University of Miami’s business school. Writing for the Harvard Business Review’s “Conversation” blog, Plant provides excellent insights into “how to turn old data into business gold.”

He begins with a couple of intriguing examples of using venerable data to solve new business problems.  He then spells out five best practices for turning “old into gold,” such as developing an “information lifecycle management” governance policy and establishing procedures for making retained data “future friendly.”  He adds:

There’s a lesson in this for CIOs who are trying to make their budgets stretch ever further in these austere times. Development of small, low-cost, low-risk projects involving archived datasets can sometimes have a disproportionately high impact on the business — and on the CIO’s reputation.

The second post is by Dylan Jones, the founder of Data Quality Pro and Data Migration Pro.  His terrific article today outlines the kinds of “myths and legends” you need to settle before undertaking a data migration initiative.  While all of them are on point, Myth #4 seems most trenchant: “If the data is good enough in legacy, it will be good enough in the target.”  Jones explains:

The problem is that your new system is not the same. No matter how closely you try and model the existing functions in the new world system, there will be differences. These differences will place pressure on the data to perform functions it was never designed for.

He illustrates this point with a story about a client that wanted to consolidate 17 legacy systems into a new asset management system. Unfortunately, the client ran into a classic problem — engineers had been entering freehand text to describe asset locations for more than a decade: “The data was accurate, complete and trusted in the legacy environment, but ill-prepared for the brave new world that beckoned.”

Master data management can help enterprises make better use of their legacy systems and archived data.  A properly managed MDM initiative establishes systems and enforces policies along the lines spelled out in these two articles, ensuring data quality and consistency while creating a canonical source of master data correctly formatted for new requirements going forward.

(*I’m of an age where I’m tempted to add, “not that Robert Plant” — speaking of turning old into gold.)

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