Data Migration is a Team Effort Data Migration is a Team Effort

Data Migration is a Team Effort

by Casey Hernandez
Casey Hernandez Casey Hernandez Edtech Thought Leader
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It’s enough to fill a superintendent with dread.

Okay, that statement could apply to plenty of situations, but consider this one: The Sisyphean task of migrating decades of data from one system to the next inspires even the most motivated leaders to dilly-dally. There’s no need to avoid this big move, one which you’ll look back on from the top of the mountain with lots of pride and a much easier day-to-day data routine.


Choose the team that chooses you

Team 1: Vendor partners

When we say “data migration,” we have a pretty specific path in mind. Still, transferring data records to a new system of any kind requires concentration and careful attention. This is not a process that should be rushed: data and system security are paramount, and time spent migrating data gives users valuable experience in the system. Your vendor partners will have a strong, experienced team of folks with specific information and duties laid out step-by-step. It really is as simple as that—your success is their success, and you’re on a team together.

Team 2: Your team of champions

Next, and your vendor team will tell you this right away, it’s important to choose the right blend of folks from your district team. Now, this doesn’t just mean people with C-level titles or certain levels of seniority. Ideally, the point person on this team will be someone whose leadership skills are well-established and trusted on your team.

This champion will find it easy to dive into a new task and inspire everyone else to pitch in as well. You’re looking for a natural leader who can learn fast and pass those skills on to others who work daily in the system, whether student information or ERP. Once you identify your leader, a small team of subject matter experts can come in handy for delegation, teamwork, and training.


What to expect when you’re migrating data

It’s a fair question: how long is migrating data going to take me? Luckily, it’s pretty straightforward. The variables are set before you start putting in weekly work to migrate.

Depending on the size of your district, most leaders can expect to spend between one and three hours per week dedicated to migration work—more if you want to go faster. Districts have completed the process in as few as four months or as many as 10 months. The benefit to choosing a longer timeframe is that it allows your product champions, who will work most in the system, more time to spend learning before they’re expected to teach others.

Communication is crucial long before the migration process actually starts. As soon as the decision has been made to change systems, roll out the news to daily users and get their feedback on migration (not a list of reasons why they’d rather things stay the same). This initial reaction can give valuable insight into folks’ willingness to comply and work hard to complete migration tasks on time.

Next, consider the concept of extreme ownership (hat tip to Jocko Willink and Leif Babin). In a nutshell, extreme ownership asks you as the decision-maker and leader to accept responsibility for everything in your realm: your decisions, your actions, your team’s decisions and actions, and the factors beyond anyone’s control. Of course, you will enjoy support along the way. But at the end of the day when the data migration happens, it will be because of your leadership. Without your accountability to deadlines and learning, migration will not be successful.

Hitting deadlines is an excellent place to start your extreme ownership practice. Since your vendor team has experience with the pace of implementation, training, and data migration, follow their lead. Never worry about missing deadlines during challenging weeks for students and staff (full moons, holidays, and inclement weather, just to name a few). Simply speak up and communicate your needs: you’re not only a valued teammate in the data migration game, you’re the customer! The alternative of missing deadlines without discussion means added stress and delays, which no one wants.


Challenges and pitfalls

Beware the temptation of ignoring your resistors: you know who they are already. Go to them, explain the process, listen, and hear out their concerns. There’s no stopping the migration train, but if someone needs extra time to get on, that’s okay! Feeling heard goes a lot further than you think. Plus, the truth is your biggest resistors will resist whether you listen or not—at least using a proactive approach gives you an opportunity to change the minds and hearts of your team. (And it lowers the odds of being let down at the last minute by someone refusing to pitch in on tasks delegated to them.)

Communicate early and often. The average staff member needs to hear something five times before it sinks in (but your mileage may vary). Share messages in multiple ways, more than you think you need to. Don’t assume silence equals understanding!

Ways to scale this include meetings, 1:1 meetings, letters, emails, and surveys to gauge understanding and interest. These surveys can be anonymous as a temperature check, or have folks let you know exactly how they’re feeling. You’ll identify your resistors and your product champions this way.


Delegation saves the day

This all depends on district size. Delegation could mean splitting up tasks between a couple of people, or in larger districts, it could be a core team that helps roll out changes to the rest of the staff. It helps to have heavy users who will be in the system daily on board, but at the same time it’s a big ask: You’re essentially doing your job AND learning a whole new one. Some users have ten or fifteen years of experience in your old system—learning takes time and effort.

This is why it’s crucial to get your district leadership and product champions working toward the same goal. Show your commitment to the process and why it’s important to the district. Be able to explain the “why” behind new systems: will it make daily tasks quicker in the long run? Will it unite previously incompatible systems? Will it be better for students and families? Whatever the benefits are, they’ll become the new refrain for district comms for the time being.

You will achieve greater buy-in from your team when the leadership communicates well. Working together will end up with a better end product that makes day-to-day tasks more efficient.

Finally, never forget you’re not on your own in this migration journey. Your vendor team has resources there for you—use them. Encourage your champions to use them too. It helps a lot and makes the process go smoother.

At the end of the day, in the immortal words of President Harry S. Truman, the buck stops here.

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Casey Hernandez Casey Hernandez Edtech Thought Leader
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