New to ERP? Data Migration Best Practices
The future of the field service industry undoubtedly runs on technology. The writing has been on the wall for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more apparent. Today’s and tomorrow’s field service companies can use technology to elevate everything they do and hit new heights for excellence. At the same time, they will need to master technology to remain relevant with customers and competitive with other providers. There is a clear imperative for providers of all stripes to embrace or upgrade technology like never before, with one system serving as the centerpiece of everything: enterprise resource planning (ERP).
We can debate which technologies a field service business absolutely needs. There is no argument about ERP, though. It is increasingly seen as mandatory for any company (inside or outside field service) that wants to use data, analytics, and oversight to perform at a high level. In an industry like field service with many moving parts spread across a large footprint, the ability to plan enterprise resources, and see everything through one window proves to be an incredible asset.
No wonder field service providers are adopting ERP in droves. Many have run their business with clipboards, spreadsheets, and simple, siloed software for years now. The flaws in that approach are starting to show as the industry raises the bar for service, productivity, profitability, and so much more. Small and large providers across the spectrum recognize the importance of digital data and high-tech tools. ERP unlocks the door to both.
Important and beneficial as ERP may be to the modern field service provider, implementing a solution comes with some challenges. They are all manageable – even for businesses with a small staff or limited technical expertise – provided they are planned for in advance. One that deserves particular focus is data migration. The ERP is only as good as the data inside, so how do you get vast amounts of information into that system without a massive, error-prone effort? We will explain how.
Data Migration Explained
ERP software is meant to be the central data repository for a company – the single source of truth where any fact, figure, or piece of data in the company’s possession can be found. Ideally, an ERP system contains everything. But since every ERP starts out empty, filling it with the information it needs requires a systematic process of data migration.
This process involves finding data in every location where it currently lives, including places that are often overlooked. It then involves extracting that data from the various systems, giving it a common structure, and populating it into the right parts of the ERP.
Any step can go awry for many reasons (which we cover in the next section). The details of data mitigation are also unique to each company based on the data, technology, and ERP being used. A one-size-fits-all strategy does not exist. Instead, ERP adopters need to take a careful, customized approach to data migration informed by the best practices we outline later.
Common Challenges with Data Migration
Field service providers face an uphill climb when it comes to data migration. These businesses tend to have small IT and administrative staff (technicians are the bulk of the team), but the complicated nature of field service produces vast amounts of data. This leaves limited resources in terms of time, staff, or skills to handle the big burden of data migration. Again, these challenges are manageable, and lots of small field services providers have successfully moved all their data into an ERP without any great stress or strain. Follow that lead by avoiding the common mistakes that others make when migrating data into an ERP:
- Bad Data – Far and away the biggest issue is bad data ending up in the ERP. Data becomes bad when it is redundant, incomplete, inaccurate, in the wrong format, or imperfect in any way. Bad data could travel from the old system into the ERP, or good data could get compromised during the migration.
- High Cost – Data migration takes time, staff, planning, and purpose, all of which come at a cost to the company. That cost can become a problem if the migration takes longer than expected, is not performed according to best practices, or is not budgeted for properly.
- Minimal Support – Migrating data while running the day-to-day operations of a field service business can create friction between managers, and the ERP team. Without buy-in from the top down, and from each department, the data migration can only go wrong.
- Compliance Problems – When field service providers have requirements for where, when, and how they store data – imposed by regulators or under contract – moving data between systems raises the risk of compliance problems, and all the consequences that follow.
Planning for Data Migration
We should emphasize that while the challenges outlined above are common, they are avoidable. Knowing where other data migrations have stalled out or taken a left turn makes it possible to plan around those problems. Develop a plan that addresses these key steps:
- Appoint a Data Migration Team – Create a dedicated group of members from different departments to handle data migration. They will decide what to migrate and how, handle the migration itself, and take responsibility for the results.
- Take Inventory – The migration team will need to map the location of all data undergoing migration, and address issues like redundancies or inconsistent file formats. Then, they need to use the map to show the ERP where to find data to import automatically.
- Ditch Bad Data – Some data should not migrate because it is outdated or irrelevant. The migration team will decide what to exclude from the ERP and whether that data will be destroyed or stored elsewhere.
- Migrate and Modify – After the data migrates into the ERP, do not assume the system is ready to go. Instead, validate, and test the data to ensure the migration went as planned. It may take just as much input after the migration as before to get the data into a clean, accessible format ready for users.
Best Practices for Best Results
Enough field service providers have adopted ERP at this point that a series of best practices have emerged around data migration – guiding those who apply these methods towards what works, and away from what does not. As we said earlier, every migration will be unique, but the successful ones will share a commitment to these best practices:
- Do Not Underestimate Data Migration – Though data migration is just one aspect of ERP implementation, it may be the most important, and resource-intensive part of the project. It does not work without a big effort and plenty of planning. Assuming otherwise sets the migration up to fail. Get started with migration early, dedicate whatever resources necessary, and create systems to standardize how data gets extracted, and cleansed from different systems.
- Support the Business Case – Data migration should strive to do more than just populate the ERP with quality information. It should make data more accessible, integrated, intuitive, and insightful than it was before. Think of how various business units and decision-makers will use the ERP data, then structure the databases so that data delivers maximum value, and utility to users.
- Get Serious About Data Governance – Data governance becomes extremely important before and after adopting an ERP. Clearly define who has what tasks, what policies and rules to follow, how to handle data security and other components of data governance. Plan early and extensively for what governance looks like but be willing to make changes as the need arises. Data governance evolves with the ERP, and the company using it.
- Pick Quality Over Quantity – Trying to move every single piece of data from an old system, even data that has no purpose, means the migration process may take longer than necessary. To be sure, err on the side of quality. Migrate first the data that decision-makers will need on day one. Historical data can come later and may not be necessary to migrate at all. Use migration as an opportunity to refine data rather than an attempt to copy one system entirely into another.
- NextService Data Migration Support – NextService understands the importance of data quality for any customer embarking on the ERP journey. To assist, NextService provides customers with baseline CSV import templates of the key records used within the NetSuite field service platform. These templates present customers with a starting point on which to build specific imports required for their organization. As experts in the NetSuite and field service space, NextService provides guidance to customers using the NetSuite data import feature along with best practices in data management and structure, including ideal approaches when testing the import process and resulting data quality.
FSM + ERP – A Long-Term Solution for Field Service Data
Data migration is an ongoing effort – at least for providers who run the field service management (FSM) solution separate from the ERP. Such a disconnect means someone must manually move data from various parts of the FSM into the corresponding part of the ERP – a labor-intensive process that is prone to mistakes, and easy to neglect. When data must continually migrate from the FSM to the ERP there is only one possible outcome: bad data in front of decision-makers.
The solution is simpler than it seems. When the FSM solution runs on the same platform as the ERP, there is no need to migrate data because it already lives in the same place. Common databases mean the ERP has real-time access to every piece of data created in the course of service delivery. The implications of using a single system for ERP + FSM are huge. In addition to eliminating the need for endless data migration (and the mistakes that follow), FSM software that runs on-platform with the ERP creates a seamless digital foundation for the entire company. Service delivery, accounting, business planning, and all other enterprise resources run with the same data and toolkit at the company’s disposal so information moves seamlessly through the organization to inform (and improve) every decision.
NextService is one of the few FSM solutions that operates on the same platform as the ERP. And not just any ERP – NetSuite, an industry leader, and a popular option among field service providers. When a robust FSM application and a leading ERP work in perfect sync, the opportunities are endless. Learn more about this powerful combination by contacting our team for a demo.