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HR System Data Migration: How Will You Do It?

For those of us in the HR world (and even those outside the HR world), it seems as if everyone wants to talk about data.  Whether it’s operational reporting, HR analytics, people analytics, or big data, this topic has gained enough momentum to power firms that solely focus on that one area!

However, when you’re implementing a new Cloud HR system, your ability to work with your HR, people, and business data may change depending on what data migration requirements you agree upon.  Deciding on data migration requirements, i.e. what you will do with your current and historical data, is a crucially important activity you need to think about early on to ensure you end up with the right data that meets your business’ needs.

How much data will you bring over?

If you’re looking at HR Cloud technology, there’s a good chance you’ve got a current system that was implemented maybe 10 or more years ago which has bits of people data stored, e.g. when someone started, whether they’ve been transferred, if they’ve had salary increases, whether they’ve done training courses, all that kind of stuff.  Now, you need to decide how much of that information you want to bring over to your new system.

In this scenario, there’s usually a call to be made, and sometimes a bit of a compromise.

When a business is asked how much of their historic data they want to keep, it’s quite often they’ll say they want all of it.  Conversely, when you ask the software vendor their recommendation, they’ll usually advise that that business bring none of that data, and start from a clean slate.  Therein lies the conversation that needs to be had.

Question 1: Will you have access to the old system?

The first question you’ll need to ask, knowing that the software vendor will suggest you leave your old data, is whether you will have access to the old system.  If you do have access, you may decide that you don’t need to bring all that old data over to the new system.  By starting afresh, the record would simply grow from that point and all the historic data would sit in the old system.

Alternatively, if you won’t have access to the old system, for example if part of your business case is that you’re basically throwing that system away, you may need bring that data over due to data protection requirements.  In other words, you may have a legal requirement to bring over those several years of historic data.  There’s always a decision to be made.

Question 2: What kind of data will you bring over?

When you migrate data from one system to another, the bare minimum of kept data would be an active record of all employees: name, start date, salary, etc., but no historic data, such as salary changes, whether they’ve moved departments, changed managers, and such.  You can choose to do this if you’ll have access to the old system.

Apart from that, as a business you’ll need to ask what other data you’re looking to bring over.

Let’s take salary, for example.  When determining someone’s salary increase for the year, it’s useful to know how they’ve progressed in the past.  However, if you think about performance management and performance review information, one might argue it’s not essential to bring over that data to the new system.

The secret: make data migration decisions early!

Before you begin implementing a new Cloud HR system, you need to know (1) what access you’ll have to your old data when you move to the new system, and (2) exactly what data you’ll ultimately migrate.  Are you talking about core employee data that gives you a history of exactly what has happened over the last number of years, or are you talking about someone’s performance and talent information, which, as much as it’s interesting, may not be essential to bring over.

With many different parties and stakeholders involved, be sure to make this decision far in advance as deciding on this after you’ve started you project will most likely incur time delays and extra costs.

For more information about data migration or implementing Cloud HR technology, please get touch.


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