Data Conversion

Data Conversion refers to work required to change data from one format to another.

The purpose of data conversion is to take existing manual and automated data and change it into a format that can be used by the new or modified solution.

Data conversion has a mini lifecycle of its own. In other words, the planning and preparation for data conversion needs to be started up-front in the lifecycle.

If you have not thought about data conversion until the Implementation Phase, you are going to be in trouble.

The actual data conversion is almost always done during the Implementation Phase. However, this implies that the conversion has been planned ahead of time.

The key to effective data conversion, as it is with other aspects of the project life-cycle, is to start the planning process early.

Depending on the size and complexity of your project and your data conversion needs, you may have developed an overall Data Conversion Strategy during the Analysis Phase of the project.

During the Design Phase, you should have developed your Data Conversion Plan, taking into account your overall conversion strategy if you have one. Your data conversion may require you to build custom programs to convert the old data to the new format.

In some cases you might use a data mapping tool. This work should be completed during the Construct Phase. Similarly, you will want to test your data conversion during the Test Phase.

In many cases, you will need to run the conversion programs to build the data for your System Tests and User Acceptance Tests. You should notice that this lifecycle approach to data conversion reduces the chance that the data conversion will be rushed.

Assuming you followed the prior steps, at the end of the project, you should have planned (and perhaps even tested) your data conversion process, and you should be ready for the live conversion event.

The timing of the data conversion will depend on the project and will be dictated by your Data Conversion Plan. On some projects, the data conversion is straightforward and can be accomplished just as the solution is being moved into production.

On other projects, the data conversion can be complex and take a number of days to complete. In still other cases, the data conversion may be a significant effort in itself and may be split off into its own project.

For instance, if only portions of the database can be loaded at one time or if there are portions of data that come from multiple sources, many conversions may be required. These conversions might require complex, custom programs to complete.

Once the conversion is complete, care must be taken to ensure that the process worked as expected. This validation process can also be complex and too cumbersome to do manually.

Again, custom programs may need to be written to check on the validity of the converted data. A common technique, for instance, is to count records and rows, and sum up counts and amounts.

Then, after the conversion, records and rows, and counts and amounts are again summed to ensure that all of the data balances as expected. The users that have business knowledge in how the data should look are especially valuable in ensuring that the converted data looks appropriate as well.

Data Dictionary


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