The challenges of an insurance system transformation are rarely underestimated, but one area often slips under the radar. A headline grabbed my attention last month “SJP re-platforming to shut out clients for 10 days”. The article explained that the advice network St James’s Place (SJP) are moving their business to a new platform. As a result, their clients would not be able to access their investment portal for 10 days.

Here is evidence that moving existing data from an old system is the real challenge for any technology upgrade. This makes it all the more surprising that data migration is often an afterthought for many transformation projects. Moreover, legacy applications are often harder to migrate due to a blend of technology, process and even cultural factors. These issues should not be under-estimated and are especially important in the insurance market, where new technology and insurtech opportunities are high on the agenda.

Data migration options

Data migrations happen for a number of reasons. SJP are moving their business onto a whole new technology platform – other projects include merging new data from an acquisition or integrating multiple data sources into a new data warehouse.

There will be various options for any data migration implementation. The appropriate strategy will depend on business requirements. Strategies typically fall into two categories, often referred to as ‘big bang’ and ‘trickle’

In a big bang data migration, the full transfer completes within a limited window of time. Live systems experience downtime while data is extracted from the old system, transformed where necessary and the loaded onto the new database.

In contrast, trickle migrations take place in phases. During implementation, the old system and the new are run in parallel. This approach is designed to eliminates downtime and operational interruptions.

4 steps for successful data migration

Whatever the reason or strategy, once a decision to change has been made, you will have to move data from the old system to the new. Following these steps should help ensure the move is successful:

  • Use an experienced partner. If you are using external resource, make sure they satisfy you that they have run successful migration projects before.
  • Include Data Migration planning at an early stage. Having a clear understanding of the purpose of your data and planning the process properly is integral to success. The devil is definitely in the detail
  • Clean your data and keep it clean. Data migration is the perfect opportunity to audit your data and cleanse it. You can then put processes in place to keep it clean.
  • Future proof your system. What you need from your system now may radically change in the future. Allow the flexibility for different scenarios, for example, daily batch to real-time data capture.

So, if you are looking at the options of shiny new insurance technology, please heed this word of caution. Make sure you ask the question about how your old data will be managed early in the conversations and then make sure you like the answer.