3 common sense tips for GIS Data Migration projects

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3 common sense tips for GIS Data Migration projects

Inevitably there will come a point when an organization will need to migrate their GIS data. The reasons behind the need are numerous. Whether your organization is upgrading the GIS platform, changing platforms (moving from GE Smallworld or Hexagon’s G/Technology to something like ESRI’s ArcGIS or even the open-source QGIS), or the most common reason we see is platform consolidation.

Whatever the reason, a GIS data migration is a substantial effort for an organization. Here are a few common sense tips that will help ease the process:

  1. Interview Stakeholders.

It seems obvious, but it is critically important to talk to the users and the keepers of the data that is about to be moved. Getting data from one place to another can be fairly straightforward; however, getting that data over in a manner that ensures the users will still be able to access the information in manner that allows them to continue to do their job, the other aspect is ensuring that if the data has updates their needs to be mechanisms to maintain the data. Interviewing these stakeholders can help to uncover gaps in project requirements.

  1. Document, document, and do more documentation.

With any project there are a standard set of documents. Those are important and need to be completed. There are many things in a project that can go undocumented. Two critical discussions are around decision-making and operational processes. The documentation of the operational processes should begin with the stakeholder interviews and then expand to include the future design operational process. What does a process look like in production, who should have access, what needs to occur? Having that information captured will ensure buy-in from the user community as well as helping with the change management process.

Project documents also tend to capture the direction of a project in terms of goals and activities, but rarely do they capture the decision making process. Documenting not just the final decision, but also the alternatives and the main reasons behind each can help position the project team to overcome any obstacles later into the project or post production go-live.

  1. Pilot the project.

The biggest detractor against a pilot is the time. Organizations spend significant amounts of time deciding to move forward with a GIS data migration and then will push for a quick turnaround on the actual project. Taking a step back and running a small, but meaningful pilot can help to set proper expectations with the stakeholders and end-users. Running a limited pilot with realistic data and processes can help to identify unforeseen challenges, create community buy-in, and provide valuable data for project timing, resources and level of effort.

As with any major technology project, there are lists and lists of tips and best practices. Taking the time to do some work upfront (interviews, pilots) and taking care to share that information throughout the organization and project team (documentation) will position your GIS data migration project for success.