In today’s fast-paced business environment, converting to a new data system, inserting mass data into existing application suites, or merging one large data set into another is commonplace. It’s easy to assume your IT team has the knowledge, capabilities, and experience necessary to perform these tasks efficiently and without error. The reality is even skilled tech professionals may not have the expertise for projects of this caliber.
Successful data transformations require sophisticated data conversion knowledge, trained staff, and specialized code and tools. Most in-house teams, although knowledgeable, aren’t necessarily equipped to do them or do them well. So, although you may be getting by using your in-house team, you’re rolling the dice with your data. Are you willing to risk it?
The good news is you don’t have to. You can use the Helm360 Data Extraction Team.
As legal IT experts, we recognize the need for tech specialists who can do this work, which is why we developed the Helm360 Data Extraction Team. This team helps law firms undergo data-related projects effectively, efficiently, and securely with minimal downtime and limited transition periods. A holistic data extraction and conversion process will help you plan, prepare, and undergo the changes smoothly. Here’s a quick primer on the work we do.
Data Extraction vs. Full Database Conversion: What’s the difference?
It’s easy to get these two processes confused. Data extraction is extracting data from one source and placing it an in intermediate location for additional transformation. Data conversion involves converting data from one source system to another, often significantly changing the format. These processes work in conjunction with each other during a full database conversion, which is completely moving and integrating data from one or multiple sources into a new destination database or application.
There are two types of full conversions: single-phase and two-phase. A single-phase conversion moves data from its old home to a new home in one transaction. The extraction and conversion processes happen simultaneously during the move. Although seemingly efficient, this is the more complicated method and is fraught with potential mishaps, especially when dealing with complex data.
The two-phase conversion methodology is more stable. Phase 1 (data extraction) extracts the data from the legacy system and places it in an intermediate location known as the staging database. Phase 2 (data conversion) occurs after the staging database is populated. Finally, the data is moved to its destination system.
So why consider a two-phase conversion? Because it offers efficiencies and safeguards that a single-phase conversion doesn’t have, such as:
- The opportunity to transform data twice. Data can be transformed once from the legacy to staging database step and again in the staging database to destination move. This ensures the data is in good, clean working order.
- Pre-written conversion code from the staging database to the final destination. The staging database is a simpler version of the final destination, which makes it an ideal location to convert the data format. Preparing conversion code for this stage before the data arrives can save time and money.
- Accommodation of multiple data sources. The staging database provides a platform where data from different sources and software can be translated and synced into a common language without risking the final database’s integrity.
- Allowance for a division of labor. With two phases, two teams can be working towards the full conversion finish line to reduce costs and time.
- Fault tolerance. If a load failure or other mishap does occur, the full conversion isn’t compromised. Only one phase is affected, so any problems are easier to correct.
- Easier identifier assignments. Indexes and GUIDs (I.e., unique record identifiers) are much easier to assign in the two-phase method. Again, this ensures accuracy while saving time and money.
- Data accuracy improvement. Firms typically review and approve data counts and record totals during Phase 1 (data extraction). Any needed revisions can be done in the staging database before the data is moved to its final destination. This ensures that accurate data arrives at the destination and business can resume quickly.
The two-phase methodology does have its disadvantages. It requires more space, as it needs an intermediate storage location. It also requires more time to complete, as it involves two conversions.
Both the single-phase and the two-phase methods have a lot of moving parts, especially when multiple software applications are involved. Having a big picture plan of the entire process is imperative for a smooth transition. Data extraction experts, like our Data Extraction Team, can help identify which method is best for you, identify potential problem areas, and craft a plan that will keep disruption and downtime to a minimum.
The Helm360 Data Extraction Team specializes in single-phase extractions, which involves moving data from different systems to the intermediate database. It’s a process that involves not only extracting the data from its source(s) but also working with other teams—other firms’ or our own—to ensure the client receives a seamless data delivery and the new system works well. This is our most requested service.
Data Conversion: What to expect
The methodology for converting data from one format to another is complicated. The process usually occurs in two stages:
Data mapping. This involves assigning source tables and fields to destination tables and fields, usually in a “from-to” format. Some fields, like a person’s name, can go into the destination site with no modification. More complex information needs mapping and significant transformation logic to ensure it arrives at the destination site properly. Billing transactions are a good example of this.
Transformational logic is written based on data maps and prior experience with the source and destination systems.
Conversion testing. There are several methods of conversion testing, but the most common include:
- Test 0, Data Mapping, Test 1, Final: Test 0 involves converting data before the data mapping stage, allowing a firm to “see” their data in the destination earlier in the implementation process.
- Data Mapping, Test 1, Final
- Data Mapping, Test 1, Test 2, Final: This is the most common choice.
- Data Mapping, Test 1, Test 2, Test 3, Final
As each test is completed, the users run the results through a User Acceptance Test (UAT) and report needed revisions. Then, the conversion team codes corrections and runs another test. This loop continues until a final version is determined, with the goal to get faster and more accurate results. By the go-live date, the code is run in the shortest time possible and the firm can get back up and running on the new system quickly.
How Helm360’s Data Extraction Team can help you
As you can see, moving your data is an intricate process. Consider the number of legal applications your firm uses. Imagine getting all that data to sync up smoothly and accurately while it’s moved to a new destination, or upgraded, or part of a large merge process. Can your IT team handle it?
As we said before, it’s extremely rare for law firms—or even software providers—to maintain the in-house technical expertise needed to do this. Even software providers like Thomson Reuters often turn to third-party contractors (like Helm360) who have the specialized expertise necessary to handle extraction work.
This is why we developed the Helm360 Data Extraction Team.
Our team performs data extraction work for firms around the world. We have the skills and expertise to conduct both single-phase data extractions and two-phase (full) conversions. We also have data conversion experts on hand 24/7 to accommodate your needs—large or small—from beginning to end.
Data extractions and full database conversions are important for efficient business operations. You can’t avoid them, and you can’t afford to have them done improperly. Using experts like the Helm360 Data Extraction Team will ensure that your project occurs quickly, correctly, and with minimal disruption.
Your data is the lifeblood of your accounting system. Don’t put it in jeopardy trying to save a few dollars. Call the Helm360 Data Extraction Team.
Want to learn more about Helm360’s Data Extraction Team? Need help with a full database conversion project? We can help! Contact us today.