The 11 Questions To Ask About Data Migration
Data migration is a big topic to cover when looking for new technology to manage your life and health insurance agency.
Not only do you want to know how you’ll get your information into your new software, but you also want to know how you can get it out. You can determine what your vendor can do, what it will cost, and what your exit plan will look like by asking the right questions about data migration.
This blog will cover what data migration is, the questions you should ask your vendor before you buy, and the answers you can expect.
What is data migration?
Data migration is defined by NetApp as: “the process of moving data from one location to another, one format to another, or one application to another. Generally, this is the result of introducing a new system or location for the data.”
For life and health insurance agencies, these locations can include:
- Paper files
- Spreadsheets (Excel or Google)
- CRM software
- Homegrown management software
- An agency management system
To help your agency achieve its goals, you sometimes have to make changes. Often, those changes include introducing new technology. There are many reasons agencies make technology moves—to create efficiency, streamline processes, have access to essential features, make working remotely more achievable, prepare for retirement/selling, etc.
To use software, you must go through a data migration. Let’s chat about the questions you should ask vendors and what you should look for in their responses. NOTE: Every vendor will have their own process, so be sure to ask all these questions to each vendor you consider.
The 11 Data Migration Questions to Ask & Answers to Expect
Question 1: Who needs to be involved in the process?
The first question we must answer, from both sides, is who needs to be involved in the migration. For some vendors, one person from each vendor might be enough. But, for others, the migration process might be large and require a team of people. Identify these people early on and verify they understand their responsibilities to ensure the migration process is smooth and efficient.
According to Premier International, four main responsibilities need to be covered in a data migration:
- Data Owners
- Functional Team
- Data Migration Team
- Program Management
Again, depending on the amount of data you have and how large your agency is will impact how many people need to be involved.
Question 2: How do I get my data into the system?
The vendor should have a simplified solution for you to transfer your data from your current system. Sometimes, this process requires a spreadsheet from which the new system can extract your data and populate it in their software. Other times, a custom migration may be necessary.
In the case of AgencyBloc, we have three common ways to import your book of business into our system:
- Manual entry
- Spreadsheet import
- Custom migration
Your AgencyBloc sales rep will work directly with you and our data team to determine which migration is best for your situation. Learn more about AgencyBloc’s data migration process and the entire AgencyBloc experience.
Question 3: How clean does my data need to be?
Do you have lots of duplicate data in your current system? Is there data that’s been untouched for several years that you don’t need anymore? If your data needs cleaning up, potential vendors may suggest (or require) that that’s taken care of before data migration.
Having clean data can make the migration process faster, more efficient, and in some instances, less expensive. Here are some ways you can clean up your data right now:
- Remove duplicates
- Remove unused data and/or old data
- Standardize capitalization formatting
As the old saying goes, you get out what you put in. Having good, quality data means you will be working with the best data possible. This is a great way to start off on the right foot with a new system!
Question 4: Does the file have to be in a specific format?
For those choosing the spreadsheet import avenue, a .CSV file is often preferred. A .CSV file is a "Comma Separated Values (CSV) file that typically separates information using commas. It's a way to exchange structured information, like the contents of a spreadsheet, among programs that can't necessarily talk to one another directly."
The format of your data is another matter. If your data is in a standard format that is readable and maneuverable, then it can make importing significantly easier. This means your data follows a consistent format (First Name Last Name, XXX-XX-XXXX, MM/DD/YYYY, etc.). It also means your naming is consistent for carriers, product types, statuses (Prospect, Lead, etc.), and more. Consistency is important when transferring your data and preparing for import.
If you opt for the spreadsheet import, ensure that each column has its own set of information, like:
- Column A = First Name
- Column B = Last Name
- Column C = Birthday
Siloing that information helps make migrations more accurate and efficient.
Question 5: Can I import multiple policies for one client?
You should be able to add more rows with the same client’s name but different policy numbers and products to be grouped together within the system. But, this depends on the structure of the system.
In AgencyBloc, all pieces of data (like policies) tie to the individual contact. You can have multiple policies and coverages linked to one individual without duplicating data.
Question 6: Can I restrict what I migrate or move over multiple databases?
Your data migration depends heavily on what you can extract from your current system(s). If you want to restrict the data you’re moving over, i.e., only leads, prospects, and clients, then you’ll need to be able to pull that out of your current system. Talk to your sales rep and engage with the data team of your new system to see what all you can pull over, where you have limitations, and set proper expectations.
Likewise, if you want to move over multiple databases, it should be possible but may require a custom migration to ensure there isn’t duplication and information populates correctly. It’s not unheard of to migrate more than one database into a new system, so it should be something the vendor can handle.
Question 7: Do you have migration templates available?
Most vendors have templates available that are best suited for their system’s import. Before you buy, ask to see the provided templates to know what they entail and if you can get your information into them. Also ask about additional fields, like custom fields, that may not come on the standard template but are necessary for your book of business.
Question 8: What about notes, attachments, emails, tasks, etc.?
This is a very important question as notes, attachments, emails, tasks, etc., may not always come out the same way as your other data points. They give you a history of your conversations, business interactions, decisions, etc., which is crucial to your book of business. Without these, your new system will be incomplete.
After you ask if they can be transferred over, your next question must be: where are they stored? If you ever want to export them out of the system, you will need access to them in whatever location they are housed.
For AgencyBloc, you can add a separate column on the same row of your individual/group and include your group and individual notes with your import. We can also bring in attachments, emails, and tasks, but that would require a conversation and likely a custom migration.
Question 9: Is there a separate fee for data migration?
The cost of your data migration will highly depend on the following:
- The system you're coming from
- The amount and type of data you have
- The state of your data
There are usually different levels of migration as well—manual, standard, or custom. Each of those could mean different fees, whether it’s flat or quoted. This would also apply if you’re migrating multiple databases vs. one.
Have a conversation with your sales rep to see what your process will look like and what the cost might be for your unique case.
Question 10: How long will the migration take?
The length of time has some major variants:
- The system you're coming from
- The amount of data you have
- The state of your data
- The availability of the support staff
The last one is the most important. You can affect the timeline for how long a migration will take. Factoring in how you prepare your data (refer to question two) and how responsive you are can help cut down the wait time considerably.
Again, have a conversation with your sales rep to see what your timeline may be.
Question 11: How easy is it for me to get my data out?
This is the most critical question to ask. Many times, the hidden costs, delays, and difficulties during the migration do not come from the software you’re moving to; they come from the software you’re moving from.
BEFORE YOU BUY, ask what your exit plan looks like should you choose to leave. Ask:
- How easy is it to get my data back out?
- Who is the owner of the data once it's in the system?
- What costs are associated with retrieving the data?
- Are there limitations to what I can export (notes, attachments, etc.)?
Some systems believe that if they house your data, then they own your data and will charge you a fee for taking it back out of their software. Before you buy, make sure you ask if your data will still be 100% yours. If they don’t answer yes, that could signify possible problems in the future.
Finding Your Right Fit
Keep in mind that every agency management system and CRM is different, and your migration is a unique situation. The best advice we can give is to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—many questions.
You want the transition to be seamless and to be up and running at full capacity as soon as possible. Therefore, asking all the questions ahead of time and being prepared is crucial for successful data migration.
AgencyBloc is the #1 Agency Recommended management system for life and health insurance agencies. With the AgencyBloc experience, you will have access to a knowledgeable sales rep, data specialists, and dedicated onboarding specialists and resources to ensure you have the support you need.
Additionally, you’ll have access to our vast Help library full of articles, videos, training courses, and more. Plus, our support staff is there to help you be as successful as possible with live phone, chat, and email support options.
Asking the right questions up front and being as prepared as possible can make the whole process significantly easier.
Want to learn more?
In our eBook, The Insurance Agency's Brief Guide to Data Migration, you'll learn how to prepare your data and your team for a smooth data migration.
This blog was originally published on 6/15/2021 and updated on 7/7/2022.
By Sarah Rosonke on July 7, 2022 in Database Management
Sarah is the Design and Content Specialist at AgencyBloc. She creates and designs helpful resources to support life and health insurance agencies in growing and automating their business. Favorite quote: "You'll never do a whole lot unless you're brave enough to try." —Dolly Parton More articles