In this article Rob Vermeij will highlight key success factors and best practices with regard to data migration projects in aviation. The following topics will be discussed:

  • The importance of senior management support, change management skills and data migration experience

  • In detail explain the key success factor: Data, Technology and Management

  • Finally, how you will have a successful go-live



Data migration projects are often perceived as daunting, risky and in general difficult to find a proper strategy. This can lead to overestimating the project, but, more commonly, underestimation the requirements and needs of a data migration project.

A data migration project is like building your own house:  where first you must get the foundation right, then you can raise the walls and, in the end, put the roof on top. If you do not get the foundation right, the walls will be instable, and the roof will collapse. Like building your own house, as a self-made handyman, you will always face different challenges during each part of the project, and it helps to know the best practices in the industry to prepare you for these.

The Foundation 

So, let’s start with laying the foundation of our data migration: this is a balanced mix of senior management support, change management and overall data migration experience. At the start and throughout any data migration project, these three need to be in place otherwise the whole house starts crumbling down, leading likely into failure of the project.

Senior Management Support:

  • Do you know and formally agreed who the project sponsor is within your company?

This could be a single person, often one of the postholders within the airline, or a “steering board”. The project sponsor has final decision power and controls the budget allocation for the project. Furthermore, the sponsor has a key role in gaining and keeping support from senior management. Hence:

  • Ensure Senior Management is enthusiastic and supporting the project

It is highly likely these are also the project sponsors. You need the senior management on your side to support the changes your project team is about to make in the company. Next to that, they have ultimate control over company resources that might be needed for the project.

  • Pre-agree on initial budget and available resources.

This requires proper project scoping and planning on forehand, to give the right estimates. Ensure this is included in the overall company planning and “affected” department heads are informed and covered (they potentially loose someone from their team for a certain period).

  • Keep senior management involved in progression and decision making, it keeps the project on course with company strategy and goals.

Change Management:

Data migration is not only moving data from A to B. In one way or another, it will invoke new business rules and, possibly, company processes. Most of the time a data migration is part of a bigger change within a company or the start thereof. People are naturally resistance to change, especially if it affects a well-established way of working that your employees are used to, it’s difficult to get people out of such a comfort zone and create a new one. Think about all those engineers. 

Ensure you have inhouse change management experience, or otherwise bring someone externally into the project team that can:

  • Act as bridge between the project team and senior management, balancing the interest and concerns of both sides.
  • Celebrate project victories but also keep up the positivity when the times are tough.
  • Is able to get the support of the company as a whole for the changes that are about to happen (refer back to the Senior Management support).

Data Migration Experience:

  • Often there are smarter ways to approach something then via Excel.

People and/or companies with extensive data migration experience can help to push your project in the right direction. They can show how to make optimal usage of technology and resources, while avoiding common pit falls and mistakes.

  • Technical IT data experience is good, but a combination with actual industry knowledge and experience of your field is the real success factor.

Gather people that can tell good data from bad data, meaning, next to technically being able to extract and process data, they understand what they are looking at.

  • Challenge, validate and learn

Ensure you have persons in your team that, because of their experience, can challenge the project decision and working methods. It helps to keep things sharp and heading in the right direction. With challenging, validations of data quality and consistency are triggered, improving the understanding and ultimate result. Furthermore, it helps the learning process within the project team to ramp up effectiveness and avoid making the same mistakes. Which brings us to the last point:

  • You Do Not Have To Reinvent the Wheel (unless you really want to)

There have been many data migrations within aviation before, and whilst every project has its own particulars, 80 to 90% of the path will be the same. Save yourself time, money, costly delays, unpleasant surprises and frustrations within the project time by ensuring there are people that have done this before and already bring the wheel. You still have to pick the size, polish it and mount it, but at least not invent it.

Data Migration aviation