The #1 guide to data cleansing & HRIS migration

Written by Peter

Peter is Navigo's founder and Managing Director. Peter is passionate about building and running businesses, finding solutions to business process problems and new trends in HR Technology.

October 27, 2016

[Updated: 2020]

The power of clean data cannot be underestimated. Dirty data can paralyse an organisations ability to pay its workers, and you can forget about any workforce planning, reporting or analysis. These are only two of many reasons why maintaining high quality data is crucial to an organisation’s success.

This article provides a complete guide on how to plan and execute a successful data cleansing project, as well as best practices for managing a HRIS migration.

Clean your data in 4 steps

In order to maintain data to the highest standards, it is crucial to set rules within the organisation of how you want to store your data. E.g. establishing the right format for date (mm/dd/yyyy or dd/mm/yy) or recording location (New York or NY) is important as this allows you to group and summarise data accurately.

Another good practice is focusing on the end result of the data that’s being collected – will this data help in producing meaningful insights about a business decision? If not, the data isn’t relevant to you.

Want the full list of tips to review your data? Download our free 2 page PDF with more detail about best practices.


Managing a HRIS migration – Cleanse your data in 4 steps

Anyone who’s been involved in an HRIS migration knows how monumental a task it is. The selection and purchase process can be challenging enough on its own, but how can you actually get your information into the new system once it’s set up? Read on for our 4 step easy process to effectively manage an HRIS migration.

The move will depend a lot on the quality and quantity of data you’re bringing across. If your system and the new system will display the same fields (standards like First Name, Last Name, Address plus more in-depth stats like performance rating or job experience, for example) and your data is 100% up to date and accurate, then fantastic – you don’t need to clean up your data.

Pipe-dreams aside, the rest of us will need to cull, update and merge a whole selection of data before migration is possible. If you still haven’t decided on your new payroll system, perhaps this article will help you move towards the right direction.


Step 1 - hris migration

Someone needs to be responsible for getting the data ready for migration. It can be a difficult task, and you’ll need dedicated resources to make it happen.

There’s no point delaying the HRIS migration – by this stage, you’ve already invested the time and money into the new system, so you want to reaping the benefits sooner rather than later.

This team will likely consist of HR personnel, HRIS specialists and IT resources, depending on your organisation. It’s important to include the actual users of the HRIS (payroll and HR) in this team, even if it’s only in an advisory capacity.


Step 2 - hris migration

Information needs change over time, and with many HRIS systems nearly a decade old, you’re going to have some unnecessary data.

Whilst it’s tempting to try and bring everything with you into the new system, remember that this is not only going to create extra work during the migration, but it’s also going to make the system more complex for HR and Payroll.

For every data field, ask yourself:

  • Do we use this data?
  • Do we capture this data?
  • Can we capture this data in the future?
  • Finally, do we really need this data?

If you answer no to any of these questions, consider leaving the data behind. If you’re not sure, survey other users and directors of HR strategy to see if their answers corroborate yours.

Similarly, this is the time to ask yourself what data is missing that you’d like to include in the new HRIS. Again, remember to ask the above questions to make sure it’s needed.

We’d all probably love to know complete psychographic profiles of all our staff, but if we can’t (or won’t) measure this, there’s no point preparing your HRIS to include it.

Bear in mind that while there may be some data that you want to transfer over, due to system differences it may not necessarily be an option. For example, historical data is notoriously difficult to migrate between systems. This could include org structure history (where the employee has moved between positions) or even something as simple as change logs to their personal details.

If this is something that you really do need to keep a hold of, consider using your existing HRIS as an archive system, purely for reference, so that you can refer back to this information as required.


Step 3 - hris migration

There’s really 4 ways you can go about actually cleaning up the data.

  • Pay an agency
    The (potentially) easiest option for a HRIS migration is to pay a data cleansing specialist to clean up your data. This is great for freeing up internal resources for other tasks, but it does have some serious drawbacks. Firstly, it’s generally an expensive process, as most data cleansing specialists focus on records with only a few fields. Secondly, the data you’re cleaning is confidential. It’s your team’s personal data, after all. Not only is it a security risk, you also have legal obligations to manage this data safely, so you’ll need to choose your agency very carefully.
  • Use a data cleansing tool
    Using a specialised data cleansing tool can make the process far quicker and simpler than a manual approach, and can actually end up being cheaper because of the time savings. Visual tools, like org charts, have the added advantage of getting the entire organisation involved in self-service data cleansing. Remember to factor in the time it takes to learn how to use this tool. It can sometimes be more effective to purchase the tool and a consultant who knows how to use it purely for the HRIS migration process.
  • Fix the data in the old HRIS
    If your team is already pretty comfortable cleaning up data in your existing HRIS, this can be a good way to clean the data. Of course, if cleaning the data in the HRIS was easy, why haven’t HR and Payroll done so before the migration? It may be a time constraint (setting aside time each month to fix data is often a lower priority than other activities), but it could also be because it’s not really that easy to fix data in the system. It will depend on your HRIS, as some are better than others at actually identifying data issues (and allowing users to fix them en masse), but the advantage here is that your team will already understand the system.
  • Fix the data in the new HRIS
    The last option is to move the data as is into the new system and try to fix it once it’s in. This can be problematic, as the team will need to learn to use the new HRIS effectively before they can clean the data, but if the new HRIS is good at identifying issues, it could ultimately be a more effective solution.

Step 4 - hris migration

Once you’ve completed the HRIS migration, you can’t assume everything’s worked and the old HRIS is ready to be switched off.

Keep them both going for a pay cycle, and make sure there are no discrepancies. It will be a headache maintaining two systems at once for payroll, but moving prematurely can create even more headaches.

By using the data in actual business applications, you’ll be able to pick up on errors or shortcomings with the migration process – much faster than if you just pulled a few data extracts and compared them.

Don’t be too quick to decommission your old HRIS. You may find that you’ll need the old system for longer than anticipated due to problems during migration or use, or you might want to keep the system running as an archive for future use.

HRIS migrations are rarely a seamless process, but taking these steps to clean up your data before and during migration will prevent a lot of the usual hiccoughs we see.

Fast track your data cleanse project with Navigo

Navigo’s tech consultants are experts in HRIS data cleansing & can help with fixing your data via org charts. If you need any additional advice on data cleanse or HRIS migrations, our highly experienced team would be happy to assist. Get in touch today!





  1. 5 HR tips to managing a growing team - Navigo HR Blog - […] Take HR data validation, for example, by giving the entire organisation access to the same master data source, you…
  2. 3 ways to streamline your workforce data cleansing - Navigo | Org Design, Org Charting & Workforce Management Specialists - […] guide on how to plan and execute a successful data cleansing project, then head over to our blog here.…
  3. Org Charting in Healthcare like Novo Nordisk | Navigo Blog - […] Managing charts for 3 continents of offices was a very big issue for the Novo Nordisk team. By the…
  4. 4 Big Wins of Automating Organisation Charts & HR Reports [Blog] - […] easiest way to do this is to make sure your data is constantly being verified, cleansed and kept up…
  5. Bad data threatens to stop HR analytics dead in its tracks - […] Dirty data gathers as HR changes systems. These changes come from payroll systems, talent management, or any other HR…
  6. 3 Reasons Why Traditional HR Reports are Useless - Navigo | Org Design, Org Charting & HRIS Specialists - […] If you’re prepared, these reports will already be prepared too. But for the other 95% of us, you’re either going…
  7. Australian HR stories: mastering HRIS change | Webinar | Navigo Blog - […] Data migration […]
  8. 3 Reasons Why Traditional HR Reports are Useless - Navigo | Org Charting Software & HRIS Consulting - […] If you’re prepared, these reports will already be prepared too. But for the other 95% of us, you’re either going…
  9. 3 ways the internet of things will change HR | Navigo Blog - […] Check out this dashboard by Sid Lee. They’ve set up sensors throughout their office to measure various parts of…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also like…

How to boost workplace diversity & inclusion

How to boost workplace diversity & inclusion

A diversity report provides information about the composition of a workforce, highlighting details such as gender, age & tenure. See how diversity reporting software can help level up your business.