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Overcoming Big Roadblocks in CTMS Implementation – Expert Insights on Data Migration

Oct 03, 2023 - 4 min read
Overcoming Big Roadblocks in CTMS Implementation – Expert Insights on Data Migration

Implementing a new clinical trial management system (CTMS) often involves transferring data from one system to another with the goals of accuracy, integrity, and compatibility between systems. To ensure a smooth data migration, careful planning and execution are necessary for an efficient and error-free process.

This was a hot topic at Medidata’s recent webinar, Big Roadblocks to Avoid When Implementing a New CTMS. This event brought together CTMS experts and industry thought leaders from small-to-enterprise pharmaceutical organizations to explore the most important considerations when implementing a new CTMS. Drawing from questions posed by attendees, the speakers shared valuable insights and personal experiences on implementing a new CTMS, including concerns about data migration.

This blog post features Tara Adrian, Director of Solution Services for CTMS & CTFM at Medidata and one of our speakers. Tara has over ten years of experience in integration work and has completed over thirty system implementations. In this interview, she shares her insights on the biggest roadblocks to avoid when migrating data from a legacy CTMS.

When Implementing a New CTMS, Should Data Migration from a Legacy CTMS Be Done All at Once or in a Phased Approach?

Before migrating data from an existing clinical trial management system to a new one, it’s crucial to define the project scope and evaluate the current and desired state. Unfortunately, there are no strict guidelines for the evaluation process. We must rely on collective experience to assess various data, including active sites, master data, and outdated information. We may also need to analyze historical data on previous trials to compare past and new studies.

The approach to data migration depends on factors such as the amount of data and customer-specific needs. One option is to migrate the data in one shot. Using this approach, you will have to plan for a blackout period when users are locked out of the old system during data cleaning and validation, and they will then be able to use the new system post-migration.

But this approach often requires significant internal resources and coordination. The phased migration approach involves grouping studies, where certain studies are migrated over a weekend, for instance, and users operate in both systems for some time. The phased approach is usually recommended for larger entities with many active studies that must be migrated, as a one-time migration with a short blackout period may not be practical.

Partnering with highly experienced vendors can help you appropriately plan and navigate data migration complexities. 

What Are the Best Practices for Preparing and Executing Data Migration?

To migrate data from an existing CTMS to a new system, the data must be cleaned and mapped to align current data values with the new system's configuration. As a practice, all data updates must be made directly within the existing CTMS before it’s exported. 

The data cleaning process should begin early, eliminating duplicates and migrating only necessary data to create the most recent master data for a successful migration.

One common mistake is neglecting to assess and clean up duplicate records during the data migration. Identifying and eliminating duplicate entries is essential to ensure data accuracy and consistency. Duplicate entries can occur when a company name is listed differently due to naming conventions. Addressing duplicate issues is crucial to prevent incorrect reporting and compromised data integrity in the new system.

Cleaning up data duplicates is comparable to decluttering before moving houses—it makes sure that only relevant and reliable information is carried over to the new system. So, when making data migration decisions, consider the necessity of each data element and prioritize cleaning efforts accordingly. Outsourcing this task is generally discouraged, as external resources may not know the company’s data and processes. Allocating the right internal resources with a deep understanding of the data enables real-time decision-making and avoids unnecessary delays. By adhering to best practices, you can ensure a smooth data migration and quickly resolve system issues.

How Do I Assess a CTMS Vendor’s Data Migration Capabilities? 

First, the CTMS vendor needs to provide expertise and guidance throughout the entire migration process. So, I start with a look at who will be supporting my project and whether or not they’re seasoned professionals with extensive experience in data migration.  

Evaluating the vendor’s ability to oversee the entire project and present a complete timeline is crucial. It should be noted that the estimated timelines provided may only include the data migration process and no other significant tasks, such as data preparation and transformation. Suppose a vendor estimates a migration project will take 2-3 days—clarify what this entails. Always make sure the vendor comprehends the data volume, provides practical timelines, and aligns with your project’s requirements.

It’s also critical to assess whether the vendor provides tools and resources that can streamline the data migration process. 

Lastly, request vendor referrals to verify their capabilities and ease of working with them.

Selecting the right vendor can significantly impact the success of your data migration project. Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate vendors based on expertise, resources, scalability, and reputation will ultimately ensure a smooth and efficient process.


Data migration as part of CTMS implementation can pose significant challenges, requiring careful evaluation, planning, and execution. Key considerations include determining the data migration scope, addressing duplicates, appointing dedicated resources, selecting experienced vendors, and ensuring realistic timelines. By following these best practices, your CTMS implementation will be positioned for success.

How Medidata CTMS Can Help You

Medidata CTMS is a centralized hub for clinical teams to monitor and manage all operational aspects of the trial. Built atop the integrated Medidata Platform with workflow automation, it synthesizes information for better outcomes. Our consultants are ready to guide you with the implementation of your CTMS.

Click here to learn more about Medidata CTMS.

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