Incorporating use of a read-only historical archive reduces the risk that conversion will be a stumbling block in CAD and RMS projects.
Conversions are a costly and error-prone aspect of acquiring new CAD and RMS systems. Both CAD and RMS databases are often very complex and data elements don’t match perfectly. Standards and practices are often changed when new systems are implemented, often in ways that are incompatible with historical data. Nonetheless, most projects include a set of conversion tasks that are expected to overcome all such obstacles so that new systems contain all of the old data perfectly translated.
An alternative approach is possible and has some significant advantages. First, rather that converting all of the historical content of the retiring systems, a retrievable archive is created in a form (HTML or PDF) that can easily be retrieved based on a unique identifier and displayed. Since most systems already produce such documents, the effort involved is essentially one of automating the process. Even if a new formatting tool has to be introduced to create the archive, the technicians who do the work are freed from the problematic mapping of every data element.
The second stage of the process is driven by the functional requirements for retrieving historical data.
In CAD, when a call for service is processed, incident history is searched for relevant prior incidents associated with a location, proximity, person, telephone number, or vehicle. Either the archive may be indexed by these elements and searched when new calls are received, or “skeleton” incident records may be created in the new system that contain only the search criteria and the unique identifiers of archived incidents.
Records systems link persons, places, vehicles, property, and organizations via various forms of involvement in incidents. The master data and involvements must be recreated in the new RMS, but the incident records themselves need only sufficient data to support locating the archived details, and perhaps few additional data elements that are common search criteria.
A small number of incidents may be active at the time the new system cutover takes place. Since these may still be updated, they are not candidates for historical archiving. For most agencies, the effort to recreate these manually in the new system as necessary is far less than trying to automate the process. This also applies to the rare case in which an incident that is effectively closed must be reopened and modified.
Full conversions are sometimes the best approach. When the retiring system is well documented and data mappings are clear, conversion is preferred. However, it is often impossible to determine the challenges that will be encountered until the conversion effort is well under way. Incorporating the use of a searchable archive as an alternative approach in the project requirements, statement of work, and project planning reduces the risk that conversion will become a major stumbling block.