Data Migration Heat Map

What is a heat map?

Wikipedia defines heat map as “A heat map (or heat map) is a data visualization technique that shows magnitude of a phenomenon as color in two dimensions. The variation in color may be by hue or intensity, giving obvious visual cues to the reader about how the phenomenon is clustered or varies over space” – Source –

In our project management perspective “A heat map is a data visualization tool which is used to visually indicate the concentration of risk across different activities/tasks/situations of the project”.

The risk is visualized across different dimensions and levels by using colors, usually the RAG (Red, Amber & Green) colors. Red is indicative of higher element of risk in an activity across a specific dimension like Time or Effort or Complexity. Amber denotes a medium probability of risk while Green a low probability of risk.

What is the objective of a heat map?

In a data migration project perspective a heat map is meant to visually communicate to the executive or project director, the elements of risk across dimensions of time, effort and complexity across all the activities of data migration. It is meant to enable the allocation of time, resources and SMEs to different activities of migration based on its risk levels.

A typical heat map

While heat maps are unique and need to be created as part of every migration project based on various factors affecting the activities, some of the tasks can in general be treated as high/medium/low risk, simply because of the nature of the task. This is subject to the subject matter expertise available to every project manager. Two perspectives of the heat map are shown below. The first heat map is an activity risk mitigation heat map while the second one is a Risk Probability Impact spatial heat map. Both serve different purposes and different teams.

The risk mitigation heat map is more for project management and helps in mitigation/management of complex tasks. This heat map helps in time and resource allocation and is an essential part of migration strategy.

The Risk probability Impact spatial heat map is meant for the Risk management and reporting and will need to be constantly maintained and updated through the life of the project and helps the Risk team in monitoring the project health and actions for managing or mitigating the risk.

Application Landscape reviewLow RiskLow RiskLow Risk
Change Control ApproachLow RiskLow RiskMedium Risk
Data Cleansing completionHigh RiskHigh RiskMedium Risk
Data MappingMedium RiskHigh RiskHigh Risk
Data ProfilingLow RiskLow RiskHigh Risk
ETL & Validation ScriptsHigh RiskHigh RiskMedium Risk
Extraction & TransformationLow RiskLow RiskMedium Risk
Migration DesignHigh RiskMedium RiskHigh Risk
Migration PlanningMedium RiskHigh RiskLow Risk
Obtain Business Sign off on strategy approach and mappingMedium RiskMedium RiskLow Risk
Report GenerationLow RiskLow RiskLow Risk
Sign off for Mocks, Drills and CutoverLow RiskLow RiskMedium Risk
Staging Area Set-up & ToolingHigh RiskHigh RiskHigh Risk
Stakeholder IdentificationMedium RiskLow RiskMedium Risk
Strategy DocumentationHigh RiskHigh RiskHigh Risk
UploadLow RiskLow RiskMedium Risk
ValidationLow RiskLow RiskMedium Risk
Validation Report automationMedium RiskMedium RiskLow Risk
Report ValidationMedium RiskMedium RiskMedium Risk

The above heat map is a cluster heat map, which assumes tasks are unique, they may be independent or inter-dependent but still clearly differentiated and having their own set of time requirement, effort requirement and complexities. Another form of heat map is spatial heat map which assumes the entire project as one big activity with several over lapping activities and hence the risks are overlapping and the extent of overlap of risk creates the heat patterns. This is a complex visualization is usually used for quickly evolving/changing situations like cyclones or critical BAU operations.

How does the above heat map help?

The heat map clearly indicates the risk of migration activities across dimensions of time, effort and complexity. Certain activities take more time and hence pose a time risk to the project. Some others pose an effort risk and may require a more careful resource planning. Others may post a complexity risk thereby requiring the right knowledge and SMEs involved at right time. So a proper heat map definitely helps in managing the migration project and ensuring that the time, resources and right SMEs are involved at the right time.

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The heat map as explained above helps in mitigating the risks of the migration program. It can be made more granular and it then becomes a good tool for a project manager in managing the program. A list of mitigations for every tasks bearing a risk is recommended. This can be documented with the help of right SMEs and once documented becomes a bible for the project team in ensuring the success of the project. Mitigations can be also helpful for guiding the management team as to its risk appetite. For example in spite of higher risk in data cleansing, management may choose to manage the risk by de-prioritizing those items which do not impact the migration directly and choosing to take care of them post the migration activity in target stack. However it is important for them to take the call after proper due diligence based on the data and the mitigations available. A Sample of mitigations for above heat map is provided below:


Risk probability-Impact heat maps are a great tool for a risk management professional and an efficient risk manager will consider this as an essential tool in his hands. This needs to be constantly updated and maintained with frequent inputs from the respective stakeholders. The mitigations and management of the respective actions/risks need to be updated by the respective SMEs and these need to be presented to the Risk committee for their purview. Often depending on the risk appetite the executive committee may choose to handle a specific risk in such a manner that it does not cause a deep impact to the project. For this an effective heat map provides the direction.


In conclusion Heat maps play an important function in the risk management and risk monitoring of a migration project. A properly managed and updated heat map is not a fancy concept that serves an aesthetic purpose, instead is capable of guiding the entire project to a successful and timely end. While some banks look at this as an additional and complex activity, those banks who adopt this concept have definitely reaped the benefits of this activity. In migration projects often risks are handled in an adhoc manner, as and when they are encountered leading to delays, cost over runs and poor quality of delivery. This happens often due to poor risk management and handling. Heat maps provide a scientific and proven method of risk management with proper documentation and frequent review of risk milestones. Risk registers associated with Heat maps are more likely to be effective and deliver the end results along expected lines.