We all have data in various programs, usually stored in some sort of database file. At times there is a need to extract the data and use it elsewhere. Some software allows the export of data readily, whilst there are others which make it quite a complex job to be able to get hold of what is, after all, your own information. Others store the data in a different way to that required so it needs further manipulation once it is extracted.
One reason to extract the data is the transitioning from one product to another. This may be moving from one practice management system to another or from one tax software to another, or, probably a current and topical reason is to move from one payroll software to another.
Why export data? If there are hundreds, or even thousands of records, such as names and addresses, it would take some considerable time to rekey the data. Not only is this prone to error, it is also mind numbingly boring.
Our practice management software does not have separate fields for each of the address lines. It has a City field and a Postcode field, but the other address lines are in one box. This could have one, two, three or perhaps four lines. When this is extracted to Excel all these lines are in one cell so this column needs to be manipulated to get them into separate columns for import into another program. This manipulation involves finding and replacing the "return" character at the end of each line with a comma using an Excel macro, and then doing a text to column conversion.
We also occasionally want to export email addresses and import into a mailing database. The export can be done and saved as a csv file. However, the software does not allow the email field to be selected as an option to filter on (ideally it would be choose those where the field is not blank) so all data has to be exported and then those without email addresses need to be deleted.
So on to the mailing database. There is an export to csv button to get data out but no import routine to bring information in! The software house will do it for us (I had to ask them for the fields needed as no template layout was available on the website) and was told it would cost £45+VAT to have around 100 records imported!
But therein lies another problem - the import requires the first name and last name - but the original database does not use that information so it is not stored.
On trying to import into another mailing database there is an import routine, and you "map" the fields in the import file to the appropriate fields in the software. It started processing and then came back with a “fail”. There was an error message but, as with most error messages, it was decidedly unhelpful. The help files were non-existent, so this is also required an email to support.
Just occasionally software does provide templates to download to show the headings required and the appropriate order. So full marks to Xero and Liberty, two of which I have used recently.
What issues have you come across in trying to export or import data?