Moving a huge database is easier than it sounds. Spaniels agree.

Relaxing after the big data move: Pamela Stewart and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Raggedy Ann. PHOTO BY LAUR BEREZNAI


When it comes to making alterations, Pamela Stewart is something of an authority. Once, when a friend of a friend discovered that her bridal gown didn’t fit, Pamela flew all the way to India and fixed it in time for the wedding (she just happens to be an accomplished fashion designer and dressmaker). In her day job as conference statistician and database manager for the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), Pamela recently made another big change. She and her team moved the entire Michigan Conference database over to the Brick River platform. “We sorely needed a twenty-first-century database with better functioning and features,” she says.

Pamela and her conference colleagues explored all the options, but came to Brick River because the company can provide that prized asset, the UMC Data Core. “Having software that already knows the structure, terminology, and requirements of the United Methodist Church was half the battle for me,” she says. “I imagine it would have been a huge undertaking to try to work with a developer to organize and configure modules and fields specific to our UMC needs.”

In a move to a new platform, tons of things can go wrong. “From sad experience,” Pamela says, “my biggest worry was data loss — the idea that one platform never correlates precisely with another one.” But Brick River’s meticulous data-mapping process reassured her that nothing would fall through the cracks. In the end, she says, “we didn’t lose a thing of importance.”

If you’re thinking about making a similar move, Pamela has some advice:

  • Avoid the busiest times in your work cycle. “We had to carefully think through the process to see how we might minimize difficulties for a lot of people in a lot of departments,” she says. "Brick River was happy to work with our schedule and start when we were ready.”
  • Collaborate with a few well-chosen colleagues. Pamela worked with the Michigan Conference’s IT specialist, Michael Mayo-Moyle, and the executive assistant from the Greater Southwest District, Mandana Nordbrock. “Our three different perspectives gave us a complete picture of all the things we needed to consider,” she says. “Keeping the team small kept us fast, flexible, and moving forward because of ease of communication and decision-making.”
  • Rely on the experts. “I am not experienced enough to always know what questions to ask or how to orchestrate things on my own. Brick River walked us right through it with expert guidance and support. They followed up with generous training for our district and executive staff.”

Switching over to Brick River has made Pamela’s job a lot easier. “The whole point of a database is to be able to pull out and use the data that you store, right? I love that we can query every field. It is possible to create an Excel sheet with the precise data we need, without having to sort or otherwise process the sheet afterward.”

With the move behind her, Pamela can spend less time wrestling with a database and more time enjoying her family, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and her hobby of creating fiber art.