Case Study in Content Migration: Eliminate Redundant Data

Many organizations use Office 365 or other ECM system migrations to tackle security risks.

It’s a common scenario, especially these days. Wary of the security risks of content stored on shared drives, organizations are planning to make the move to Office 365 or to another cloud-based ECM solution. But first, they have to eliminate redundant data.

Everybody knows, though, that those same shared drives are bloated with years, if not decades, of content that has no business being migrated to the new system—content that may, in fact, be presenting some information security risk if that data is retained.

It's important to take a cold, hard look at redundant, obsolete, or trivial content, known as "ROT".

Those information security and risk concerns are what finally got an energy company with international operations to take a cold, hard look at all the redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) content on its shared drives and decide to get rid of it, once and for all.

But how do you do this defensibly, especially in a highly regulated industry like energy? And what about the change management issues involved in moving to a new system?

Content clean-up should be legally defensible.

Doculabs made content cleanup and the migration process for this energy company both legally defensible and just about as painless as it could possibly be for an organization working around the world with more than 40 business units and multiple locations. The project currently is in its mid-stages.

The first two steps when eliminating unneeded data include developing communications tools and cutting the project up into bite-sized pieces.

Here’s how we’ve proceeded:

  • First, we developed communications tools, so people across the company knew what to expect as we came to them to clean up their particular slice of the shared drive.
  • We worked with the client to cut the project into small pieces, working with corporate departments (e.g. legal, finance, HR) first. This gave us some early “wins” and positive word-of-mouth for the project. It also provided some lessons regarding the nature of the company’s content and existing repositories, which we are now able to apply to cleaning up data in other departments. (FYI, there are always “lessons learned.”)

You need content analytics software, the right global metadata tags and a work plan for migration.

  • We worked with the company’s IT team to run content analytics software on each department’s shared drive, identifying not just the ROT for disposition, but also any sensitive data requiring additional security in the future system.
  • Then we worked with departmental stakeholders to develop global metadata tags for content, to improve the searchability of all content stored in the new system repository.
  • Finally, we developed a work plan for the actual content migration and worked with the company's IT team to execute on the purging and the migration of each department’s content, ensuring a successful and defensible migration.
  • Then we did it over and over again, with the next set of departments on the list.

To date, Doculabs has worked through the shared drive content for the energy company’s corporate business units, analyzing more than 1.14 million files, or 1,865 GB.

Success can be measured by the volume of defensibly disposed files that overpopulate a company's repository.

As a result of this work, the organization has been able to defensibly dispose of more than half a million files, or 665.5 GB of data of ROT—i.e. content that didn’t need to be migrated and would no longer be overpopulating the company’s repository (or lurking out there, presenting a larger target and security risks).

Here are the numbers to date:

Sometimes the percentage of unneeded files in an organization is very high.

But the number that gets the attention of senior management is the percentage of ROT files we found. More than 48 percent of the files on corporate shared drives at the energy firm were found to be ROT, and therefore candidates for disposition.

That’s almost half of all the files! That’s a lot of ROT, particularly for corporate departments, which, at most organizations, tend to represent “power” users of repositories containing unstructured content. (For the record, we prioritized corporate because of the content volumes and degree of complexity, as well as the availability of stakeholders who would be involved.) Remaining business units in this ongoing project represent the company’s various field operations, and are being addressed in future stages of the project.

You want to be sure that there are no business interruptions when you migrate.

At the end of the day, it’s not just Doculabs’ expertise and domain knowledge, but our methodology that ensures the overall success of this project for the client. You want a legally defensible content purge and content migration, but what you don’t want is to disrupt the business—or the ultimate users of that content—while it gets done.

The end goal is that the repository of the energy company's future ECM system will be free of all that ROT data, and that it will become more easily searchable for its users. That’s what we’re doing for this global energy company.

We can do the same thing for your organization.


Rich Medina
Doculabs consultants offer in-depth expertise in information management and information security across a number of industries, including financial services, insurance, energy, manufacturing, and life sciences. Our recommendations are based on our experience and empirical data from hundreds of consulting engagements over more than 25 years. As trusted advisors, we provide our clients recommendations that are completely objective.