Shared Drive Migrations and Better ECM

In my day-to-day work, I see organizations of all stripes struggle to find a clear and actionable ROI for enterprise content management (ECM). All too often, the return on better ECM practices is couched in soft gains, such as saving X hours per week per employee with better findability, or avoiding fines and penalties associated with recordkeeping noncompliance.

However, net gain to productivity and cost/risk avoidance business cases, at least in the last 5 to 6 years, have been less than successful in getting funding from the C suite. And while projects that can demonstrate direct impact to revenue, margins, and cost are perennial winners in the budgeting process, it’s been a challenge to find ECM projects that can do so.

In this post, I want to talk a bit about a category of ECM project that can have a significant impact to revenue, margins, and cost (sometimes all three): shared drive migrations.

Content migrations have been around almost as long as there have been systems to migrate from. But in the last few years, migrations from shared drives into managed repositories (such as IBM P8, OpenText, EMC Documentum, or Microsoft SharePoint) have been on the rise. And it’s this category of migration that I feel holds great promise for delivering strong ROI for an ECM program. Here’s why.

Migrations have a specific budget that can be impacted. Typically, IT has secured a bucket of dollars to do the migration, and this bucket was sized without recourse to ECM best practices –  i.e. they plan to move all content, with little to no content enrichment, little to no information architecture design, little to no design work on the target state, etc.

So, given all this, you can bet that the migration is currently budgeted at more than it needs to be—and the application of some ECM best practices will enable an organization to reduce this budget.

First, cleaning up content prior to migration. In my experience, whether you use automated tools or manual efforts (or, ideally, some combination of both), you can typically expect a 60 to 90 percent reduction of content to be migrated by excluding one or more of the following categories:

  • “Junk” file types files that are not typically of high value for end users or inappropriate for storing in this location (system files like .DLLs, executables, music files, user-generated backups, etc.)
  • Orphaned files files that belong to users who have left the organization
  • Aged files files that haven’t been accessed or modified in more than X years
  • Work in progress working documents and drafts that are no longer needed
  • Duplicates – copies of documents that exist elsewhere

This is the most significant category of migration cost reduction out there, because in a migration from shared drives to an ECM system, the cost of storage required by the ECM platform will be far greater. So if you have 200 TB on a shared drive running on NAS storage, moving that whole 200 TB to an ECM platform running on SAN storage will be significantly more expensive. Conversely, if you can reduce the content to be migrated by 60 to 90 percent, the savings will be substantial, not to mention the reduction to the overall risk and complexity of the migration.

Second, enriching the content prior to migration. Enrichment refers to adding structure (typically metadata) to the content. Doing so allows you to reduce the volume of content to be migrated by identifying categories of content that, while they have business value, have lower business value and can be migrated later (or not at all).

For example, there may be substantial volumes of documents used by a department but not owned by them (e.g. HR policies), or categories of documents owned by a department but not deemed to be mission critical. After these are identified as part of an enrichment effort, they can be excluded from the migration (or handled in another way, such as being moved to an archive or left on the shared drive, but set to “read only” access.

Finally, working with end users to design the target state. In most migrations, little to no effort is spent in designing the target state; IT simply gives users in the new system exactly what they have in the old. The results are predictable: low adoption, high resistance to change, and unhappy end users. All of this raises the cost of migration, if not during the actual migration, then certainly after go live, when IT will have to spend a lot of time doing damage control to get the migration out of the ditch and keep end users happy.

However, if you spend time to design the target state to better meet end user needs than their current shared drive environment, in general you’ll need to spend less effort on change management with improved results to adoption rates, willingness to work in the new system, and overall satisfaction with the target state.

The Final Word

Okay, so much for a quick intro to the benefits better ECM can have for a shared drive migration. Hopefully, even from this high-level overview, you can see the value better ECM can bring. But what about you all out there: Have you been successful in improving your migration ROI through better ECM? Have you lived through the problems caused by migrating without addressing ECM? Or maybe you have another way or thinking about the ROI of migration? Whatever it is, jump in, and let’s get the conversation started!

Rich Medina
Joe Shepley
I’m VP and Practice Lead, focusing on developing Doculabs’ InfoSec practice and its applications in a wide range of industries.