Organisations want to manage their information, be that their documents, engineering drawings, NHS scans or their IP: effectively the sum of their customer interactions and the collective knowledge base accumulated. As we know, many will look to ECM or a good Content Records Management system to manage this asset.

The reality, however, is that a vast proportion of this knowledge base is housed in legacy systems, ranging from a file system, an older document management system or perhaps a combination of both, and in miscellaneous line of business applications. Customers want to be able to wrap all that legacy data in some intelligent framework so they can find it at a later date, with the vision that this central repository is going to be where all of their core data will reside.

Here’s the problem: the idea of the repository is a sound one. But how do you get all that important information held in these legacy systems into that shiny new central repository? This is a challenge made more complicated by the fact that, in many cases, the older systems are coming to end-of-life, and you don’t want to lose any of that information.

Welcome to the data migration content challenge. To address this challenge, you need to understand what information it is you want to maintain, what the data model is that sits around it and what information you wrap around your content so that you can search for it and retrieve it.

From a retention management point of view, you also need to consider the duration you are required to retain your data, as set by your information governance policy. A number of things also need to be in place. You need to be confident that your legacy data will be preserved and the content migration process should also enhance the data’s value.

In addition, a great side effect of a good ECM data migration process is enabling you to find information more easily and readily – and through enforced retention periods, limiting your storage space. Finally you need instant access as well as instant visualisation – by which I am referring to the ability to see previews of your information once it has been migrated.

All very challenging concerns. The good news is that many organisations are meeting and beating these issues. Let’s examine how.

Best Practice Around Content Migration

A first recommendation: look to technology and services that can quickly help you transform older data into a format that can be displayed in your new system. Typically, that encompasses converting such content into a PDF or an image so you can expect to easily navigate through your preserved content in a more visual way.

Second, evaluate any services out there in the market to take you through the data analysis. Once you have analysed the data, then you are in a better position to develop specific tools to extract the content and map it to that of the target data structure.

Last but not least, bear in mind that in mapping the extracted data, it may require potentially extensive formatting or reformatting. Think of the migration process as a series of iterations, taking bite-size chunks on to work out what is the most appropriate process for getting the data from the source and into the target – then turning those chunks into ever larger ‘plates of food.’

By following these recommendations, your important legacy data will be preserved and you will have enhanced that data’s value by making it much more easily and readily available – plus you will have instant visualisation of that data, that’s to say previews of your information once it has been migrated. You will also have lowered your storage overhead significantly.

This approach works. And it can work in real life for literally huge volumes of data. One customer I have worked with migrated approximately 100,000 records from its existing system into a new enterprise content management system, while a very well-known retailer I worked with migrated roughly 6 million invoice records out of a proprietary system into a new SAP platform. Even as we speak, I am working with a central government agency with around 5 million records to move to a new system.

So best of luck with your data migration journey – which can be a lot less hassle if you approach it in the right way.