The Benefits of Manual Migration

The most common scenario we see in the market today are organizations that still rely on paper, network file storage and emails (so don’t worry, you’re not alone) for their organizations content management. After deciding to standardize on a platform like SharePoint for ECM, one of the biggest and most critical tasks is performing the migration of content into the system. While scripts and tools should certainly play a role in your all up strategy, we will try and persuade you in this blog that, perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, manual migration may be the key to a successful ECM implementation.

So after requirements, analysis, design, configuration, review, and refinement of a given groups’ collaborative focused SharePoint solution comes time to start our migration. We’ll leave our migration strategy for another blog, but in general, we’ll want all the current working, operational and otherwise important content to end up in our new solution. This will help drive adoption and allow us to start meeting our needs around compliance with add-ons Collabware CLM.

This typically means that we’re migrating a year or two’s worth of content into the system. People are often, with good reason, a little scared of the daunting task of migrating large volumes their content into this new system that they might still not be 100% comfortable on. Projects often then turn to tools or scripts to automate the process, and I while I grant you that tools and scripts should play a part of your migration strategy, we’re going to make the case here that manual migration should be a part of your all up-migration process and that doing so is critical for the all up adoption of your new shiny, new ECM platform.

It’s no mystery now a days that adoption by end users of our system is the biggest hurdle that any ECM program faces, so anything that we can do to improve adoption will drive adoption, maximize ROI and enable us to meet our records management needs around compliance.

Migration Parties, as we’ve honed them are sessions that we hold with the entire project team coupled with the currently engaged group to migrate their content into SharePoint. Ideally, we’re sitting side by side, coaching end users, helping with some of the migration, answering questions, making refinements, and taking notes on any points of friction that we observe.

In practice, with SharePoint’s quick edit, drag and drop, explorer view and default values, migrating 1000’s of documents in a couple of hours is actually pretty easy. In fact, more often than not when the team builds momentum, we often get asked to extend the migrations sessions as, say, for example, they only have one more month of invoices to migrate over into the new system.

We will, of course, leverage scripts and tools for more historical content, but depending on the nature of the project, it’s likely not critical to have this done for go-live and can be done by a spate team in the background post go-live.
The main benefits of manual migration parties are:

IT Reinforces training and solidify skills

End users will likely and hopefully have had several hours, if not days of training on in SharePoint, perhaps on the solution itself or some generic SharePoint training. Unfortunately, most people forget 70% of what they learn within 24 hours and 90% of what they learn within a week. It is, of course, critical to the success of our ECM platform that end users are as comfortable as possible with SharePoint for us to drive adoption. Any opportunity to reinforce training will only be to our benefit, and what better way than to have end users upload 1000’s and 1000’s of documents over a couple of days?

They’ll know exactly where their content is located

Have you ever experienced the frustration after someone rearranges your kitchen or been trying to find a spoon in someone else’s?  One of the complaints we hear from end users if their content is migrated for them is that they forget where the content is (yes, they could use search) but nevertheless, it’s a point of frustration that introduces risk around garnering the level of adoption that we’re trying to achieve.  The number of these types of complaints is significantly less, near almost zero, if the group manually migrated all their current and important content, regardless if the team was there for the requirements, design, and configuration.

You’ll Identify and fix problems earlier

Regardless of all the reviewing and refinements that go into a well run agile ECM project, it’s typically not until end users are uploading 100’s of real world documents do they gain an appreciate for the finer details of how the solution should be set up. For example, they may have through that they wanted to capture the invoice amount, but after uploading a couple of dozen documents do they realize that stopping to open the PDF, hunt for the invoice amount and cutting and pasting into SharePoint just isn’t worth the hassle, not to mention if an invoice amount was in question, they’d likely be opening the actual invoice anyhow. Sitting side by side with end users to support them in their migration is the most efficient way to identify these small tweaks required and helps end users understand that the solution is, in fact, malleable, often we’ll change content types, create views, or restructure content right in the middle of the meeting to help smooth out the points of friction from the solution. If you’ve ever configured a SharePoint ECM solution before you know that it be a little tricky to change things around in general. So the earlier we identify problems and address them the happier our users are and we’ll minimize the overall effort\cost.

You’ll build trust and solidify relationships

We call them migration parties for a reason. We’ll bring treats, have lunch, and sometimes grab social drinks with everyone after a hard day of migration. Thinking about just how intimate ECM projects are (in that nearly everyone will need to use it every day) it’s critical for the project team to build a trusted relationship with each of the groups being brought into the solution. It’s this trust and the hopefully affable relationship between the project team and current group that will help you through some of the tougher conversations, low points, and stressful situations. Like any properly functioning relationship, it’ll take good intentions, hard work, compromise and, of course, food.

So a little manual migration can go a long way. You’ll end up with a working, refined and highly adopted ECM solution.