Content Platform Migration Strategy – Artifacts vs Perishable Content

Tremendous value and cost savings can be realized by rationalizing multiple, existing content repositories into a single platform.  A mature, enterprise-caliber content management platform has the ability to maintain and govern all unstructured information across various systems from a secure, central location – reducing management costs and increasing the value of your existing content.  The actual process of “migration” however, is far from trivial, but thankfully there are some pragmatic ways of approaching this challenge that help to reduce the time and effort required and improve the end result of the rationalization.  To make sure that any effort placed into a migration is truly beneficial, the pragmatic approach guides the process, by placing classifying content into two categories – Artifacts and Perishable Content.  Not all materials need to be moved to the new system or maintained.

All organizations support a variety of systems that can create and contain unstructured information like documents, images, video, audio and other materials.  These items are  used by business users to support functions like sales, marketing, research, or collaboration between various parties.  As a business grows and changes over time it becomes very costly to house, maintain and control each of the dispirit repositories and access their underlying information, as each repository generally provides its own means of control and access.  At one point in time, these solutions were deemed effective for their specific purpose, but ultimately lacked some ability to audit, regulate, version, secure and govern the content that they housed.  Often times these systems were also closed from developer access and their information was only available from a specific application.

There are many benefits of a scalable content management platform like Oracle’s Universal Content Management (UCM), but adoption challenges remain, as people inevitably ask about migration strategies to new tools.  To help reduce the time, cost and effort of migration the following strategy has been highly effective – view existing content items as being an Artifact or a Perishable Content item as outlined below.

Artifact – an artifact is something that must persist within an organization as a point of reference, will not change from its current format and is required or mandated to persist for an extend time.  This might be the 401k retirement guidelines for a given tax year, an annual company report, sales performance figures from a particular year, technical manuals for a specific product version, etc. are good examples of such materials and will at some point be called upon for reference by an end user.

Perishable Content – perishable content rarely needs to persist within an organization, but due to loose governance policies and the speed  at which user-generated content proliferates it is not uncommon for it to live on for years.  Legacy departmental news, sales strategies for products that no longer exist, office lunch menus, materials from defunct business units, materials used for single-point in time collaboration and other items that will never again be accessed by users are all examples of Perishable Content.  At first glance these materials are harmless, but end up cluttering your enterprise with irrelevant information, increasing the time that it takes users to attempt to browse and search for information needed for their tasks.

Categorizing content as an Artifact or Perishable content makes it much easier to approach the process of “migration”.  Based on the categorizations we are now left with the following options:

1. Artifact only Migration
Introduce a centralized system like UCM and migrate only Artifacts into the new platform to allow them to be found by users through search and browsing activities.  Leave all Perishable content in its current repositories, to be decommissioned at a future date.

Production of all future Perishable materials should move to the new platform,  but should now be subject to life-cycle guidelines based on the nature of the content that outline how long the content will exist before archival or destruction.  The decommissioned content should still remain available after the cutoff for a specified amount of time, to IT staff or through a self service read-only search.

2. Artifact and Limited Perishable Content Migration
This strategy is more common than the one above.  Move all artifacts into the new content management system, but critically evaluate certain business processes that produce Perishable Content to understand if their production needs to be moved to the central system.  Often times Perishable content is tied with key processes for critical day-to-day business functions that need to be immediately moved to the new platform or continue to reside on the legacy platform with an end date for use defined.  An example of this may be project collaboration documents.

Bringing a new content management system into a business requires not only a technical effort, but also an educational effort around the content creation and management processes that will run on the new platform.  When reviewing the various content types and processes in legacy systems it is important to carefully qualify what will be moved over to the new platform vs discontinued or in some cases persisted in the legacy system.

Results of Migration
By classifying content as Artifacts or Perishable it is possible to pragmatically approach content migration onto a single, enterprise caliber platform in a time and cost efficient manner.  Migrations do not need to be wholesale for value to be gained and with some basic analysis it is possible to quickly understand how various pieces of legacy content should be dealt with.  Post migration IT teams should have a much lower cost of ownership over content within their organization, as now a single, centralized location will exist that can enforce content life-cycle guidelines and allow open access to the materials from a variety of other enterprise systems.

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