It’s Not About Data Migration—It’s About Information Exchange
By Steve Studer | November 16, 2017
We live in a world of data overload. Your organization probably has plenty of data on hand, but are you leveraging your content to its fullest potential?
Whether you wish to replace your legacy systems or consolidate multiple ECMs, you might decide that it’s time for a full-scale data migration. The need for a migration might also stem from the need to improve a particular process, maintain compliance requirements, or a laundry list of other business triggers.
Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand what type of information you’re trying to exchange and how it will be used in both upstream and downstream business processes. This will help you determine how and where it needs to be stored.
Unstructured and outnumbered
Before migration, it’s essential to determine whether the data your organization is storing is usable. Much of the data organizations work with today is unstructured, which means its critical information isn’t organized and is often buried in a body of text. This typically comes from documents, electronic images, or log files, and can be in a variety of file formats, some of which are unreadable by many common computer programs.
This can also become an issue during the process of digital transformation, in which organizations move from a paper-based model to a digital one. As files are being scanned in, crucial information may be lost due to unreadable TIFF files (or even something as simple as unclear handwriting).
In many cases, much of the information contained within the organization’s data is redundant, obsolete, or trivial, which further increases the effort needed to transform it into meaningful, actionable information. This is particularly true if it’s being done manually.
Consider these strategies before migrating your data
Before beginning the migration process, it’s crucial to find the best way to consistently convert unstructured data into structured information that can be more easily exchanged. It’s astonishing to see how many data migration projects require standardization before any movement can begin. It’s even more astounding to think that it’s been over 30 years since the term “paperless office” was introduced, yet it’s still an industry that’s worth over 100 billion dollars a year.
That said, while paper is on the decline and digital content is increasing exponentially, many organizations still struggle with how to consistently convert content—particularly once it comes time to migrate to the cloud. Regardless of the format being used, there are several key criteria that enterprises must consider when migrating their content, namely:
- Making it fully text-searchable
- Making it portable to multiple devices and operating systems
- Making sure it can be opened on both internal and external applications
- Ensuring it’s ready for long-term archiving and storage
Once you’ve found a solution that satisfies these requirements, it’s time to focus on migrating your content.
Capture, tag, and structure data so it can be easily exchanged
Whether you’re migrating your data from a shared drive, an email environment, or a legacy content management system, it’s important to consider what information can already be extracted from it. For example, has its metadata already been structured? What can you immediately identify from the content? Some valuable techniques that have helped organizations effectively achieve this step are:
- Tagging content as it’s produced and uploaded
- Adding metadata to file properties
- Adding running headers and footers to content
Techniques like these, as simple as they are, will help improve accessibility and save time in the long run. Tagging your documents like you might tag your music also ensures that all the information is visible no matter what system you’re using to view them (since it only has to be done once).
Keeping data secure and organized
Another point to keep in mind when classifying data is that improving accessibility isn’t the only thing that matters; it’s also key to maintain (and even improve) the security of your data.
Many organizations decide to start a data migration upon facing increased regulatory pressures, or upon realizing that they need to identify classified content and make it more secure.
If that’s the case for you, it’s important to keep that content safe throughout the migration process as well as classifying it in a way that will keep it organized. For example, implementing a solution that will redact confidential information based on pre-defined patterns or marked areas (rather than simply masking it, leaving it open to future discovery) will ensure your customers’ information stays safe permanently.
Build and leverage industry taxonomies
When it comes to organizing and classifying data, there can be thousands of hours of manual labor spent defining, identifying, and organizing content based on metadata. This metadata is then used to store, process, retrieve, share, and archive content.
However, organizations are finding that the more refined the metadata values within their content are—and the more consistently they’re applied—the easier it is to access across the organization. It also improves the transfer of information, not only within your organization, but also between businesses or from the business to the consumer. Rather than seeing a data migration as the be-all and end-all of the process, it’s critical to maintain data throughout the entire business lifecycle.
There’s a fine balance between not having enough information and having too much information. However, regardless of the situation you’re in, it’s important to have consistent, correct data. To that end, the emphasis throughout a content migration should be on partnering with industry experts and working with business and customer consortiums to ensure that it’s a simple and natural occurrence.
Not sure how to leverage your content to its fullest potential? Take the One-Minute Migration Challenge for inspiration. Test your knowledge, claim your profits, and help support relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria victims.
Benefiting Hurricane Harvey, Irma & Maria Victims
Take a trip through time to clean up your unstructured data. The fate of your company is in your hands—so delete and futurize your content wisely.
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