birds in a V formation migrating
PHOTO: Julia Craice

During a session at one of the many IT conferences I attend, a consultant presented a project plan for migrating content to a new platform. I couldn’t see anywhere in their plan where the project team consulted the content owners or managers. When I raised that question, the presenter said, “Oh, we do that after the migration.”

Oh no we don’t.

Why You Should Bring Business Leads Into the Content Migration Process

Business leads know their data better than anyone else in the organization. And they care very much about what IT does with their data. We need them to be at the table during development and review of project solutions. But it’s not always easy for business area managers to take on the role of decision makers in these projects, alongside IT.

In a new information stewardship program, a large corporation set up the stewardship committee and had members of the IT and enterprise architecture team sit in on their meetings to answer questions about the technology and support them in their decisions about best practices. Once the stewards’ roles were defined and communicated and some information policies and rules were in place, they started attending and advising the IT project review process.

It’s the most amazing thing to watch a business lead educate a room full of IT managers.

1. Clean Up Content

They understand the existing content and can identify what content needs to be moved to the new system. Pre-migration clean-ups can purge 25% to 50% of the files. The business owners and users can quickly spot these “dumping grounds” of duplicate and obsolete files as candidates for archiving or disposal, thus freeing up space and making the project scope less overwhelming. An organization of 500 employees could generate hundreds of thousands of files. Where do you start? The business knows.

Holding on to certain records beyond their retention date can violate laws and expose the organization to risk of litigation. The migration project is a great opportunity for the business to spot these risks and slough off unwanted content.

Related Article: Plan for Migration Success With Search

2. Reassess Access Privileges

It’s also a good opportunity to reassess access privileges. After years of granting access to folders on a request-by-request basis, the IT department may be living a nightmare of trying to figure out who should have access to a constantly changing knowledge base and keeping the user directory up to date as employees join and leave the workplace. I’ve worked with clients who didn’t realize their most private files about family members and employment records were accessible to anyone inside the company and even by visiting outside consultants.

3. Ensure Solutions Answer Real Business Needs

User adoption is everything. Often by the time I speak to clients, they have a shiny new collaboration space and document management solution painstakingly implemented after much time and investment. But their users are finding workarounds in droves — Dropbox, G Suite. They’re self-governing droves, doing who-knows-what with the organization’s critical records. If you talk to them, you find there’s a perfectly good reason for this: the new solution is so complicated to use, so poorly tailored to their task, they will do what users always do to survive, i.e., find a way — any way — to get their job done. By spending time with business users early on, understanding their information communities and trails, you can see the incredibly varied ways in which people think about their information. Your business leads should be your first stop in planning and structuring the new environment.

Related Article: Clean Up Your Digital Presence: A Scalable Content Decision-Making Process

Shared Knowledge Raises Everyone Up

At the heart of every successful content management solution is the transformation from locked-down silos to open and streamlined flows of information, from separate IT and business worlds to open channels of exchange (i.e. sharing). People find it difficult to share because they don’t realize their work is valuable to others or they’re afraid others will think they’re ignorant. So, they keep it where they can find it, in hard drives and email, using labels and formats that make sense only to them.

When a co-worker transitioned into a highly specialized IT team several years ago, she started keeping a list of new concepts and definitions in a chart in her desk drawer just to help her “keep up in meetings.” Someone caught sight of the crib sheet and asked for a copy. A little later, we launched it in a company-wide database and put controls around it. Something that started out as a personal embarrassment in a desk drawer turned out to be a valued enterprise tool worth sharing. One of the IT managers told me after a meeting one day, “I didn’t understand a thing in that meeting ‘till I checked the glossary.” This standard vocabulary was a way to educate project teams and get everyone on the same page.

The content management structures that include IT and the business — both in the decision-making committee makeup and in user experience — enrich us all. We understand the questions and answers that drive the business and realize the value that each of us brings to the operation.