The Secret Sauce of the Document Migration Process

What does it take to migrate a document from one ECM (Enterprise Content Management) system to another? Careful planning, the right technology components, and experienced personnel are all integral to the process. A proven methodology is also key, such as the and 6-step process referred to as DETAIL™.

DETAIL - ECM Migration Methodology

Step 1: Discovery.
The process starts with studying the source of the data and getting to know the documents themselves, as well as the current ECM system(s) in which those documents are stored. That means looking at the types of documents in question and the metadata or indexes used to describe them, as well as understanding how documents relate to each other, how they’re physically collected and how the related metadata is stored. Knowing all of this will help the entire migration process move more smoothly.

Step 2: Extraction.
Extracting document data and metadata from your ECM system can be a challenge. While ECM systems are typically set up to extract individual documents one at a time, that’s not very efficient during the migration process: batch tools, application programming interface (API) and direct database/storage access can all help.

Step 3: Transformation.
Content may need to be converted or repurposed from one format to another before loading it into your new ECM system. To do that it must be prepared properly, as ECM systems generally require document content streams and all associated resources and metadata to be in a specific format prior to loading. Embedded resources must be extracted and catalogued as well, so that the retrieval process can accurately recreate the original document.

Step 4: Auditing.
Once the migration is complete, organizations need to know that it’s been done successfully and correctly. An audit trail maintained throughout the conversion process can help achieve that, with checks and balances built into each phase. This will leave companies with a higher level of confidence that everything has been done successfully.

Step 5: Indexing.
Key information about content – which varies depending on the type of data in question – is stored in indexes and metadata. During the migration process, it may be necessary to add new indexes, for efficient new ways to access content and meet business and regulatory requirements.

Step 6: Loading.
As the final step in the sequence, content data, metadata indexes and related document resources are loaded into the new ECM system, often as a single stacked file – a file that contains hundreds or thousands of content files. Metadata that describes this content goes into a separate index file, pointing to the location of individual documents.

For more information on the document migration process, and to help ensure that your document migration is well-planned and non-disruptive to your business, read ECM Content Migration: Best Practices in Document Archive Convergence, co-authored by Actuate and AIIM, a global community of information professionals dedicated to sharing thought leadership content.


About the Author

Laurie Pirmann PhotoLaurie Pirmann has worked in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space for 25+ years, starting with the mainframe systems engineering aspect, and then designing and supporting a Windows-based version that was acquired, marketed and sold to a reputable software company. This type of experience has led her into the ECM Migration space, from pre-sales, to project management to solutions design. Many challenges arise when planning for migrations and no two migrations are ever the same. Laurie’s goal is always to simplify the process as much as possible and to make the migration seamless while enhancing the metadata associated with the archives to make information more useful and increase productivity.


    Point 4 – audit – this should come last – you need to ensure that all documents are loaded, indexed before you can declare a migration complete. There is an initial step to build an inventory (part of discovery), a mid audit step after extraction
    and then normally a final audit step. A full report / audit trail is generated which itself is archived to confirm authenticity.

    Thanks for the feedback Steve.

    You are correct that Step 4 is not really a step at all, it is more like an overarching task. With our ECM Migration solution; we keep a detailed audit of every document identified in the Discovery phase and the stage within the migration that the document is currently in. That way we can report with certainty that each document has been successfully migrated from the source system to the target system and show the chain of custody throughout the process. Additionally it allows us to identify any documents that may have encountered an issue during the migration and resolve the issues.

    At the end of the day, we though that the “DETAIL” methodology sounded better than the “DETIL with A” methodology. 😉

    Thank you for your feedback!

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