Two Keys to a Successful Document Migration Process

Topics: Document Management

So, you've got a new document management solution. If you’re working with SpringCM, that means your tech and project teams have been in close contact with us to understand your processes and workflows, so we can build out a solution tailored to giving you the transparency you need, and the right automated tools to make tasks fast, intuitive and collaborative.

Everything is moving along at a nice clip, and you're on schedule to have your documents hosted and managed on a new platform in no time.

But there's one critical thing that's easy to lose sight of – the documents themselves.

two keys to a successful doc migration process

Getting your documents migrated to a new platform can be a deceptively tough task to undertake. But you can make sure your files are where you need them, when you need them there, with minimal downtime and maximum efficiency, by keeping two big things in mind when you're strategizing your migration process: the files and the people.

First, let's take a look at taking inventory; which will set you up to accurately map what files you have and get them ready to move.


To wrap your mind around the seemingly abstract task of a document migration, it can be helpful to think of it in a way similar to how you'd plan a move into a new home or apartment.

Moving into a new home can be stressful, but it's also the perfect opportunity to do some serious deep cleaning and part with half-broken pieces of furniture, stacks of old catalogs and other miscellanies you have around; stuffed into closets and hiding in plain sight. A document migration is a perfect time to do the same thing for that accumulated virtual clutter residing on your local drives and servers.

And, like when you're moving, taking a highly-organized approach from the outset will help you get into your new digs more quickly, with less wasted time and resources and most importantly, less of a chance of losing anything important. The following steps will help you stay organized:

Separate Must Haves vs. Nice to Haves vs. Don't Needs

What are the documents that each person throughout your business uses every day? This is a question you need to answer early and thoroughly. Assigning key point people in each and every department to do a full document audit, ranking documents by their importance and tracking their location, is the first step in going about your migration in an organized fashion. Encourage them to prune away the old, the unnecessary, the dupes and the illegible – and of course, keep the critical (operationally and legally).

How Much Are You Going to Have to Move?

When you're talking about moving an entire enterprise's worth of documents, you start running into limits that you don't see in the course of the normal day-to-day workings of your business. Things like bandwidth limitations really start to matter when you're pushing gigabytes – or even terabytes – of data into the cloud.

So as you're taking inventory of your documents, it's critical that you determine what type of numbers you're talking about. This will in part determine the technological requirements, the human resources and the cost of performing the actual migration.

Who is Going to Migrate the Documents, And How?

Siloed responsibilities are a perennial problem for IT-centric projects, and a document migration is no exception. It's easy for people to assume that despite all the chatter about a new solution for document storage and management that they'll walk into the office and find their files already waiting for them; that someone else will take care of it, or that it doesn't really apply to them. So from the outset, everybody needs to know who will be handling the migration, when it will go down and how.

Metadata Tagging

When you've moved into a new house, after a big purge of stuff you don't need, the next step is to label those boxes. When you get into your new place, you'll know just what shelves everything goes on, and you'll have everything more organized than it was before. In your data migration, the virtual version of this is done with metadata.

Wherever you're keeping track of the files you intend to move, having a field with applicable, agreed-upon metadata terms can help things run even more smoothly. If your files already fit into the new hierarchies of organization you've come up with, after the migration you will more easily be able to find files you need. Better searchability will mean working more effectively.

Your Files in the Aftermath of the Move …

Just like when it comes to moving, what happens when you've got your migration completed depends as much on the situation you're moving out of as the situation you're moving into. If you own your servers, you might already have a built-in backup archive of all of your documents for a rainy day – assuming they're reliable servers that aren't on the way to being junked. However if you've got the majority of your legacy documents stored at a data center that you're ending your contract with, the clock will be ticking – and if you don't have everything you need to be moved by a certain date you could end up with something critical getting wiped (or paying extra to make sure it doesn't).


While you're getting every last file you need to migrate inventoried and ready to move, there's the people side of the process to think about. Here are some strategic tips to stick to:

Run a Migration Test

With a project as big as a full data migration, people often don't realize what's not working or what they've missed until the project has wrapped. But after the fact is not the right time to scramble to fix something. Having key point people on every team handle a test migration – early in the process (and ideally working alongside SMEs who have done this before), enables a business to identify and fix those unknowns that could present serious problems during the real migration.

Decide: Who Will Be Doing What in the Long Run?

A move to a next-gen document management system brings with it bigger changes to operations than the need to look for files in a different place. In your new, more streamlined document management world, people may have different responsibilities, different job roles and different levels of access to the system. Determine who will be taking on administrative roles, who will have access to what files and so when you’ve moved to the new system. And make this decision well in advance of your go-live date.

Set a Freeze Date

In the course of going about their busy work days, it's understandable that people might be more focused on getting things done the old way than thinking about the one. But to get things right, everyone needs to be on the same page. Setting a hard and fast date for when nobody will be able to save files onto the legacy system will get people in the mindset of expecting the new system to arrive, and maybe even looking forward to it.

Train Early; Train Often

Sure minimizing downtime when things go live is, in part, a matter of making sure bugs are fixed and processes are architected correctly. But it's also a matter of empowering your staff to use the system the way they need to. That means conducting real, hands-on trainings to get people comfortable doing the jobs they need to on the new platform.

Help Everyone Understand the Change

There's always going to be a contingent who are happy with the processes they have in place and don't see why there's a need for a more comprehensive solution. What you need to show them – not just tell them – is that while it's understandable to be worried about these sorts of changes, this particular change will make their lives easier. And not only that, but that by their taking an active role in the process and making sure that everyone understands the way they use documents, their needs will not only be met – but surpassed.

This takes a structured change management strategy – one that's just as important as training people on the system itself.

Inventory and Strategy: Keys to a Successful Migration

Migrating documents may be the last step in the deployment of a new document management system, but it's also the most important one. And like finally getting all of your belongings unpacked in your new house, having all of your documents safely, securely available on your new platform is also the important first step in something new.

So pursue the transition thoughtfully, with both your files and the people who used them carefully organized. And when the migration is completed you can get started on the “new normal” with document processes more effective and efficient than ever before.Learn more about how to satisfy your organization's need for speed


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