Avoid the Pitfalls - 5 Keys to a Smooth ECM Migration

January 10, 2023

ECM data migration is a complex process that requires careful planning. Whether you're looking to modernize your workflows, streamline operations after an acquisition, or reduce expenses, a successful migration is essential. But with so many potential pitfalls and challenges, it's easy to see why many ECM migrations fail.

The key to success is thorough research and a clear plan of action. This means taking the time to understand your specific needs and goals and researching the available tools and processes to help you achieve them. Following a few key steps, you can set yourself up for a successful ECM migration and avoid the common pitfalls that trip up so many organizations. Here are five steps to help you get started.

Understanding the Data Source

To ensure a successful ECM data migration, thoroughly understanding your data's source is essential. This means taking the time to study your current ECM system and business environment and asking the right questions to identify potential challenges and opportunities. Here are a few key steps to help you get started:

  1. Understand your data: Take the time to familiarize yourself with the types of documents, metadata, and relationships between documents in your current system. This will help you identify any gaps or challenges that need to be addressed during the migration.
  2. Analyze your ECM system: Look closely at how documents are extracted and stored in your current system and identify any areas for improvement. This will help you determine the best approach for the migration and ensure that your new system is optimized for your needs.
  3. Understand your business environment: Consider your organization's daily operations and any regulations that may affect your data storage and retrieval. This will help you plan a migration that minimizes disruption and meets all of your business requirements.

These are, of course, a starting point for you to study the source of your data. They are neither exhaustive nor meant to be followed in a specific order. Every organization has a unique situation that needs to be taken into account for ECM migration planning.

Collecting Essential Information

Extracting data and metadata from an enterprise content management (ECM) system can be daunting. While most ECM systems provide a mechanism for pulling out individual documents, extracting all stored documents is a much more complex process. One option for simplifying this process is to use an application programming interface (API) to extract data for migration purposes. This approach allows for excellent control over what gets extracted and where it is stored in the new system but can become unsustainable when dealing with large amounts of data.

Another option is to use batch tools provided by the ECM system to load and extract large amounts of documents directly. If your ECM system offers such tools, you can use them to extract data and metadata. In some cases, extracting binary data and other metadata directly from the data source may be possible using direct database access. However, this approach requires a deep understanding of the data storing process in order to perform a successful migration.

The best approach would be to consider engaging an industry-leading migration partner like Helix International. This can be a great way to simplify the process and ensure it is done properly. With our proprietary software platform, MARS, extracting structured and unstructured data from any source is a piece of cake. MARS currently has over 45 connectors to data sources and can read virtually every filetype in existence. Your organization can perform any sort of data extraction, apply workflows and rules, and do anything you want with your data using MARS.

Keeping an Audit Trail

After the data migration is complete, it is essential to have detailed information to ensure that every document has been migrated successfully. One way to achieve this is to record an audit trail during the migration process and implement a series of checks and balances throughout the process. This is a core feature of our purpose-built migration software, MARS.

To determine if the migration was successful, the audit trail should document the following:

  • The original source of each document
  • Any metadata associated with the document
  • Any changes to the document and the reasons for those changes
  • The location and accessibility of the document in the new system compared to the previous system
  • Whether all documents from the source ECM system are accounted for in the target system

At Helix International, we audit at each phase of migration plus a conversion audit at the end, all with a full chain of custody. Every phase of the migration is fully encrypted end-to-end, too, for security.

Dealing with Indexes

Indexes contain important information about documents, such as customer names, statement dates, and account numbers. This metadata is used to search for and access specific documents within an ECM system. The available indexes depend on the document type and the information contained within each page.

During the data migration process, you may be able to extract existing metadata from your ECM system and preserve it in some form. If not, you will need to re-index the documents. In either case, the migration process offers an opportunity to enrich or add new indexes, providing new ways to access your documents.

Keep in mind that some ECM systems do not allow new indexes to be added after documents have been loaded. In these cases, the data migration process can be a valuable opportunity to enhance the value of the documents stored in your ECM system.

Migrating Content

Once you have completed the previous steps, your data is ready to be migrated to the new system. Typically, the inputs you will provide to your new ECM system include document data, indexes, metadata, and print resources. If the documents were extracted from the existing ECM system as individual files, file system performance might become a problem. To address this issue, some ECM systems allow document files to be joined into a single stacked file. This file contains thousands of conjoined document files, with metadata for each document stored in a separate index file that provides lengths and byte offsets for each individual document in the stacked file.

ECM systems typically provide several mechanisms for loading documents in large batches:

  • APIs: Some, especially modern ECM systems, provide APIs that can be used to write custom applications for loading documents.
  • Loading utilities: Some ECM systems provide applications that can load content if provided with a document data file and index information.

Alternatively, you can use MARS (Massive Archival Retrieval System) software platform from Helix International. It is truly a one-stop software--everything you need to take control of your enterprise data and business processes.

The ultimate goal of ECM data migration is to transform legacy systems into modern ECM solutions that have the features and capabilities needed by today's businesses. This can provide benefits such as improved performance, the reduced total cost of ownership, and the ability to scale to meet future requirements. To achieve these goals, it is essential to carefully plan and execute the ECM data migration process.

Even if a large-scale ECM data migration seems complex and daunting, all you need is proper strategic planning and a trusted migration partner.

Helix International has been a leader in the ECM migration industry for over 30 years, boasting a 100% project success rate. With more than 500 enterprise clients and over 1,000 petabytes of data migrated, the company is the IBM partner of choice when it comes to data migration projects.

Do you have a need to migrate your Enterprise Content Management system? Reach out to Helix International.

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