With 8 migration projects, 100,000 assets, 20,000 Pages, and translation of 14 languages under my belt, trust me when I say I have seen The Good, The Bad and The Ugly parts of content migration from one system to another. I guess you could compare my extensive amount of migration experience to the intense migration length of the Arctic Tern. An Arctic Tern (pictured) makes the longest migration of any animal in the world with 44,000 miles under its wing each year.
This post will discuss the common myths around data migration, outline the realities that companies will face, and offers some best practices to ensure that your company does not endure the perils of an Arctic Tern.
The 4 Myths of Content Migration
1. It is easy and quick.
If you have been contacted by a person or company that claims they can migrate your content with 100% success with a click of a button, delete their email and block their number. There are various claims throughout the industry that praise automated migration through ETL tools. Others claim that they can achieve the same results with a manual approach.
2. It is one size fits all.
Web Producers believe their content is perfect and will be easy to migrate. This is not completely true. Depending on the system, there could be underlying processing and content manipulation that occurs. This might have unforeseen effects when getting content out of the system. As an example, custom development added to SharePoint causes HTML tags to be added onto a simple text field, thus causing a 1200+ page cleanup.
3. My own IT department can handle it.
Thinking: “My IT department is responsible for all systems including my Content Management System, so I can skip migration discussions.” I agree with you; your IT might be in charge of CMS, but that does not give them business context or insight into the importance of content and value that each content field provides.
4. Development can’t happen simultaneously.
All development should be completed before any migration can occur. This is true to a certain extent. You need to make sure all building blocks needed for migration are ready and that you can continue perfecting/polishing the target system while content is migrated.
Our Migration Best Practices
Before the Migration: CLEAN UP + STRATEGY
Spring clean your content before the migration. This is your opportunity to get rid of content that is irrelevant or insignificant to your current business goals.
Check with your migration partner to see if parts of the cleanup can be automated. If there is a pattern, like Legacy tags being added or rouge HTML, then the answer is yes.
Most content cleanup issues arise from bad data. Work with your IT team and partner to identify if you should fix input content, or wait until after migration. It is always advisable to quantify any issues. Identifying whether an issue occurs 10 times or 1000 times helps to perform a cost-benefit analysis on resolving the issue with the automated, semi-automated, or manual approach and if it should be done pre or post-migration.
Work with your partner to identify a validation strategy and team to perform a review of a subset of the migrated content. Ideally, the team will incorporate some of the day-to-day system users.
These are some of the questions that the validation team should answer: Should you review highly visible pages? Should you review a random sample of pages? Should you review a random sample percentage of pages across all page types?
Make a plan. Educate yourself on what is content truly ready to be migrated and what needs work. It’s all about setting the right expectations for time and resources. A good partner will be transparent about where things are and self-report any issues that they notice. Be prepared – it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to have a perfect migration in round 1.
During the Migration: REPORTS + ISSUES
Reports are your friends. Reports will help you hunt that bad data/content, quantify issues, and understand the impact. Depending on the situation, writing custom reports is advisable if it saves hundreds of hours of your team’s time in looking through content and resolving issues. The Blue Acorn iCi team provided a client with 17 custom reports to help quantify various issues. With this, we were able to provide the details on exactly which pages or assets were affected.
Content freeze & double posting. With any migration, there needs to be a period of the content freeze to do final content migration from the source to the target system. Work with your partner to reduce duration for content freeze and double posting. To better put this into perspective, the team at Blue Acorn iCi and I have successfully performed several delta migrations which reduced content freeze from four months to three weeks.
After the Migration: TRAINING + GROWING
Make sure your partner provides you with a training session on the new system so that you know what to expect. For example, the Blue Acorn iCi team had a mini training session before content migration to ensure everyone responsible for content validation had knowledge about the capabilities of the system. This ultimately reduced the number of issues reported.
Content migration directly impacts how marketing departments react to a new system. If handled correctly, you can be a change enabler and ensure a smooth transition. With this, everyone understands what to expect. If you make sure migration is not an afterthought, you can avoid unforeseen rejection to the new system.