Migrating your legacy ECM solution

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Migrating your legacy ECM solution

When it comes to managing data, a typical government agency often has a one-of-everything strategy, particularly when it comes to critical information stored in documents. Whether intentional or not, various business requirements and regulations have over time led to one solution per function, leaving content in multiple silos. Enterprise content management (ECM) systems were intended to fix these problems by organizing information in agencywide repositories, but they became their own silos because they often were deployed to support niche applications.

Now the total mass of content in separate silos has created a situation where it is nearly impossible for agency employees to find information to address citizen concerns, analyze procurement options or fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests. Aging ECM systems are incapable of fitting into the new world of consumer-friendly software that both employees and citizens expect.  Yet, modernizing legacy systems raises issues of security, cost, governance and complexity of business rules  -- all obstacles to a smooth transition.  Further, legacy systems simply cannot keep up with the demands of today's dynamic workforce. Seventy percent of respondents to a recent Forrester Consulting survey, for example, reported using two or more ECM solutions, a scenario that drags down practical usability and collaboration and increases IT complexity.

ECM migration is a two-headed monster

Many challenges come up between the decision to migrate and the completion of a successful migration. For one thing, there are actually two different migrations to consider. Migrating from a proprietary ECM legacy system to a new one is one process, and moving the content is another. For government IT teams, the migration of content from old systems or storage locations has the potential to be costly and time-consuming, but new systems often offer operational efficiencies by taking advantage of the latest technology trends. The new generation of ECM incorporates mobile form factors, social, cloud and hybrid-cloud features that take advantage of today’s new IT infrastructure. Like many enterprise applications, ECM is moving to the cloud. A remarkable 80 percent of respondents to a Forrester Consulting survey indicated that they were planning to deploy their primary ECM system partially or fully in the cloud (such as vendor hosted, SaaS, or hybrid) within the next two years. The cloud is also a compelling ECM infrastructure choice for cost reasons: financially and operationally, the cloud represents a path to expanded ECM capacity without a large capital outlay for data center facilities or hardware.

Content migration can likewise be simple and successful. Interoperability standards can mitigate some of the challenges, making it possible to leave content in place but still make it universally searchable and accessible across multiple workflows.  And cloud-based content management services provide a distinct advantage when secure collaboration with external parties is a daily reality, as it is for government agencies.

Methodically migrate to reap the benefits

While migrating to new ECM systems and moving content is challenging, it is possible to keep the scope of the migration manageable. The key is to be methodical, thinking through the governance, security and business use cases for content flagged for migration. IT managers should select content for migration based on its relevance to mission goals, such as knowledge sharing and search.

When it comes to ECM, maintaining a legacy system is not a viable option, but that does not mean that all content must migrate immediately, or ever. Careful planning, implementation and the right tools can align ECM and content migration with agency objectives, especially as cloud and hybrid-cloud ECM solutions become increasingly available across the federal market. Agencies that can overcome the challenges of migrating to new ECM systems will benefit from the cost savings and efficiencies that can be gained by deploying cloud systems.

About the Author

John Newton is co-founder and CTO, Alfresco.

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