Category Archives: Document Management

Managing the Content Migration beast

freeimage-5367570-webEvery year around 1.5 million wildebeest journey from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara in in search of food and water. It’s called the annual wildebeest migration and is one of nature’s largest spectacles.

When new clients come to us looking to migrate content to a new system they invariably ask, ‘Just how huge is this going to be?’

Well in our experience, the scale of a Content Migration project is somewhere between moving house and the African wildebeest migration. (And both can quickly go awry if things aren’t set on the right path early!)

A bit of apprehension about undertaking a project of this size is understandable. Migrating years, sometimes decades, worth of business documentation can be incredibly labour intensive – but it needn’t be a complete nightmare. However Content Migration is generally not something we would encourage you to tackle alone. An experienced provider will help you to define a project roadmap that will expose any issues nice and early, before managing a strategic migration process.

The first thing to note is, clients often come to us to talk ‘hypothetically’ about their options for a new CMS – which is a sure sign to us that they already need one. File shares are still a reality for many businesses and it’s alarming how bad a shape these can be in. We’re often left wondering how employees in some businesses ever got things done, given the bottomless pit of information they had to sift through every day.

So, if you think you might need a new system, you probably do. Remember your current environment is not going to magically improve – in fact it will continue to get worse – so we would encourage you to take a deep breath and tackle Content Migration head on.

Be prepared

Preparedness is an obvious place to start – but lack of planning can sink a project like this very quickly, so it is vital. Scope your project in clear detail, defining things like goals, budgets, resources, risks and success indictors, and then communicate them to everyone involved. This keeps everyone on the same page, working towards the same outcomes. (But do keep in mind that sound planning should be tempered with a flexible approach that allows for a few curve balls).

Take stock

Performing a diligent assessment of everything in your current environment and defining a criteria for existing data is the next step. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as time and money went into creating this corporate knowledge. But the focus should be on identifying quality data, scoping content types and document metadata, and throwing any irrelevant/inaccurate/out-dated files onto the scrap heap.

Ask the tough questions, such as: How do we rank documents in terms of importance? Is a document that hasn’t been opened in two years still needed? What must be kept from a compliance or legislation perspective? Do we migrate all versions or only the most recent?

Build and map

A thorough document audit will pay dividends at this point, as the information gleaned during stocktake will aid the configurations of your new CMS. You want to migrate documents across with rich, accurate metadata to allow your users to filter search and easily locate the documents they need.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If metadata is not assigned in the original environment, which is fairly likely, then who will take ownership of assigning metadata? (Try to avoid the common ‘we will do it once we’re in the new system’ trap).
  • If migrating to SharePoint from a file share, consider the implications of updating document links in spreadsheets
  • If mapping in the new environment is not the same as the legacy system, then a migration register is essential to track information pertaining to each file e.g. source, destination, type, owner, importance, date to be moved.

Manual v automated migration

Unless you have only a small migration, or you are migrating at the content database level, a migration tool is likely to give the best outcome.  However, migration tools, while powerful, are not a silver bullet and do not guarantee success – some human consideration is still important. You are likely to encounter content that fails to migrate, so being prepared for this by running test samples and having a strategy for handling content with illegal characters will help minimise your down time.  Migration tools really come into their own when you need:

  • Version control or collapsing versions into a single file
  • Maintaining metadata fidelity (do you need to keep the original modified or created date?)
  • Scheduling batches to run in the middle of the night
  • Pre-migration and post-migration reporting and verification
  • Workflow migration.

Managing the change

It’s important to be on the front foot with major change like this by developing a user adoption strategy. Again, this comes back to answering some important questions during the planning stage, and engaging people throughout the journey to ensure they understand why the migration is taking place. Considerations such as whether you will adopt a staggered or single release, alerting staff to downtime in advance and responding to the inevitable ‘where have my files gone’ queries after roll out, should all be planned for.

We hope this article has highlighted how Content Migration headaches can be minimised. As outlined above, we definitely believe the services of an experienced provider will be worth the financial outlay, as they will work faster and with a higher rate of accuracy. Contact a member of the team today and we will talk you through it in greater detail.

SkyDrive Pro keeps key docs at your fingertips


SkyDrive Pro

One of the new kids on the block in 2013 which has sparked plenty of discussion is the integration of SkyDrive Pro into SharePoint.

When this addition to the Microsoft product set was announced, some folks were confused as to why two independent programs would be named in such similar fashion. But, as with many things, the simplest explanation is often the best. So on that basis, think of SkyDrive Pro as the business solution for cloud-based document storage in the same way SkyDrive is for individuals. Where SkyDrive allows a person to sync their personal documents to the cloud, SkyDrive Pro facilitates a similar experience for SharePoint users and their business documents.

Actually SkyDrive Pro does that and bit more. It’s main purpose is to give individuals within an organisation control over where, when and how they access content, by allowing them to store and organise documents on their organisation’s SharePoint servers (i.e. in their “corporate cloud”).

As the default location for saving files, SkyDrive Pro is essentially the new MySite documents library. But it goes a step further by giving users the power to sync a SharePoint library to their PC or device, and work with files in their library by using Windows Explorer. Any files updates then sync to SharePoint when the user is next online. This is great news for companies who struggle to keep certain groups of employees e.g. a mobile sales force, away from using shared drives, as now they can utilise SkyDrive Pro to seamlessly sync their documents to SharePoint.

Other key benefits include giving users the ability to:

  • Sync team site document libraries locally
  • Share, collaborate and co-author documents with both internal and external stakeholders
  • Access their content anywhere, on any device
  • Effectively manage the content lifecycle and version control, and,
  • Manage access permissions.

In addition, Microsoft has indicated that users will have the ability to access SkyDrive Pro with native mobile client apps for Windows 8 and iOS by June 2013.

SkyDrive Pro comes with a standard 7GB storage for each user with SharePoint Online – a significant increase on the 500MB that was offered in 2010. At this stage, we are not aware of a way to increase user storage limits (above 7GB), however we expect Microsoft will consider offering a solution for this in the future. With on-premise SharePoint 2013, storage allocation is determined by the administrator.

If your organisation is considering coming across from SharePoint 2010 to 2013, it is possible to attain an update to allow SkyDrive Pro to operate alongside SharePoint Workspace – but it’s important to note that the latter no longer features in SharePoint 2013. (SkyDrive Pro can, however, perform all the same functions which 2010 users currently reply upon in Workspace).

As a final piece, it’s worth noting that while SkyDrive Pro does make offline doc syncing much easier and a better all-round experience, your users still need to be supported by sound access and administration protocols, to ensure your IP is protected. However, unlike previously, when a user could download a document and save it to their personal drive without any controls in place, risks to version control and duplication are significantly lessened by them now being able to sync documents directly back to SharePoint.

It’s no secret that Microsoft is on a mission to continually enhance their product offering to more readily connect their users with the cloud. This integration of SkyDrive Pro into the Office 2013 suite is another important step towards this goal.

Would you like to know more? Contact a member of the nSynergy team via instant chat, phone or email today.

Back to basics – Doc Management 101


Image courtesy of

As with any new rollout of SharePoint, a lot of industry talk is dedicated to the suite’s emerging functionality. And certainly we have dedicated a lot of airtime to reviewing features like mobility and social collaboration in recent entries.

But we are often reminded – as was the case during a new client discovery workshop last week – that many businesses out there are still heavily reliant on old school file shares and document libraries. Which prompts us (upon request) to get back to basics and talk about one of SharePoint’s most core features – Document Management (DM). And while this piece won’t be of interest to fully-fledged SharePoint users, we’re certain it will resonate strongly with the relative newcomers who get in touch with us almost every week.

The most common situation we come across is organisations who still rely upon complex, multi-layered folder structures, which can sometimes disappear down as far as 50 levels – into a dark abyss of useless, irretrievable business knowledge. These kind of structures hinder discoverability, and make any kind of version control next to impossible.

A classic example is when a user locates a file, and when trying to open it they receive a message that it is locked by another user. It is (unfortunately) very standard behaviour for the person to then save themselves a copy of the file, rename it and suddenly two versions of the document exist. The knock on effect is then felt when a third person goes through the (very painful) search process and, if lucky enough to locate any files with a keyword search, two files now appear with no distinction as to which is current.

SharePoint’s check in/check out system reduces the risk of this occurring as there are more controls around DM. A user can easily see who has control of the file and by using integrated functionality such as Microsoft Lync, they can quickly open up an instant chat and ask if they are finished. If they need to work on the file at the same time, users can leverage a feature called multi-tenant authoring, which allows multiple users to edit Word and PowerPoint documents at the same time. This allows for the rapid creation of content and removes the tedious task of someone having to try and consolidate multiple versions of the same file into one document which is time consuming, and often leads to human error.

Next to version control, searchability is the other great limiter of file shares. During the abovementioned discovery workshop we asked the Project Manager how employees feel about their current file share environment. To which she responded, “I can only find the files I put there. If you didn’t create it, you know you won’t be able to find it, so you save yourself the hassle and just email the document owner for a copy.”

A fairly clear indication that they weren’t exactly kicking goals on the searchability front! And yet connecting people and information is one of the most powerful drivers of collaboration and productivity.

We encounter this issue regularly with organisations who have tried to implement SharePoint themselves. Many do not understand the concept of an Information Architecture (IA) and how it relates to storing files in SharePoint. Not surprisingly, they recreate what they know, which in many cases is a replica of the complex folder structure they had on their file share. So they haven’t fixed the problem – they have effectively transplanted it straight into SharePoint! Which is why we invest a lot of time teaching our clients the fundamentals of SharePoint and demonstrating the advantages of leveraging functionality such as content types, views and metadata as a way to store and categorise information.

This involves a paradigm shift for many organisations as, like most people, they are comfortable with what they know. But as organisation’s come to realise that their current structures make collaboration and discovery difficult, they become more open to taking a different approach to information management. Primarily, recognising that an intelligent IA and powerful search functionality within SharePoint allows their users to surface information in a logical, simple way. If people can access information easily there is less risk of them working in silos, which ultimately leads to employees having a more global view of the business they are working in.

According to a report published in 2012 by McKinsey Global, the average knowledge worker spends up to 9 hours a week searching for information. That’s over two months a year. Find out how SharePoint can explode productivity within your business. Or if you already have SharePoint installed, that it is governed by proper IA, so you are able to achieve genuine ROI from the technology.