In Focus: Sizing Up Content Migration vs. Integration - InformationWeek

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8/22/2005
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In Focus: Sizing Up Content Migration vs. Integration

So you say you've settled on an enterprisewide standard for content management. What's next? The typical enterprise has at least three to five legacy content management systems and 40 percent have six or more repositories, according to Forrester Research. Do you move all that content into the new centralized repository? Not likely.

So you say you've settled on an enterprisewide standard for content management. What's next? The typical enterprise has at least three to five legacy content management systems and 40 percent have six or more repositories, according to Forrester Research. Do you move all that content into the new centralized repository? Not likely.

Content migration can be complicated, time consuming and fraught with pitfalls, including security snafus and business disruptions. York International, the well-known air conditioning manufacturer based in York, Pa., learned that lesson the hard way. The company settled on EMC Documentum as its enterprisewide content management standard back in late 2002. York has since rolled out 15 production applications touching some 5,000 users, but the company learned not to take migrations lightly after a project involving one small department "blew up in our face," says Timothy Fives, Manager, Global Content Solutions.

The actual migration of roughly 8,000 engineering collateral documents from a Xerox DocuShare system into Documentum took a single weekend, but the Global Content Solutions group then spent months clearing up security management problems.

"We tried to apply group and user security, but they had used a very ad hoc security model that wasn't applied consistently," Fives explains. "We also discovered they had anonymous users the minute we moved the content, and users came crawling out of the woodwork saying they could no longer access the documents they needed."

Content integration can be a lower cost, lower risk alternative to migration, and the more repositories you have, the more it makes sense. Many ECM vendors now offer content integration middleware, and if they don't, they're busy adding it, as demonstrated by Oracle's recent acquisition of Context Media, one of the few remaining independent content integration vendors. Content integration lets you leave disparate management systems in place but tie them into a corporate standard ECM system or portal. IBM, FileNet, EMC, Day, Interwoven and Mobius are among the vendors offering content integration software.

York is being choosey when it comes to moving content from legacy repositories into Documentum, and it chose to use EMC's Documentum ECI Services middleware to take on two major integration projects. One project involves "tens of thousands" of technical documents currently stored or managed in SQL Server file systems, Hummingbird PC Docs and Xerox DocuShare repositories. These legacy systems and repositories will remain in place for now, but they'll be integrated with Documentum through the ECI Services middleware. All technical documents will be accessed through Documentum, and all new technical documents will be managed within the central repository.

In the second project, York plans to apply Documentum records management and retention controls over "millions" of mainstream business documents. These documents, including memos, spreadsheets and e-mails, are currently stored within a variety of file systems and e-mail servers, and York is investigating exactly when and how it will apply retention policies.

"Our legal and corporate controllers need to chime in on the business processes, retention policies and goals of the project," says Fives, adding that York is assembling steering committees on both projects. Plans call for business requirements to be defined by the fourth quarter and pilot projects to roll out by the second quarter of next year.

In some cases, content integration will simply buy time, allowing York to migrate only selected content and only when it has to, Fives says. "If we can integrate for now, we can handle migrations as systems are retired or if and when we want server consolidations."

What's the bottom-line lesson from York's experience? "You don't get much value if all you gain is check-in, check-out and library services control," Fives says. "We now only move content when the business demands it. You start to get a return when you're managing content as part of a business process."

Resources:

a. Net Seminar: Content Integration: Simplifying Complex Environments

b. White Paper: Enterprise Content Integration Services

c. Content Pipeline: Four content access options help users gain better intelligence, improve customer service and reuse valuable content, but most firms will need a combination of approaches.

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