Content Migration Management: Everything You Need to Know

By ImageSource Team on August 18, 2021

Content migration moves data from one location to another, from one system of record to another, sharing data and a destination for a new business process. The content migration processes generate common pain points and concerns. Most organizations switched from manual or paper-based processes to digital over many years, achieving long-term benefits from doing work electronically vs. shuffling paper and keeping copies of content managed electronically instead of filing cabinets. Today, content management systems automatically share data between knowledge workers, companies, and business processes while enforcing data security. What started as an effort to eliminate physical file cabinets has become a cornerstone of compliance and efficiency.

For anyone that’s been leveraging a repository to store valuable content and information for years, there comes a time to consider migrating to a new, updated platform. For some customer partners, that means can mean piles of data in multiple locations and systems. Years and years of your valuable content and data. Millions and millions of documents. Time for a migration project!

Why migrate your content?

So, we know what content migration is, but why do it? With the associated costs, both money and time, what do you lack in your current system that would make a migration worth it? Or, more importantly, what would you gain from a content migration?

Whether it’s reactive or proactive, there are many different reasons people choose to migrate out of their legacy systems. In our experience, our customers migrate from one primary system of record to another for three primary reasons.


The cost of the current system has grown out of budget. Costs of version upgrades by major solution providers, coupled with annual maintenance costs and the person-hour costs of managing an upgrade, become risky. These budget decisions alone make organizations reconsider their renewal decisions. The cost of migration might be more upfront, but the benefits might outweigh the cost of doing business under the old, less-functional system, or the system you migrate to might be cheaper outright. Always check your options to see what migration can do for you budget-wise, including considering the cost of services compared to your staffing costs.

Loss of support

Software manufacturers may decide to drop a specific feature that is the one key benefit to your organization. Feature changes, depreciation, or feature drop altogether are common. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your old system— it simply means changes are happening outside of your control.

However, when the cost of maintenance, a significant upgrade, and person-hours are under consideration, it is excruciating to accept paying more for what your organization perceives as less. It could be even worse if this support you’re losing is the backbone of your organization, and you’re left scrambling. Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, proactive content migration can mitigate the pain caused by software changes while improving your business processes.

Big data problems

Big data might sound like a business problem Netflix or Amazon has but consider how many places and individuals save and share the same document within your organization. Without proper business processes, documents quickly multiply across organizations. Think how many places your content can live: desktop, email, back up to share, FTP, repository, cloud, Dropbox/Box…Sound familiar?

While this may only incur a trivial storage cost, it is a substantial compliance and security risk. It could indicate a department or business problem is being partially automated and may benefit from a more thoughtful migration to your system of record or platform of choice. It is also a liability, as your organization is legally required to protect personally identifiable information.

If data is stored, shared, or extended through multiple locations, you may have a much bigger problem than you thought. If it’s time to migrate, you have a lot to consider… So, what can a new system and the right partner do for you?

Our customer partner, Cosco, has been having data and document control problems. They could no longer afford the slow response times they had been experiencing when accessing accounts payable documents like purchase orders, debit memos, and invoices. To make things even harder, they didn’t always have direct access to the documents, and the unmanageability of their system was quickly turning into a data security risk. They found their department leaders were making decisions independently, leading to a proliferation of SharePoint sites and duplicating data.

Costco needed a new solution and external expert to gather requirements across their organization and plan for their much-needed migration. After applying our trademarked methodology, ECMECOSYSTEM, ImageSource built a blueprint for their migration success. With a comprehensive resource document containing the needs of departmental uses, workflows, and technical specifications, they could appropriately select the right solution and migration path for them and recoup costs within the first year.

Ready to figure out if migration is the right path for you

Characteristics of a Successful Migration

ImageSource has been successfully executing migrations, large and small, to and from content repositories since 1994. Recently we completed a mammoth project for a global financial information services company. We migrated 85 million documents from a deprecated Oracle 10g IPM system to ILINX Content Store with 99.99995% accuracy. That’s zero loss of data, except a few hundred docs that were already corrupt in the source system! How did we do it? By focusing on three essential factors that affect migration success.

Configurable technology

We leveraged multiple tools and techniques in the execution model (temporary migration environment that included replicated data, numerous instances of ILINX Export, etc.) to complete the migration. By creating a temporary migration environment, we were able to leverage the power of ILINX Export, ILINX Import, and a multi-instance model to perform the migration in record time. Again, the numbers speak for themselves:

  • 85 million documents
  • Nine months (others estimated multiple years)
  • Zero data loss!

We’ve used a similar services formula for migration execution, large and small, so don’t worry! Your migration doesn’t have to be massive like the one mentioned above to give you significant ROI. Configurable technology and the right software mix will eliminate headaches from the equation the next time you migrate content.

Schedules or other factors outside your control may not allow time for a complete migration before going live with your new system. In that case, you can implement a solution that enables users to turn off their access to the legacy system on day one of the new system while still pulling content from the legacy system through the ILINX interface. Coordinating access of content during a migration enables significant benefits that include more intelligent resource allocation of staff and the schedule of your most important milestones. All of this is technology-dependent, so defining requirements and choosing the right tools are critical.

A proven methodology

Given the business-critical and high transaction volume nature of the legacy Oracle 10g system, maintaining business continuity was essential. Always start with a detailed migration plan addressing all targeted content, associated requirements (retention of annotations, excluding content that had or would meet document retention\destruction requirements during the migration, etc.), and auditing requirements. A detailed audit and migration report was performed and delivered, accounting for every single document in the source system.

Any migration project can replicate this, and ensuring you’re following proven protocol, can help you execute a successful migration.

A solid technical team

For the legacy Oracle 10g system project, we had an expert in the source system of the documents/data, a seasoned PMP with experience in the technical components, and an expert in the new destination platform. This team provided all the expertise required to plan, execute and audit this size of migration. This project is one of many examples that contribute to our blueprint for any migration, or really, any project you undertake.

Teamwork makes the dream work, and constructing a migration team will ultimately make or break your project.

From a user organization perspective, constructing an effective Migration and ECM Project Team must be one of the initial mandatory project objectives. Building the right team leads to the success of any major project within an organization. It’s a management challenge that must be supported at the top by executive leaders developing:

  • Organizational vision
  • Clear and consistent motivation
  • Full mid-management support
  • Staff commitment at the user level that supports the Executive sponsored vision developed by a qualified Project Team.

The team of players, working together to define and document the vision, must construct the concepts to be considered, refine them and develop strategies to support the selected conceptual structure to fruition. The people on the team are as integral to your project’s success as the solution, the project plan, the software tools, and the chosen infrastructure.

A successful project will likely have new business processes implemented, improved workflows, integrations with existing systems and will require changes in the way supervisors and users do their work. The assigned Project Team will be realistically creative, with individual team members open in their communication of ideas and the challenges to be faced.

The exact position titles and numbers of team members recommended for participation will differ depending on an organization’s size and individuals’ skill levels – whatever best suits the organizational structure and what special considerations there might be in the project should be there. Typically, though, we have found it is vital that the eight classifications of people below are part of the project team.

  • Executives Business analysts
  • Managers
  • Records and Compliance managers
  • IT/IS managers
  • Project managers
  • Line-of-business managers
  • Workgroup managers or supervisory staff
  • End users

Initially, there needs to be a management level person(s) involved as a project sponsor(s) who would likely be a department/division manager or line of business (LOB) manager. 

If this person is not an executive, they need to executive-level management’s active support and sponsorship.  


Executives provide the supporting vision and enthusiasm for the solution objective; positive and effective executive leadership is critical in solidifying the vision for the project. Executive leadership’s role is project acceptance and enthusiasm by targeting their efforts at middle management.

The Executive could be a VP of Operations or the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the organization who would:

  • Develop and document the initial premise of the Migration initiative.
  • Select and organize an effective team of Project Team members who will work together with the sponsors to fully define and refine the project vision and develop strategies to plan the details and bring the project to fruition.

Executive management’s support is a critical factor for success – they need to support the project’s sponsor and smooth the path of challenges that sometimes occur when change gets scary.

Business Analyst

Business analysts provide discovery and analytical resources, reporting, perspective, and ideas for the project. They can directly be involved or satellite helpers to the project team in solidifying and testing the executive vision for the project. They often work with other managers or middle management for a small duration of the project. 


Alongside the Executive, managers communicate between the project team members and maintain the overall project vision. Different specialties affect each project but below are typically four managers necessary to a migration project, including Records and Compliance managers, IT/IS managers, project managers, and Line-of-Business managers.

Project Manager

A project manager is typically an organization’s operational leader and the coordinator with outside resources – ECM industry experts, software vendors, conversion resources, training, etc. They specialize in oversight and communication between all parties to keep the project running smoothly.

Line-of-Business (LOB) Manager

The organization’s line-of-business (LOB) managers understand the routine and cyclical “problems and challenges” of business operations. They are operational experts within their areas of responsibility that understand the character of the staff they work with, entity strengths and weaknesses, the likelihood of change acceptance, and necessary “change management” practices. These LOB Managers and supervisors routinely “concentrate on organizational effectiveness through current processes,” they eventually carry project success forward into the routine of daily work production.

The LOB Managers and other critical supervisory or lead personnel need to be considered for the Project Team for full involvement or participation in developing specific new processes or workflow designs. They provide essential project support and key higher-level objectives. They are information gold mines that are most aware of:

  • Departmental activities and the reasoning behind them
  • What documentation and information is received
  • How their data is processed
  • Where the various sources of data originate from
  • Who else needs access to their data and documentation
  • Key insights that support the organization’s mission regarding:
    -Operational systems
  • Decision criteria for the project, including:
    -Flow of work
    -Where specific processes are needed
    -Risks to successful processing
    -Exception processing
    -Design considerations

Departmental management and supervisory involvement and strong support are crucial for any project, particularly migrations. Automating any business process or making changes to the existing automation participation of users and their managers is critical in planning. Too often, systems get built without the direct input of users, and opportunities for significant time savings get missed, or workflows get built that don’t make sense for the tasks at hand—costing considerable lost time in person-hours to correct. The participation from the managers and key personnel who are most familiar with operations in the planning phase ensures that the new system will successfully meet objectives at all meaningful levels.

Workgroup manager/Supervisor staff

Provide working knowledge of operations and realistic possibilities on what will work and where the challenges will be. They typically will manage the end-users of the end solution.  

End users

End-users are the primary users of the software and are critical in discovering what will or won’t work and where the challenges for acceptance are. Their feedback is invaluable in testing the success of a migration. Nobody wants to spend time and resources migrating to an unusable system. By including end-users in your process, you can more adequately prepare and troubleshooting your new system pre-and post-migration.

Filling the gaps

Typically, the (hopefully) one-time migration isn’t a team member’s primary function. The ability to balance their current workload with the ongoing project through completion is critical. While doing some work for one of our partners – we were asked to look at the existing workload for their ECM team. They had done a great job maintaining and integrating ECM components from a variety of vendors. However, everyone on the team had primary support duties for at least one system component and was involved in customer support issues and updating /enhancing the company’s ECM system on nearly a daily basis. This type of workload is not uncommon, even among highly efficient teams.

Additionally, the team developed various applications, forms, workflows, and integrations into line-of-business systems over the years. Once in production, support for these applications is the ECM team’s responsibility. Adding up the time spent on support-related activities showed that this team now spent over 50% of a typical day away from development tasks. Increasingly, projects were prolonged, and the development pipeline for new content or data projects had grown to three dozen items.

Imagine this is your team, and you’re preparing to migrate to a new system, adding even more work. Hiring more people is one response, but as we know, content and data migration expertise are hard to find (some markets and products more so than others.) So, what do you do if you can’t throw more people at the issue? Focus on efficiency.

The same thing goes for any team, no matter what size. When we talked about roles earlier, that list isn’t exhaustive, set in stone, or sometimes even plausible for your organization. Team members may have to double-up, and that is okay. Look at what you can do to maintain efficiency and enthusiasm. When you build your team, look at the dynamics within as well.

Prepare for migration

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) needed to move off their Stellent/Oracle ECM system. WSDOT searched for a solution that allowed control of their data while utilizing in-house resources as much as possible to support the process and users. WSDOT chose the ILINX platform. During the discovery period within their current system before moving to the ILINX platform, they found over 265 technical requirements for imaging, document management, workflow, retention management, and COLD processing. When you have a project like that, how can you manage it successfully?

Understand your current system customizations

Most organizations optimize, tweak, work around the abilities of a data repository or content destination, often over several years. We recommend devoting time upfront to documenting the workflow and use cases of users.

A written guide helps IT decision-makers clearly understand user’s needs, any trade-offs, limitations, or improvements that await your migration project. To create user acceptance, you can document requirements and constraints, share them with users and stakeholders, and deliver.

Consolidate components

Migration projects allow you to rethink the complex route your data and documents take, in addition to user access utilities and document security tools. Our experience shows organizations have a mix of tools from a combination of providers solving various problems.

Going through the planning processes and working closely with a solution provider with experience reveals opportunities to reply on a single platform or a reduced set of tools for your migration and future document and data storage, reducing costs, downtime, and improving security.

Enable your data

Behaviors we consistently see in content migration are:

  • A meaningful document management system
  • Users searching for content with self-determined keywords
  • Unfound documents located elsewhere (most likely a departmental file share)
  • Users duplicating content by saving it to a desktop or emailing a colleague

Bottom line: All these practices proliferate content and bypass governance and security policies.

Pre-migration, you are more likely to have these behaviors. Start best practices before migration starts, so you get a leg up on your new system. Instead, we recommend:

  • Creating full-text searchable documents
  • Applying consistent check policies to locate and remove duplicates from multiple network locations
  • Implementing integration to your organization’s established security policies

This can save your users hours searching for “lost” documents, reduce wasted storage space, and improve data security. Being mindful of your old system vs. the new can ensure that the solution you’re migrating to does not just become a secondary habitat for your old bad habits.

Temperature checks

A lot goes into migration. From deciding to put together a team to troubleshooting your new system, things can get messy if you’re not careful or not ready. Having educated and guided stakeholders to the best solution based on budget, timelines, and requirements at ImageSource for over 25 years, we know what you’re going through. Sometimes it pays to take a step back and consider your options if you’re on the fence about your migration or if you’ve already begun but encountered severe roadblocks.

Take a minute to review your outline and initial objectives. Our project management team typically conducts interviews of the users as well as workshops during this time. The workshops help to demonstrate what is necessary for the organization to become more efficient rather than having unnecessary features in the new system, which, at times, can cause more work as ECM continues to advance, more and more benefits become available and included in products. During the workshops, stakeholders must make tough decisions on necessary features versus nice-to-haves. Have you taken the time to review what’s happened and what’s coming next?

Once we identify requirements, our next objective is to review the products available, such as ILINX, IBM, and Oracle, that will cover all the defined requirements, so your migration is pointed started right. Several out-of-the-box software options might fulfill some of the requirements needed on the market. However, most organizations, small or large, have unique business processes and require configurable workflow options, database links, or specific security requirements. Software with this functionality ranges in licensing, software, and implementation costs.

Again, It is crucial to have the requirements identified from the beginning. When the organization reviews the software demos and proof of concepts, requirements help you select the best and most cost-efficient solution. If things begin to become too costly, slow, or inefficient, you can consider alternatives.

An alternative to a traditional migration

Some customers have millions of documents in multiple legacy locations, and a classic migration isn’t ideal for them. But how do you determine the best approach? We all know nothing goes according to plan, and those plans can be even more challenging to execute if the current system is already failing.

Take one of ImageSource’s government customer partners with an aging legacy repository with more than 120 million documents. The system would go down multiple times per week. Due to the high-risk environment high compliance nature of their content, the agency didn’t have time to wait for a new system to be spun up and then wait for migration of all existing information. They were quoted multiple person-years for their project—time they didn’t have. The alternative was a stand-up integration.

As a long-time partner, ImageSource worked with the agency to develop a strategy to implement a new system and point input sources to the new platform from a day forward starting point. The new content was directed to ILINX and away from the legacy system, which bought the agency time to properly plan the total migration with ImageSource.

Additionally, ImageSource implemented an integration between the legacy repository and the ILINX platform to allow users to search solely from the new solution. When performing a search in ILINX, the system could search both the new repository and the old one and return results regardless of which repository the content lived in (historical: legacy repository and anything post-go live: new repository). Users never had to go through two separate systems to search, saving staff time and improving efficiency and compliance by avoiding duplicate content between the two systems and desktops.

Migration benefits

Circling back to our massive Oracle 10g migration example, we used a dedicated migration technology, ILINX Export, with excellent results. We migrated 85M documents in just nine months— unbelievably fast. That is about 180 business days that the deprecated system and the new ILINX Content Store were up and running.

What if users could access content from either system, even with the decommissioned system shut down the first day the new system goes live? What if you could allow access to your content in the decommissioned system without requiring a migration? This functionality now exists in ILINX Content Store, the document management system that replaced Oracle 10g in the example above. ILINX Content Store allows you to access the content in your legacy ECM system before or without migration. Having these capabilities at your disposal provides important options and can produce significant benefits, such as:

Money and labor savings

Oracle 10g demands large teams with in-depth expertise to manage the system throughout the migration, and of course, with no support from Oracle. ILINX Content Store is quick to deploy, configure and manage and powerful enough to handle 85M+ documents. You can stop the bleeding the first day your ILINX system is up and going.

Relaxed migration schedule

Be strategic about allocating resources. Depending on the system and method you choose, sometimes a one-time, colossal migration isn’t required. Sometimes you can pull data into the new system as needed rather than all at once, so you can migrate on a schedule that best serves your business. 

Migration on demand

If it’s not imperative to move all your content to the new system, why not migrate documents only when retrieved from the old system? 80% of all documents are estimated to be viewed once and never accessed again. This option allows you to save storage costs and streamlines the content that you need most.

Check out all your options

When large, cumbersome legacy systems are being deprecated, changing ownership, or just cost too much to maintain, it’s nice to know there are exciting new developments in content management software that provide options. If your entire organization isn’t ready to migrate, try starting with one or two areas that have been carefully selected based on their high potential for success and a strong need for improvement. This permits the rapid and clear demonstration of the technology benefits. It might just be that strong example can assist in the acceptance of the larger project to come across the enterprise and the key to expanding your solution later.

We are here to help and guide your migration journey. Reach out if you have any questions regarding content migration, and one of our team members will get back to you.


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