Thursday, October 13, 2005

Migrating your Information

We've reviewed some topics about how to solve the problem – Collaboration, knowledge, etc--. But we haven’t talked about what it takes to move from HERE (your current situation) to THERE. It is another 800 pound gorilla problem. With the number of terabytes increasing exponentially each year, it will be no easy feat to move a giant monster (data) from it’s current place to our solution. Do not worry, it should read our platform sustaining YOUR solution. No solution can solve everybody's problem, cause we are all different, including organizations.


Let's suppose you understood everything I said, and now you ask -- what's next? If you thought the tough part is over, think again. This section is about issues you will face when you look at your current situation to be migrated into the envisioned solution of tomorrow.

What are the issues?
  • Silos: Information is created based on the company structure. If it is a Silo, information will be in silos too. What is a Silo? It means that your company is compartmentalized, that your departments do not talk to each other, that everyone wants to keep their information from others.
  • Maps: The consequence of silos is that you cannot create an information map. This means links between files are non existent. We want to be able to "picture" the way information is connected to one another. Without a map, we can't.
  • Importance: Another consequence of silos is that there is no hierarchy that tells you the importance of documents. Many times you need to make a call to find out how important it is.
  • Permissions nightmare: In many corporations, there is no overall strategy for easy handling of permissions not to mention digital information. In many cases the non-official strategy is"Individual" permissions which means doom for any migration effort which translates into a very hard and time consuming effort to deal with access. A good way to deal with permissions is a mix between groups and roles as they are more related to other functions through out the system. The issue then becomes the synchronization of those groups and roles in your system B or target solution. Remember this when you plan for a migration.
  • Massive amounts of information: We have today a lot MORE information than yesterday ( Big companies are already in the terabyte-petabyte range ). So the problem is not getting any smaller. Been able to massively copy, move, tag, log is key to any effort of consolidating information into a flexible platform. This section(Migration) has to be able to deal with errors, inconsistencies and unknowns in a way so that it groups them for later review. As when you look at your personal information, this is always a good time to check for information you want to delete. So filtering and sorting is crucial to let the owner find and select documents for deletion. That deletion can be temporal meaning it does not really delete until certain later date.
Because the web was created on the basis of linking documents one to another it is easier to find information because is linked. In a corporate environment we do not have that. It comes from Silos as already mentioned. We need to mimic the web in our internal structure to build the web of internal information in a corporate environment. How? Making the linkage of documents the center of all effort.

The above points have come as lessons after going through several projects dealing with repositories. In the last 10 years the projects involving knowledge tryed to implement common methods and what I have found is Knowledge Projects are very sensible to people, and the approach you take must be different from any other type of projects. They must involve the people it will affect. You need to consider The Human Factor, in order to be successful. I would say that in most cases there is a lack of understanding of where you are and where you want to go, and because it is so complex and it involves all aspects of the business, it is very challenging.

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