3 Lessons learned managing a high stakes knowledge base migration project

The most successful content migration project I have ever witnessed lasted several months and involved nearly 50 people. They were not taking baby-steps; instead the vision was big. This meant that the project felt unruly and extremely chaotic at times. However, in the end, it delivered a dramatic impact to the business with changes in technology and processes. This project is a wonderful source of learnings and best practices.  Here are the big three takeaways.

1. Get ready to show off your leadership abilities.

For many executives, a large content migration project is a “once in a career” effort. It is high-stakes; costly, highly visible and can’t be repeated. So, it needs to be done well the first time. This means that you have to go through all the critical preparations. Most importantly, take the time you need to establish the vision and alignment of the project to strategic objectives. Define what success looks like. Then, make sure you align the right people to this project early on.

Be prepared to communicate the vision, objectives and success criteria many times. Your team will come to you many times asking for more resources, more time and more budget. To help everyone stay focused, be relentless in keeping the vision you establish at the beginning. Setting that vision up front will make it easier to address those requests each time they arise.

2. The content migration project team moves through a predictable emotional roller coaster (many times).

There is a predictable emotional roller coaster that you and your team will move through (probably many times). Knowing this in advance, allows you to use the best leadership techniques that align to what your team needs at that time. Prepare to lead the team both intellectually and emotionally. When the team is doubting itself, you are the cheerleader. When the team has lost the plot, you repeat the vision again and again and again to keep them moving toward the goal. When the team is confident and satisfied, sustain that momentum by celebrating their achievements.

Content Migration Optimism Chart

Most importantly, don’t forget that you will also move through these emotional phases. Anticipate that and have your own support structure in place to keep the positive energy.

3. Stay the course and you WILL be successful.

Leading a team through a dramatic change like this requires much more tenacity and persistence than is needed other times. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Others have done this already and you will be successful too. Maintain the energy and dedication and your team will deliver a dramatic and positive impact on your organization.

Mostly importantly, seek the information you need early on to make sure you are prepared and have all the information you need to make the right decisions along the way. To help you, Irrevo has recently collaborated with the amazing Eventusteam and published the Knowledge Management Guidebook: How to Lead a Successful Content Migration. Read the Guidebook and register for our “How to Lead a Successful Content Migration” webinar to gather the information you need to be set yourself up for success.

Surviving a Content Migration: What’s Your Strategy for Success?

Is your organization planning a content migration to a new knowledge management system? As reported in our recent Guidebook, How to Lead a Successful Content Migration (published in partnership with Eventus Solutions Group):

“The reality is that many knowledge management programs are struggling to adapt to the trends facing them. Today’s tools and content are not able to deliver the customer knowledge experience required. At the same time, there is an abundance of content, spread out among several repositories.”

To address the challenges of migrating large amounts of content into a new system, content migration projects require careful planning and an organized approach. The best way to make it through the process with your head above water is to learn how to avoid the common pitfalls by developing a cohesive migration strategy.

Common Obstacles to Successful Content Migrations

Underestimating the amount of time and resources it takes to complete a content migration is one of the biggest mistakes that organizations make during the planning phase. This is typically the result of skipping a full content audit, which uncovers just how much content you really have, or misunderstanding the full scope of the content. Irrevo and Eventus noted, “The end result of the assessment and scoping phase is a completed roadmap highlighting all the specific content migration project deliverables. It captures the key strategic decisions that will serve as the project’s guiding principles and provides a framework to direct all future decisions.”

Having unorganized or heavily formatted content that can’t be migrated without manual work (i.e. converting PDF or Word documents) can hurt your budget if you aren’t prepared. Many legacy knowledge base software systems utilize older document types that simply aren’t compatible with today’s technologies. When creating a content migration budget, you must take into account the time it will take to convert file types or to create new versions of your content that can be migrated into the new system.

Without a quality control system in place, you’ll never know how successful your content migration really was. Every successful content migration plan has a way of tracking content from start to finish and performing quality checks to ensure the best final product. Keeping track of the number of articles that are migrated and verifying that each one has been properly formatted, tagged and imported will save you time and money, and will serve as a helpful way to measure your success.

Avoiding Migration Mistakes

Step 1. Complete a full content audit to get a realistic view of your migration needs.

Get a full count of the number of articles you have and all other pieces of content that you want to migrate. Be sure to note different file types and flag content types that may be difficult to migrate into a new system. Take special care to note image files, embedded tables and linked content, since each of these types of content pose their own challenges. Figuring out any technical issues before you dive into the migration process makes it much easier to avoid errors along the way.

Step 2. Make sure the migration team understands the content they are working with.

Both internal employees and external consultants on the team should have a basic understanding about the content they are working with. At a minimum, having an internal SME available to answer specific content questions can help sort out the more complicated areas of your knowledge base. 

Step 3. Create a content checklist. This can be used as both a tracking document for the migration process and as a QA checklist for the final verification. Having a content checklist makes it easy to maintain a smooth workflow, and it helps keep the team accountable for the work that is completed. This checklist should include a list of each content item, along with any relevant details, including tags, the new category designation and location, and a list of any embedded attachments or images. Use this list to make sure that all items were migrated correctly by verifying the content once it’s been moved into the new system.

Smart Preparation is the Key

When it comes to successfully implementing a content migration strategy, being prepared with the right information is the best way to stay ahead. By avoiding the common mistakes that can quickly derail a migration, you can stay on budget and on track every step of the way.

Knowledge Base Migration: Preparing your content for a move

Are you looking ahead to the new year and your plans for a new knowledge base to house your content? Have you also thought about how to move your content into the new knowledge base?

Whether moving furniture from one house to another or content from one knowledge base to another, moves are easier when a clear plan is established. Let’s discuss how you can get started planning your content migration.

Step 1: Decide what will be the scope of your migration.

Depending on your industry, you may need to bring all of your content over to the new knowledge base, due to regulatory requirements, or you may be able to leave some behind. If the scope of the migration is large, especially if you’re bringing everything, it’s a best practice to rank each area of content, with the highest priority items moving to the new knowledge base first.Moving content into new knowledge base

If you’re only moving some of your content, you need to do an analysis on your legacy content to establish which content moves and which content can be archived elsewhere. We suggest you use the 80-20 rule: roughly 20% of your content is used most often by your end users. This is the content that you’ll move. For the other 80%, you can always come back later and identify additional content to migrate.

Step 2: Decide whether to clean up your content now or later.

No doubt some of your content is older that the rest. Maybe some content doesn’t follow your newest guidelines. Maybe content is out of date and needs updated. While you may be tempted chuck all of the content for migration into the new tool and clean it up later, a better practice is to clean up the content as you migrate it.

If you decide to clean the content as it’s migrated, here are additional things to consider:

Taxonomy: How will you structure content in the new tool? Use the same old structure, or establish a new structure? The latter may be helpful for buy-in for the new tool if your content managers or customer service agents have suggested changes to the taxonomy to resolve issues they’ve encountered.

Look and feel: How will your content look in the new tool? If the old style guidelines worked well, you may decide to replicate those styles in the new tool, but if there are tweaks you’ve been waiting for the right time make them, now is the time to implement changes.

Accuracy and consistency: Finally, it’s a good idea to establish parameters for tidying up any inconsistencies in knowledge presentation and accuracy, as well as flagging out of date content.

Step 3: Plan for a pilot program

Once you’ve planned how the content will be migrated, the last step is to consider parameters for a pilot program. You should identify the stakeholders in the migration, a block of content to be migrated as a test, the individuals who’ll do the work, and anyone who will need to review the migrated content. The migration team should include at least one subject matter expert on the content, especially if the migration team consists of outside contractors without prior knowledge of your content. The team of reviewers should also include at least one SME, as well as any applicable stakeholders.

Step 4:  Pitch your plan to others and gain sign-off for your plan

Behind every customer experience transformation initiative, there are business challenges that are on the minds of executive leaders. Make it a priority to gather specifics on budget allocations for this initiative. It is absolutely critical that you understand expectations around budgeting before moving forward. When you make your pitch, establish specific goals/objectives to measure impact. Put numbers to the business impacts that are measured.

Once you’ve established your migration plan and gained sign-off on your initiative, you’re set to build out your teams and plan the execution phase.


4 Strategies to Minimize Effort and Maximize Value during a Content Migration

It is time to move! Nearly everyone has taken advantage of the opportunity to sort and purge when moving.  You have the same chance when moving your content from a legacy system into new one. We recommend that you take a demand-driven approach and go through a sorting exercise to identify the most valuable knowledge. If you are restricted on time and budget, only focus on these documents.

Here are some suggestions on how you might make decisions on what to bring and what to leave behind.


80-20The 80-20 rule applies here. Identify those pieces of knowledge that are used most frequently. Specifically, identify the top 20% that generate the most usage from your end users. Consider these your priority documents.

If you are not able to access usage data, you can still rely on a manual demand-driven migration strategy.  Architect a manual process and enable your end-users to identify those documents that they use and flag them for migration. Enabling your end users to identify those documents that they find most valuable will mean less cost as you migrate content.


Accuracy and relevance

Once you have identified your top 20%, review this content for accuracy and relevance. In some cases, you will have user feedback data to help provide clues. Look in your feedback data to identify those documents that appear to need improvement work. Examples include documents that are being opened many times but where users are not giving them good ratings. These documents are candidates for content migration, but will need to be updated at the same time you move to the new system.

If you don’t have access to user feedback data, you might consider using a tool like Irrevo’s KnowledgeAQ to review and gather data on the accuracy of the knowledge that you have targeted for migration. Establish a standard set of review criteria questions and manually gather accuracy data on all the documents in your content migration inventory.

Unsupported and very old

Perhaps in your environment it is easiest to identify what NOT to bring. Start by eliminating those documents that align to unsupported products or processes. Also, if it works in your situation, identify those documents that have not been updated for quite some time. These are also candidates for documents that can be left behind.

Hold on, we have to migrate all our documents!!

Sometimes, especially in highly regulated industries, content can’t be purged for a specific period of time.  In those cases, we recommend that you establish a very cost effective process to move your content inventory from the legacy system to the new system as efficiently as possible. Don’t be tempted to make extensive content improvement efforts just yet. Defer those content improvement activities until you have been in the new system for a bit of time and can take advantage of the usage data to identify the most valuable. Once you have visibility to that which is most valuable to you, then you can make your formatting improvements.

Don’t make a costly migration investment and move everything to the new system unless you are required to do so. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to purge and sort your knowledge while you have the chance.