Very often people start their file share migration project by trying to answer the question “What document management system should I use?”
Instead, you should first ask: “Why are we doing this?” and your answer needs to go beyond the fact that your users or IT department are asking for more than current system can provide.
Let's unpack the two approaches.
The tool-first approach
While there are a number of different document management systems available, in our experience our clients tend to settle on one of the following four choices for document storage solutions: SharePoint Online, Egnyte and Box. You’ll likely base your ultimate selection on a combination of pricing options and recommendations, as well as the requirements of the team or stakeholders with the most influence.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen happen next is that your chosen solution, and all the work that goes into the project, ends up meeting the requirements for some, but not most. This entrenches data siloes in your organization, fosters resentment of the change, and ultimately fails to unlock the full potential value of a file migration project.
Further, a migration can fail if you don’t know where to check for hidden requirements before choosing the tool. For instance, if you migrate documents without considering the links in Excel spreadsheets you risk creating more problems than you resolve. Migrating personal file shares and performing bulk uploads are other areas with potential pitfalls.
Instead, based on our experience delivering file share migration projects, a better place to start would be by asking “why are we doing this?”
The why-first approach
File share migration projects should be a means to a greater end that frees up your people from repetitive, swivel chair operations, and enables modern digital capabilities. We have seen that when you start with a why-first approach, which is what we do in our customer projects, you achieve much better results.
Begin with the sources of friction, investigating how the current solution is failing your users. Perhaps you are still storing files on a network drive, and remote users are struggling with access, or cannot view files on mobile devices. Perhaps the file management system you have has become cluttered, difficult to use, or not flexible enough for your needs. Either way, your first reason for undertaking this project is likely to be in response to issues or concerns with the existing solution.
Beyond removing friction, you need to dig into what the primary benefits for each team are. These could vary in the lifecycle of even a single document: for your leasing team, a digital approval workflow provided by a modern document management system could make the difference in lease turnaround time; for the asset managers, it might be the desire to access and analyze the structured and unstructured data that is currently sitting dormant in your leases; for the property manager, quick mobile access to a tenant’s lease to check the terms in response to an in-person query could be most important.
Finally, for all these business processes to run smoothly, a delicate balance is needed between securely storing confidential information, and making it available to the right people, at the right time, in the system they’re using. One team might be most focused on secure record management and retention, while another might be eager to share and collaborate on living documents and spreadsheets.
A why-first approach to file share migration ensures that you have a well-rounded view of these requirements, and their relative priority, before choosing the tool that best delivers on the promises of digitization and modernization of your process… and also a clear-eyed understanding of where even the best-fit tool may fall short or need to be supplemented.
There’s a reason it’s called a journey
Managing expectations and organizational change is a key factor in any file share migration project. In our experience and depending on the size of the organization and the data cleanup required, a successful file share migration can take from 12 to 24 months.
You are asking users to change how they do things day-to-day and to trust you that they will reap the benefit of their efforts. This takes time and a well-planned transition strategy, to ensure success. How you phase the data migration is critical: we suggest phasing the rollout one department at a time, or one portfolio at a time, giving you the chance to learn and adjust before tackling the biggest, most challenging areas.
But ultimately, done right, it’s worth it when you ensure the right people have the right information at the right time. And you’ll have set the scene for future data-driven innovation.
For more insight download our File Share Migration 101 guide, which includes more detail on the six-step journey we have refined by doing the hard yards, lessons we’ve learned along the way, and the questions to ask to land up with the right product selection.
Or get in touch to see how Open Box can help you today.
Coming soon: how do the three leading solutions stack up against each other?