Content consolidation: what do you really need from a unified DMS?

by Ian Portman |
Apr 5, 2022 |

There could be a whole range of requirements which have led to the decision to implement a new content or document management system (DMS), but a successful project will depend as much on defining what you don’t need as it will on specifying what’s most important.

Sometimes it’s a growing sprawl of disparate systems – acquired during periods of company growth or acquisition – that has created a spiraling situation of document duplication, hard-to-access information, and mounting storage costs. It could be the accelerating pace of technology change, which has created a risk of systems being unsupported and left behind.Or perhaps it’s the external market and its growing demand for agility and deftness – which is hard to achieve when critical content is strewn across the global organization – that is fueling the desire for transformation.

The chances are, it’s a combination of all three scenarios that’s triggering the change now being considered.

Calculate what you have now – and where you want to get to

A successful DMS consolidation or content-based digital transformation project starts with understanding the primary business objectives and the strategic emphasis of the initiative.

To help scope the project, think carefully about – and/or seek professional help to determine – what you’re trying to achieve and why, and therefore who needs to be involved in any decision-making.

This process will also help with defining the project parameters, and in identifying and excluding data and content that doesn’t need to be moved across to the new, modern system or platform. In other words, it will help sift out the information and ‘paperwork’ that can be deleted, archived in a cheaper system, or left where it is. Trying to move everything across to the new set-up could waste valuable time and budget, without delivering any benefit – especially if that content has little in the way of metadata/smart tagging to aid future filing and rediscovery.

Categorize your content

Typically we group a company’s documentation into four main categories: operational documents (e.g. system-supporting documentation and project documentation); organizational documents (e.g. policies, procedures and SOPs); historical documents (which could span categories 1 and 2, documents that are no longer current and are being retained primarily for compliance reasons); and ‘unknown’ documentation (falling under any of the above categories, potentially the result of documents having been incorrectly stored or labelled, or inherited as part of a company acquisition).

Understanding the current format of all of this content will be useful too – what proportion is in paper format with wet signatures, for instance; and, where there are scanned PDFs stored in file-shares, are these viable as primary records?

Be ruthless in deciding what to transfer

As teams classify their content and establish their current state, they will begin to build a picture of documentation’s relative importance. This in turn will help inform the requirement of the new centralized system/unified platform, and – by extension – the preparation and migration work that will be involved in cleaning up and de-duplicating content; checking or adding metadata; and migrating everything to the new set-up.

By sorting documentation from across the organization into formal/less formal/informal content, and quantifying it, companies will start to gain clearer insight into the new system capacity they will need (both now and in the future), and how much time and budget to allow for the content verification, preparation and migration work.

Understanding the role and relative importance of each category of content will also help inform any automated treatment of information and documents in the new system – in keeping with data protection/records retention policy enforcement and tracking – across the lifecycle of each asset.

Setting expectations, identifying potential solutions

With a clear idea of the scope and scale of content migration requirement, as well as the long-term capacity and capabilities required of the new system, the process of going out to tender should be much more streamlined – because the business will have a good grasp of what a fit-for-purpose solution should look like.

But none of this will guarantee a perfect match. To achieve a streamlined single port of call and source of truth for company content, companies must also go in with realistic expectations and an understanding of what they may need to give up in return (such as obsolete legacy investments and bespoke, in-house systems).

In sacrificing and writing off older capabilities, companies will be in a better position to benefit from smarter integration; modern, agile project management options; and the opportunities to be inherently more ‘data driven’ and conformant with the latest industry regulations.

Awareness of, and provision for, emerging and longer-term requirements will be vital to securing a futureproof new setup, meanwhile. This includes ‘cloud readiness’ if companies still aren’t quite prepared to make that leap today with their new platform (a scenario which is much rarer now).

Last but not least, successful project delivery will depend on all relevant business stakeholders and subject-matter experts being included on the transformation journey from day one. As well as maximizing buy-in and acceptance of the transition, this will ensure that processes can be optimized. If, today, there are multiple incompatible processes for managing regulatory registrations, for example, the teams involved can discuss and work towards commonality, so that all are able to benefit fully from the new centralized content resource.

As ever, preparation is everything in ensuring successful project delivery and our experts are on hand to advise on any aspect of this critical scoping work as companies look to a more dynamic content management future.

About the Author

Ian Portman joined fme as a Managing Consultant in January 2022 with over 20 years’ experience in Information and Records Management, Technical Authoring and Quality. Following a career in the Armed Forces (Army), Ian worked in Media, Manufacturing, Technology, Utilities, Government and Commercial industries. Ian’s last role was with Seqirus where he was the Business Migration Lead responsible for the migration of Regulatory data from Share Point and Documentum to Veeva. While at GSK Ian was a Charities Ambassador working with adults with learning difficulties and Help for Heroes, providing individuals with work experience and helping them find work placements.

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