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Last week I spent some time putting together a document outlining best practices for migrating content over to the new SharePoint platform.

J&J will be moving off their existing Documentum e-room platform and over to SharePoint over the course of the next year or so.  Right now, as we begin to communicate to teams about the SharePoint features that enable and facilitate collaboration, the immediate question is most often "so how do I migrate my e-room?"

The challenge is to facilitate the easy migration of business-critical information without recreating the same static dumping ground on the new Teamsite. And while business groups are asking for help from automated e-room to Teamsite migration tools, the IT Services organization in charge of the program has decided that such tools will only serve to move the large piles of outdated stuff from one place to another. So they are taking the position that a manually-managed migration is the only way to ensure a good Spring cleaning of the e-rooms.

Since there is a bit of consternation, and not a small amount of confusion around this whole process, I needed to quickly figure out an approach that would meet the requirements of the procurement teams while supporting the use of the collaborative capabilities of SharePoint that is the whole point of the platform.  It would be a pity, after all, to just use the thing as a document library, and that’s it. But I fear that this is very much a possibility with SharePoint, unless care is taken to guide the creation of the teamsites carefully, and monitor, encourage and push for collaborative, event-driven activity around work flows and processes.

Sounds easy!

Well, to start with, I came up with a few ideas that could be useful to others who are faced with the same challenges (regardless of the orginal platform):

Think about work activities, not document folders:
Since SharePoint offers a lot of opportunities to integrate work information with work activities – such as contacting team members, responding to questions or problems, or collaborating on a document, a problem, a project, or an event, the crux of the whole effort is going to be getting people to start looking at documents not just as pieces of information, but as elements in work activities that can be managed through the Teamsite:

This way, team can start to discuss, edit, share or review not only documents, but next steps, tasks, activities, events, meetings, etc all around a specific project.  All this information can be pulled together into a view that the business owners define.

So, as you upload documents and folders, consider the following questions, then consider associating the information with the capabilities and functions available on your teamsite:

What are the work activities around this information?

  • Who needs to act on this document? Who is part of the work activity? (permissions on the document, or the teamsite)
  • How is it created, edited, reviewed and improved? (Create a wiki view of the document)
  • When and How do you discuss the document contents? (discussion forum, events calendar)
  • Who needs to reference it? (visitor permissions to the document or site)
  • How can it be found? (test for search, add to general Intranet site)
  • Does the data change? (KPI, data tracking web part)
  • How long does the document remain active? Where are old versions? (archiving/naming schemes)

We are all still very much in the "learn as we go" phase here, so I’d be interested in thoughts from others who have handled the SharePoint migration challenge before – did everything just end up in a new pile of documents on SharePoint? Or was anyone successful in actually getting work-related activities and collaboration active around these former, static repositories of information?

About the author

Nancy Goebel - DWG's Managing Director for Strategic Partnerships & Business DevelopmentNancy Goebel is the Digital Workplace Group’s Managing Director for Strategic Partnerships & Business Development.

During her six-year tenure with DWG, Nancy has been involved in account management, benchmarking, research, blogging and executive producing Digital Workplace Live and DW 24.

Prior to joining the Digital Workplace Group, Nancy was a accomplished executive at JPMorgan Chase where she built and led a global team in desigining and implementing an award-winning intranet. She also led digital enablement and busiens re-engineering initiaives.

Outside work, Nancy is a wine maker, fundraiser, meditator, wife and mother of two.

Connect with Nancy on Twitter: @nancyatdwg or on Google +.


  1. Re: “Think about work activities, not document folders” – I wonder, if they weren’t doing this already in eRoom, will they be doing it in SharePoint?
    BTW A spring clean appraoch is a good idea, but have you completed an assessment of the current eRoom content? Do you have a process for archiving out of eRoom for anything you don’t want to migrate?

  2. Hi.
    I’ve been using MOSS 2007 (Sharepoint) for about 2 years now (after I deployed it for my 5000 employees company).
    Sharepoint is still pretty much a File sharing tool… and if you have great tools such as “lists”, blog and Wiki might be frustrating for you too, based on the fact that you can only enter text (+links) with no image ou enclosed files. We have been forced to invest hundreds of days of specific development to make it compliant with our needs…
    Try to avoid folders as far as you can. Try to implement logical categories instead.
    Best regards.

  3. Abigail Lewis-Bowen

    Hi there, thanks for the comments – it’s a really good point about whether or not people will be inspired to change habits. In fact, just yesterday I sat down with a team to do some “hands on” investigation into their eroom migration and basically opened up an huge pile of stuff – all of which was identified as needing to stay as is when migrated over. However, some in the room seemed to get the idea. I tink this is going to be a mindset change issue, more than anything else. re the process, well, at J&J the approach is to leave it up to the business – and within our function, even, each individual group seems to have distinct requirements for archiving data – so I’d say that while no one process exists, we certainly will define an overarching process for, let’s say, where to archive material.

  4. Abigail-
    Excellent info, thanks.
    Your perspective matches my experience in two years of migrating documents from an old SharePoint 2003 “portal” to SharePoint 2007 Portal and Team Sites.
    The old 2003 system used the “File Server” approach mentioned elsewhere, and people complained they could not find anything, because documents were stored in a vast innavigable labyrinth of sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-folders. Essentially, to find a document, everybody had to conform to the original idea of how to breakdown data, regardless of other ideas or changes needed over time.
    It was very difficult to change the culture to use metadata instead, and to grop documents functionally, but those who made the mental shift did appreciate and benefit from the productivity results: being able to sort/filter/group data and documents based on metadata, and to synthesize their choice of “Folder Looking Structure” on-the-fly.

  5. This site is very enlightening. I work for an organization that is at the beginning stag of migrating info from two different web-based databases/intranet sites and as a business analyst I’m going to keep this info in mind. Thank you for sharing.


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