WHY DOCUMENT MIGRATION IS CRITICAL

Document migration is often underestimated in terms of complexity and criticality, and we warn against it in several places here on the blog. So what is the criticality of migration, and how much does it hurt to fail? We dive into the criticality of migration.

WE TAKE GOOD CARE OF OUR DOCUMENTS

We spend time and money securing our digital documents in systems to maintain document integrity, control access to them and have traceability of changes.

We also put thought and effort into securing structure and metadata so we can find them again. This is a lot of work and quite often quite costly.

Then comes the time when the documents need to be moved or, in more technical terms, migrated. This typically happens because the system in which we store our digital documents needs to be replaced.

In many sectors, technology has a significantly shorter lifetime than central documentation.

When the DOCUMENTS LEAVE THE SYSTEM

The moment documents leave the system, they are no longer under the control of the system. Right there, at that moment, there is a risk of losing all the effort, time and money spent on securing the documents.

  • Imagine if afterwards you can’t find the documents because the metadata has been corrupted, disappeared or is meaningless.
  • Imagine if the documents have not been secured in transit and have fallen into the wrong hands.
  • Imagine if the electronic signature of the documents is not valid after migration.
  • Imagine if you can no longer invoke the legal validity of the documents.

This – and other things – can happen if the process for moving the documents is not correct.

INTEGRITY, LEGAL VALIDITY! Come on, THE DOCUMENTS ARE JUST MOVED.

Isn’t it a bit hysterical to talk about legal validity and integrity? We don’t touch the file – it just gets moved.

There IS a real risk and depending on why you are storing the document and what industry you are in, it may be more or less critical.

The explanation is kind of the subject of a whole article, but the short version is that a document consists of two components: the document content file – which admittedly we do not change in a migration – and the metadata. Some metadata will be critical to understanding the context to which the document belongs, and without that metadata the document cannot therefore be reasonably attributed to an appropriate context.

So, if you mess up during a migration, you risk that the metadata will not be in order after the migration. You may no longer be able to prove who created the document when. Maybe you can no longer prove that the document was approved and by whom and when. These and similar examples have an impact on document integrity and indeed, residual validity, should it come to that.

All the scare examples in the section above were about different critical metadata that after migration was not in order.

MORE OR LESS REGULATION

In many industries, it’s not primarily legal validity that you’re interested in, but you have regulatory requirements that you need to have thise things in order.

In heavily regulated industries such as life science, it is critical to have a fully controlled migration process if “the important” documents are involved. They simply risk losing permissions to operate parts of their business.

In less regulated industries, it is not so black and white. But honestly, your company probably only stores documents because it needs them for something. If there are no formal requirements, then there are probably informal requirements. Who would want to base decisions on information from a document found in the company’s archives, where you cannot see if it is original, written by whom and when and in what context etc.?

So even if there are no formal control requirements for all your documents, there are probably implicit expectations for some level of control.

CONCLUSION

If you work in a regulated company, such as the life science industry, it’s pretty simple – the requirement is a fully controlled migration process.

If you do not work in a tightly regulated company, there are certainly elements that you do not need to worry about when migrating. However, we must state that:

Migration is a critical operation that requires a controlled process, regardless of the industry and documents involved.

Our experience and best advice for conducting a controlled migration, with documents feeling good afterwards, is gathered in our Document Migration Guide.