How to Identify High Business Value Files Before a Software Migration

Not all files are equal. Some are business-critical, while others should be archived or deleted. Files used by desktop applications in particular tend to be under-managed and out of control. What's more, the needs of certain files supporting essential business processes frequently fly under the IT radar. Files that may be subject to compliance regulations such as HIPAA or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act go undiscovered, undocumented and unprotected. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Rob McWalter discusses how IT can identify which files have high business value in order to properly support and protect them before an enterprise-wide software migration.


The risk to business continuity and productivity often holds companies back from upgrading and migrating to new software platforms such as Microsoft Office 2007. File links break. Macros go haywire. Spreadsheet formulas stop working. The workplace grinds to a halt. Revenue opportunities are lost. But companies also realize they can't put off the inevitable forever. Software applications will continually gain improved functionality, and companies will always want to stay on top of the latest technology to remain competitive.

Fortunately, new methods and technologies have emerged that can help the IT staff identify which files and applications may be problematic during an enterprise-wide software migration. By determining which files contain critical information or support important business processes, IT can properly support and protect them. In the end, the company reduces waste, protects itself against compliance breaches and fines, and lowers IT deployment and infrastructure costs.

Identify business-critical files

The first step is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Start by identifying business-critical files. For example, an international power utility recently discovered over two million files existing in duplicate during an enterprise-wide software migration. Of the 15 million files on the enterprise's servers, only five million had been touched in the 18 months preceding the inventory. Nearly 15 percent of all the files were for applications no longer part of the enterprise's standard operating environment. And 1.9 million legacy documents, spreadsheets and database files were at risk of malfunctioning upon being upgraded to a new version of desktop software.

So, to better plan and execute a major server consolidation and desktop application upgrade, the three steps at this first stage are to:

1. Identify duplicate files to conserve disk storage space and reduce confusion among users

2. Flag at-risk, business-critical files to make sure they can be converted to function properly when deployed with the new software

3. Identify previously unknown files that tracked key financial data and facilitated compliance with regulatory requirements

Make sure your infrastructure can handle it

Infrastructure determines where company files will be stored and which applications can use them. But as the previous example shows, the nature of files can also influence which IT systems and application software versions a company can deploy.

For example, a major retailer wanted to make its knowledge workers more productive by facilitating collaboration. The company also needed to meet records-retention requirements mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Achieving these goals required the company to implement enterprise content management (ECM) software. But the desired ECM system was based on Microsoft SharePoint-which required Microsoft Office 2007 but the company was using Office 97.

Upgrading wasn't routine because not all Office 97 files function properly with Office 2007. As a result, this company had to identify which files were critical to the business in order to be included in the ECM system. It also had to take steps to preserve their functionality upon being upgraded to Office 2007. Only then could their goals for greater collaboration and regulatory compliance be realized.