How-to: Intranet Content Migration (with Migration worksheet)

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“Alright intranet project team, who wants to lead the content migration… Nobody? But it’s so critical… We can’t have a new intranet without content… I’ll provide chocolate and scotch…”

Content migration may not be the most exciting part of an intranet project, but it truly is important. Even in the world of rich social features content itself still may be “king”.

In order to help you tackle content migration with less worry and fear, we’ve provided in this article the intranet content migration worksheet we use with ThoughtFarmer clients. This post explains how and when to use the content migration worksheet and provides a few advanced tips. 

Screenshot - Intranet content migration spreadsheet
Download ThoughtFarmer’s intranet content migration spreadsheet

4 phases of intranet content migration

Around the web and in your office you may hear a variety of related terms, such “intranet content inventory” and “intranet content audit” and “intranet content migration”. Some people use these terms interchangeably, but there are a few key differences.

Phase 1: Content inventory for the old intranet

The first step is to figure out what content you already have. Usually it lives on your old intranet, though many intranet projects seek to move content from other repositories, such as shared drives, to the new intranet.

Key questions for a content inventory:

  • What content do we have?
  • Who owns it?
  • Where is it?
  • What format is it in?

Phase 2: Content audit

During the intranet content audit phase you will analyze the content and make decisions about how to deal with it. The content audit often overlaps with the content inventory, in which case you may be making decisions as you chronicle the content you find.

Key questions for the content audit: 

  • What do we keep?
  • What do we delete or archive?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What should be shifted to a more user-friendly format?
  • What new content do we need?

Phase 3: Content migration mapping

This is the stage where focus fully shifts from the old intranet to the new one. Before you go forward with content mapping you need to solidify the navigation for your new intranet, which we cover later in this article.

Key questions for content migration mapping: 

  • Where does it go on the new site?
  • What is the most important content?
  • What should be moved first?
  • Who is responsible for moving the content?

Phase 4: Content migration and migration tracking

Rubber, meet road. This will be a lot of work, but it’s also the moment when your new intranet becomes real.

For larger intranets, you’ll need a migration team. A “barn-raising” is a fun way to approach it: get 5 or 10 people with their computers together in a boardroom, lock the door, order pizza, and migrate content for a day or two. The tracking fields of the worksheet will prove very useful.

Key questions for content migration tracking: 

  • Who is responsible for editing and improving the content?
  • What has been completed?
  • Who might need help to stay on target?

Understanding the fields in the content migration template

Here are the fields (column titles) from the worksheet, with brief explanations about each one.

Phase Field Explanation
Content Inventory Content ID Numeric values given to each piece of content, which make it easier to track and reference content.
Content Name What the page or file is currently called.
Current Location Where it lives on the old intranet (or other content repository).
Content Type HTML page, PDF, Word doc, etc./td>
Content Description A few words about each piece of content’s purpose and use.
Content Audit Frequency of Use Based on your best knowledge or analytics, if you have it.
Owner/Maintainer Who is (or at least SHOULD BE) responsible for it.
Status Do you plan to delete, archive, keep, or re-write the content?
Priority Is it popular, critical content users need every day? Important but doesn’t have to be moved in the first round of content migration? Tired old material that still has to be available?
Notes Any key points about content that aren’t covered in other fields.
Content Mapping New Location The section or navigation path for where the content will live on the new intranet.
Page/File Type Landing page? Content page? Community page? Attached PDF? PowerPoint?
Migration Tracking Date Created When it was moved/created on the new intranet.
Created By The person who created it on the new intranet.

A simplified, scaled down approach

For smaller, simpler intranets, the complete spreadsheet may be overkill. You can simplify your content migration spreadsheet in a few ways:

  1. Only list content that must be present on the new intranet. If it doesn’t need migrated, don’t list it — or list the title only
  2. Omit fields that may be obvious (perhaps current location, content type, content description)
  3. Skip migration tracking (date created, created by)

Precursors: Card sorting & task testing

Once you’ve completed the intranet content inventory and content audit, you’ll come up against a critical (and obvious) question: Where should the content go on the new intranet?

The easiest answer, but rarely the best, is to copy the old intranet’s navigation over to your brand new intranet.

A better approach is to run a sequence of user-centered design (UXD) exercises. Through an iterative process these techniques will help you build a navigation structure that makes sense to your users.

The most common steps for building a user-friendly intranet navigation include:

  • Creating intranet user personas: Create archetypal characters who represent your common user types. They will help ground your decisions in what employees actually need. See ThoughtFarmer’s how-to guide for creating intranet user personas for more information.
  • Intranet card sorting: Find out how a variety of employees group common content topics. This will help you draft a navigation based on how employees would naturally group intranet content. See ThoughtFarmer’s how-to guide for intranet card sorting for a detailed explanation.
  • Intranet task testing: Test how well your draft navigation helps people find what they need. This will help you make improvements and come up with a final intranet navigation. See ThoughtFarmer’s how-to guide for intranet task testing for an in-depth guide.

These three techniques, used in the sequence above, can play a critical role in your project. They’ll provide tons of information about how employees think and what they need from the intranet. These exercises also produce data that can help you cut through stakeholder disagreements.

Make it manageable with the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule applies to intranet content: about 20% of the content on your intranet will account for about 80% of what your employees need.

Try to identify the content that is used most frequently by large numbers of employees. Migrate that content first, either before you begin your pilot or “beta” launch, or for launch day itself. You can use the “Priority” field in the worksheet to note this content and sort by it. Once you’ve finished moving the most important 20%, move on to the next big chunk of content.

Image of woman with chainsaw deleting intranet content

This approach breaks down a massive effort into more manageable chunks. It’s like the old saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

3 ways to use the intranet content migration worksheet

The intranet content migration worksheet can play a helpful role in three different moments of your intranet journey.

Use #1: building a new intranet

The obvious use is when you are planning a new intranet. Much of this article focuses on that type of use.

Use #2: Periodic content reviews

The second way to use the intranet content migration worksheet is for quarterly, semi-annual or annual reviews of your intranet.

In this case you don’t have to fill out the worksheet anew each time. Just update it with content that’s been added since the last review.

For this use of the worksheet you may want to add a column for “popularity”. This will let you note the most popular pages and those that never get used.

If you do add a “popularity” column I suggest using these options:

  • 1 – Top content
  • 2 – Occasional use
  • 3 – Team-based use
  • 4 – Rarely used
  • 5 – Never used

The key to period content reviews is to make them actionable. For example, important content that is rarely used may need to be revamped or moved. Low-value content that is never used could simply be deleted forever.

Use #3: Revamp a specific section

The final way to use this worksheet is when you are planning to update a specific section of the intranet, such as the area that houses HR content.

Once you’ve launched a new intranet you likely want to avoid another wholesale relaunch just a year or two later. By revamping a high-priority section that is under-performing you can improve your intranet bit by bit.

This long-term intranet management approach will let you continuously improve and deliver new value. It also gives you good reason to maintain consistent stakeholder engagement and communicate about the intranet with employees.

Engaging content owners, spreading the workload

If your intranet has 10,000 pages and files (which is perfectly common), the task of inventorying all of it will be a huge effort for just one person.

But you can make the work much more manageable if you can have each department inventory its own content, or different members of the intranet team tackle different sections of the intranet.

This approach provides an added benefit: it engages intranet stakeholders. Once they spend time on the content inventory they’ll 1) have well informed views to feed into the content audit and 2) will feel more involved and have some real “skin in the game”.

If you take this approach, be sure to run a training workshop. Get all your content owners together and study the content migration worksheet together.

Content may be king, but this worksheet lets you rule over it

That’s a pretty lame heading. But don’t underestimate the power of a good spreadsheet.

A content inventory, audit and the ensuing migration take time and effort (be sure to build that into your project plan). Doing it right will end up saving you time and saving your sanity, and this worksheet can help.

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Join The Discussion

  1. David Hobbs

    When doing migration planning, in my opinion one of the most important things is to use rules to make decisions (rather than tagging content item by item) — these rules can then also be used on an ongoing basis as well. This may mean that other data points are needed to make those decisions (like page views for example). Another key is to look at the steps of content handling (http://hobbsontech.com/content/content-handling-process-asking-right-content-migration-questions) in order to make estimates of the manual migration effort level (or to confirm that automation works). Sometimes the mapping is an important part, but in other cases the tagging is more important.

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