Don’t ‘migrate’ content from the old intranet system to the new one

Don’t create a ‘Content Migration Plan’ when you move to a new intranet system; it’s not about migration, it’s about fantastic content that supports people’s work and meets their needs.

When you’re planning to launch a brand new intranet system, the focus should rightly be on what the new system will do for the business and for your people. Part of ‘what it will do’ must of course be in how it presents your content, and people will want to know about the ‘Content Migration Plan’.

‘Migration’ is a misnomer; at least it’s somewhat misleading. It’s unlikely that you’ll just pick up the content of your current / previous intranet  and dump it into the new system. You know you want to re-design the architecture and re-structure the navigation, having learnt what worked and didn’t work on the current intranet. But mostly, you know that most of the ‘news’ is out of date and totally irrelevant to your people and the company you’ve become. Plus, a great many of the reference pages that were written with good intentions but have never been read by anyone (those deep deep pages) are redundant and trivial.

So basically, moving to a new intranet system isn’t about migrating the current content, it’s about honing content to be relevant to your people, providing information that supports their work.

Don’t let the ROT in

It’s not about migration, it’s about auditing and publishing. So much of your current intranet is ROTing – given over to content that is Redundant, Out of date / Obsolete or Trivial.

Duplicate pages are, by definition, redundant – and difficult to maintain (dangerous even). Other redundant pages we may have published in the past are those FAQ pages full of lists of questions and answers that nobody ever asked. FAQs should be real – developed over time – not written by a manager as a way of explaining a topic.

Don’t ‘migrate’ anything that is redundant – and if it doesn’t help a person do their job or get a task done then it is redundant. People don’t browse the intranet for fun, they have specific tasks to complete – don’t let redundant information clog up your menus or search results.

Out of date material should be obvious. The intranet is not an archive of everything that was ever said or that ever happened. The intranet is a tool for getting stuff done today. Your company’s Knowledge Management strategy may need some kind of support for stuff from years back, but if your company doesn’t have a Knowledge Management strategy then your intranet is not the default fall-back solution! Dump the out of date material and don’t even look back.

The cafeteria menu might well be the most viewed page, so fine, arrange for it to be kept up to date. But don’t move non-business related information over to the new system.

Have ROT rules and exercise them often

When you come across an intranet page that rings warning bells, or get asked to publish something that seems, well, way off topic, challenge it to the following criteria:

  • Does it help our people do their jobs?
  • Does it help our people feel part of our company?
  • Is it required reference material (for legal or regulatory or HR purposes)?
  • Is this info already available? (link to it, don’t republish)

Remember, fighting ROT might not be about dumping content, but rather, editing it and bringing it up to standard so it’s useful and relevant to people.

Analyse and audit your content

So don’t ‘migrate’ material, audit and analyse it. Group content types together and see what you have, and what will be truly useful to your people. Copy the good stuff into the new system, sure, but edit the sub-standard material so as to ensure the information is valid and validated by content experts / owners.

Dump the Redundant, dump the Out of date, dump the Trivial.


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Photo credit: Iain Cuthbertson

  1. Actually I think you need to do a full content inventory (not audit), clear out the dead content (rot), and then migrate what’s left (for content owners, updating can be part of the migration process).

    Content migration is an important part of a redesign/relaunch, but I absolutely agree it’s a great time to do a big clear out. One company I worked with recently still had a pile of job ads on their site from 2003!

  2. Hi Alex, thanks for stopping by, always good to see you.

    I think I’ve use the word ‘audit’ as a synonym for ‘inventory’ (my bad) – I really don’t mean to look at the financials of the intranet, I do indeed mean to scrutinise the content.

    Twenty-five tweets of this article! Oh my, how nice!

  3. Three years after it was written, I found this page via a Google search and made good use of it. Very nice article, and I’ll be coming back to your website often as a reference point as we rebuild our Intranet.

    Thank you very much.

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