Know When It’s Time to Retire Your Applications – Starting with Documentum

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Click to learn more about author Bill Tolson.

It’s a difficult part of life, but nothing lasts forever, including once widely deployed business applications. As most IT professionals at least understand if not embrace, retirement of aging applications is a necessary part of an application’s lifecycle. Like any product, applications have a shelf life, and once past their prime are best either migrated or terminated from use. The motivations that inspire this evolution and necessary relinquishment of an application as it transitions from dependable to expendable include:

  • Cost and/or risk reduction
  • Consolidation
  • New regulatory or legal requirements
  • Market availability of a more innovative solution

Even if IT administrators accept this process, however, a major challenge that remains for many organizations is what to do with any application data that’s associated with the system. One option to consider is certainly Data Migration of critical data to a more reliable solution to reduce costs and improve the experience for end users.

But before we can delve into those details, it helps to pinpoint what types of applications are ripe for retirement. One that certainly belongs on the top-10 list is Documentum, which has experienced a flurry of ownership changes. While Documentum served as EMC’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution for a good stretch of time, that came to an end in September 2016 when Dell purchased EMC. Not long after, OpenText bought EMC’s ECD Division—including Documentum—from Dell. This ongoing organizational instability has understandably resulted in many IT professionals losing confidence in the product’s viability both short- and long-term. It has also surfaced some valid questions and concerns such as:

  • What does Documentum’s future look like within OpenText?
  • Are further upgrades planned for introduction, or is the current product as good as it gets?
  • What about bug fixes and interoperability challenges—will those get addressed?
  • Will current support levels be maintained or reduced?
  • Are there going to be fee hikes for support charges?
  • Could there be still more shifts in ownership down the road?

IT decision makers also need to consider whether the most recent series of owner swaps might be the final push they’ve been waiting for to escape their organization’s reliance on ECM systems, which are enormous, expensive, and extremely complex. While the changes at first glance might seem inconvenient, another way of viewing it is as a potential opportunity to explore and perhaps migrate to a system that’s more agile, less costly, easier to manage, and ultimately safer.

Create Your Data Strategy

Let’s return to the question of Data Migration. As Documentum installations begin to retire over the next year or so, it will be time to address what to do with your organization’s legacy Documentum data. Options include moving to:

  • Another in-house ECM platform
  • A Public Cloud ECM application
  • A combination of both on-site and Cloud-based systems

Whichever route you choose, you can save hassles and headaches (not to mention cash) by creating a data strategy on the front end. To increase your chances of success, here are two key steps to employ when crafting your strategy:

Step 1: Evaluate and categorize all Documentum data. As part of the data evaluation process, IT can enlist the support of other stakeholders throughout the organization, which might include business-line managers, lawyers, compliance officers, and even the C-suite. Ask these three questions to determine the appropriate categorization:

  • Is it business-critical data that must remain quickly accessible?
  • Is it older or less-critical data that the organization must continue to retain for legal/compliance reasons?
  • Is it outdated or non-operational data that the organization can safely dispose of without the risk of regulatory noncompliance?

Step 2: Determine where to relocate the data. As mentioned above, one option for Data Migration is move the information to yet another in-house ECM platform. I don’t recommend this strategy though, since as most IT professionals will confirm, this road is likely to be both the most expensive choice and the slowest—not just initially but also over the long-term. A better alternative for low-touch or inactive Documentum data that the organization must nevertheless retain is to migrate into a low-cost cloud archive. This choice is superior based on common sense and borne out by the evidence, since a cloud archive allows for secure storage, quick access, and easy searchability. A Cloud solution also allows you to manage the data with retention and disposition policies, and export data as needed to respond to legal or regulatory requests.

Swapping Complexity for Cost-Effectiveness

You can reap identical benefits if you migrate your Documentum data into a next-generation ECM application. The key is to first extract and archive the inactive data to an affordable Cloud archive. This allows you to reduce both the time and complexity of migrating to a new, lower-cost ECM application, so you can wave goodbye to expensive, outdated Documentum.

I can tell you from personal experience that during my career, I’ve worked with many organizations that initially went all-in with heavy investments of time and resources into large and overly complex ECM systems. Over time, though, these systems were retired and eventually pushed aside to make room for superior, easier-to-use, less expensive alternatives—consider as one example the rise and continuing popularity of Microsoft SharePoint.

That’s why I advise organizations that are planning a move to a new solution that it’s really all about how that data gets moved. It doesn’t matter if the move was to another in-house platform, a Cloud solution, or a hybrid approach. I’ve seen that the most important variable in how IT professionals feel about the move is what solution they employed to move their data from the old to the new solution. So don’t underestimate how the actual migration will impact your company’s experience and results—give this part of the process the due diligence it deserves.

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