Technics to iTunes – a “different spin” on legacy decommissioning

My friend Mark was a famous DJ in the 1990s. He made his living generating the soundtrack to a million good times and unforgettable nights at clubs and parties around the world.

Like most DJs at the time, his tools of the trade were Technics SL-1200 turntables ‑ and thousands of 12″ vinyl records he stored on heavy duty metal shelving that dominated an entire wall in his home.

Mark’s “wall of sound” was his passion. He knew where every track was. Records were arranged alphabetically by artist, and he had a spreadsheet to correlate specific song titles with their exact location on the shelving. Yes, it was a clunky, basic process, but his version of “records management” (get it!?) worked for him. Life was good.

Time marched on, and Mark’s girlfriend moved in with him. She tolerated the wall of sound initially but once they got married and then had children the globe-trotting DJ partying came to an end. Eventually his precious records found themselves boxed up and consigned to storage in the back of a garage.

Fast forward to 2017 and my friend finds himself sitting on a mountain of vinyl that holds a ton of value, both sentimental and in the capital used to procure it. Unfortunately, it’s now completely unmanaged – both his alphabetizing and master spreadsheet were rendered useless in the move to long-term storage. Feeling the pangs of nostalgia – and possibly a mid-life crisis – Mark has embarked on a project to convert his musical content from analog to digital.

Bringing structure to the unstructured

The basic steps he followed are a classic example of the Extract, Transform, and Load methodology utilized by enterprises of all types to move data from an outmoded system to a more current platform, with the ultimate goal of decommissioning the legacy system:

Extract: The initial step that involves fully understanding which content is contained in the legacy store and identifying what’s worth retaining. In Mark’s case, that meant spending hours re-listening to long-forgotten favorites and jotting down the ones he wanted to convert to digital.

Transform: In this case, the conversion was from analog to digital but it could just as easily be from one database format to another or one file type to another.

Load: Transfer the files into the content management platform of choice, apply meta-data, and integrate with workflows. For Mark, that involved uploading into iTunes, letting it confirm the title, artist, and genre, and then spending a few hours building playlists.

When it was all said and done, his data (the new digital tunes) became searchable in a variety of new ways ‑ artist, title, genre, date, beats per minute ‑ and can be accessed in ways that were never possible when it was trapped in the grooves of vinyl. Mark essentially turned a truckload of physical content into a digital resource he can access anywhere and anytime through the cloud. What’s more, he can integrate these files with new digital content he’s continually acquiring and benefit from having it all at his fingertips in one repository.

Oh, and the decommissioning of the legacy system? Well, Mark sold his turntables for a nice price on eBay, but he just can’t bring himself to sell the records. He swears his wall of sound will be resurrected someday. Fair enough. I guess there’s a place for the cost of emotional attachment in our personal lives that enterprises can’t afford.

Turning the tables on your “record collection”

As the example of my old buddy demonstrates, one doesn’t have to look too hard to find legacy data and systems clogging our personal lives. Enterprises face the same dilemmas as well, except in their case it’s often dusty stores of digital information related to past initiatives or applications that are haunting the dark corners of their IT infrastructure. Almost all this content is unstructured, unmanaged and rarely accessed because it offers little value. Or wait…should that last phrase be flipped to, “it offers little value because it’s rarely accessed?” There is a huge difference.

Chances are, the information found within these repositories contains significant elements of both an organization’s value and risk. There may be gems of innovation and insight in there. There may also be legally damaging content that should’ve been disposed of years ago. The good news is that the very same steps of Extract, Transform, and Load that allowed Mark to once again party like its 1995 will also allow any enterprise to identify and manage their forgotten content. Not to be too overly simplistic, but it’s just a matter of scale and technology.

OpenText™ Legacy Decommissioning is a time-tested, proven methodology that does just that. It allows organizations to take a deep dive into their legacy data, identify the obsolete and worthless, and help manage the integration of the remainder into a more current ECM environment. OpenText also offers Legacy Decommissioning services to ensure your legacy decommissioning projects are a success.

George Harot

George is a Product Marketing Director for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions, based in London, UK.

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