One of the most important aspects of changing things for end-users of technology in a corporate environment is involving users in the process. In this article I'll explore some of the ways that users can be involved in a PST Migration, not that you may necessarily want them to dictate the process as a whole, there is still a migration job to do, but you want to involve the users so that you have a sympathetic approach to the way the migration proceeds. Involving users will hopefully ensure a smoother migration as we see below
The only people in an organisation that truly know how widespread the use of PST files has become are end-users themselves. IT administrators can scan file servers, even scan end-user workstations, to locate files, but the location of files doesn't give any idea behind the usage of the files, the data in them, or the workflows, processes and policies which are being used through-out the PST file. The tools might also not show how PST files are being shared across colleagues or teams.
Having a selection of users from across an organisation involved in the design of the PST migration solution will enable multiple view points to be presented, and discussed. By doing this it will mean that any 'snatch and grab' approach by PST Migration products or tools can be discussed and smoothed out. Another benefit of having users from the organisation is that they go back and tell colleagues about what is happening, they may even be able to help colleagues with answers to questions that they raise, or at least they may bring any questions, comments and concerns to the design table, so that they can be addressed by the project team.
Users who are chosen for the project should ideally be from all different levels of employee from all different departments in an organisation. Forgetting about a department or having mostly senior employees with 1-2 less-senior people will cause friction amongst the end-user community and could hinder the overall success of the migration. It is important though to try to keep the project team flat. By this I mean that just because someone senior in the organisation has an idea or a comment, it doesn't mean that it is instantly 'the answer', an idea or comment from a junior member of the organisation holds just as much weight.
It is also important to consider the whole of the migration when designing the solution. Don't just think of the moment that migration starts as being when a PST file is first presented to the target archiving solution. The start is actually a lot further back than that, and the end is a lot further on in time that the moment that the PST file is finally ingested into the chosen archiving target.
End-users play a big role in the time around the start of the PST Migration. If they have been adequately involved up to this time then the start of the migration is when the investment in end-user involvement starts to pay off. These empowered end-users are going to be the one that help colleagues with the migration, if any difficulty arises. They can even be seconded into positions where they train help desk staff, or even work in the help desk for a while to assist colleagues with issues. Having 'real' end-users involved in this will greatly help resolve any issues as the migration begins.
Depending on how the PST migration is phased the start of the migration may actually spread over several weeks as different groups of users are chosen for migration. For this reason it's important to maintain the end-user involvement in the start of migration for as long as possible. Knowledge throughout the end-users involved in the migration design will quickly be able to spread to a wider group of people who of course are helping to drive the migration
Migration of the PST data in to the chosen archiving target is not really the end of migration. For a period of time beyond the time of the last PST file which is ingested into the target, end-users are likely to still have concerns and may still be raising issues with the IT Help Desk. These type of issues might fall in to two categories. Firstly users might be asking how to retrieve, or search for the data in the chosen archiving system. Secondly users may be raising concerns over the data that was migrated. Specifically they may be questioning whether in fact all of their data was migrated. This is a tricky issue to address with users, but having a robust set of tools or a third party product will help greatly. Couple that with end-user involvement still being present even at this time will hopefully help allay any fears and prove the PST migration was successful, and all data becomes accessible.
As you can see any kind of PST Migration isn't hostile to end-users, it is the job of IT folks, and consultants to make sure that users understand that, and one of the best ways to do that is to bring them in on the decision making process. You need a level playing field, and by that I mean that the company hierarchies need to be somewhat flattened, at least for the migration project team. This way everyone has a voice, no-one feels silly raising an issue which might be important to them, and would otherwise be overlooked. It is critical to involve the user community throughout the process - not just at the end when hostility may have built up over the 'taking away' of something (ie the PST files).
How have you involved users in something tricky like PST Migration? Let me know in the comments below.