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Case Study: Managing a Content Migration for a Compliance-Focused Pharmaceutical Industry—Allergan

May 25, 2006 by Leighton Hendrick

AllerganImagine opening your closet in search of your favorite shirt, only to find it missing. You rifle through the hangers; you’re sure it’s got to be there somewhere. Later, you discover that your spouse folded it and placed it underneath a stack of fresh T-shirts in your bureau drawer. Translate this kind of scenario to the digital world: for example, on your personal computer, you routinely save documents related to your personal and professional life. You name documents, save them, place them in specific folders. This time, imagine someone- a family member or colleague, perhaps-going into your electronic files and mixing them up, saving them under different names, making it difficult for you to determine what is what. In both worlds of computers and clothes, another set of hands getting into your stuff can make it impossible to keep track of everything.

Multiply this scenario by several thousands, and you might begin to understand the magnitude of the task put forth before Blue Fish when they were hired by Allergan, a global pharmaceutical company (its best-selling product is Botox), to consolidate and move high volumes of its manufacturing documents. With over 5,200 employees worldwide, Allergan maintains a marketing-and-sales presence in over 100 countries, such as Dubai, Malaysia, and Finland. The challenge at hand for Blue Fish: during recent years, Allergan accumulated over 600,000 documents located in three docbases (read: enormous electronic filing cabinets) at three different company sites (Irvine, California; Waco, Texas; and Westport, Connecticut). All of these documents needed to be moved seamlessly into one central database-called CORAL (or Controlled Repository for Allergan Documents)-that provided a uniform system of naming and access.

In the case of Allergan, another layer of complexity was added by the necessity for all of these documents and systems to be in compliance with the rules and processes enforced by the Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies that govern the pharmaceutical industry in the countries where Allergan operates. In technical-speak, this complex process is called a migration. Instead of flying geese, it’s electronic documents; hence, the project name Snow Goose.

The game plan for Snow Goose- working with Documentum content management software, the Blue Fish team-consisting of Jes Wills, Software Architect, and Glen Tarrant, Senior Consultant-would employ Blue Fish DIXI, a tool that adds flexibility in manipulating data during a migration. Initially, both the Allergan and Blue Fish teams assumed that this process would be fairly straightforward, but in the end it proved to be much more involved. “The actual data was more complicated than expected,” explains Mark Bridges, Allergan’s Migration Team Lead for the Snow Goose project. “Luckily Glen and Jes were able to come up with solutions to deal with these complications.”

As a part of the project, Wills and Tarrant created a “workbench” of new tools for the Allergan migration. In addition to DIXI, these tools facilitated the process of cleaning up the disparate documents and preparing them for the eventual migration process.

“The creativity of Jes and Glen was tremendously helpful,” says Bridges. “We had all kind of issues with the data, and they came up with the tools that helped our company get this data in order.” “Whatever we asked for, the guys developed it for us,” adds David McDonagh, Allergan’s Project Manager on Snow Goose.

Another variable in the process was the limited window of time allowed for the actual migration. “We could only shutdown the docbases for so long,” explains Bridges. “We were given nine days-and needed to ensure that we wouldn’t get caught in a bad situation and not have enough time.” As a result, Wills and Tarrant migrated static content (or documents that weren’t going to be changed) prior to the shutdown window in order to make the actual migration more manageable. Also, a number of dress rehearsals were performed in order to troubleshoot any foreseeable glitches. As a result, the migration to CORAL only took three days. “Everything went so quickly and smoothly,” says McDonagh. “We haven’t had any migration-related issues since the system was put into place.”

Now all of the manufacturing documents, at Allergan, are consistent throughout the entire company. “All of our documents are located in one docbase,” says Bridges. “Everything is done the same way. That’s the main benefit of the migration.” “We now have a global system,” adds Kathleen Foley, Allergan’s Validation Team Lead on Snow Goose project. “Everyone is using the same format, process, and presentation.”

“We’ll be knocking on the door of Blue Fish for our next migration project,” says McDonagh, referring to the future project related to Allergan’s research-and-development documents. “That’s the best way of saying that we’re very satisfied with the outcome of the project.”