New CMS and Content Migration

So you’ve assembled the team for your organization’s new web site. Enhanced visual design, revised content and a  new and improved Content Management System (CMS) are all on tap for the project. Everyone is psyched. Want to know what the the most difficult part of the project will likely be? No, it’s not the 20 person design review. It’s not the scary web development and systems integration requirements. Or managing to a sketchy project scope. Or the impossible timeline. Or the difficult key stakeholder….

Time and again, experience dictates it’s the content. Nothing kills a web site project timeline and momentum like content. It is almost always underestimated, even by experienced web teams. Creating, editing, migrating, paring down, managing the process – you name it. It’s hard. Far harder than most anticipate. Not to mention a web sites’s content structure, flow and ultimate effectiveness. Content can fell the hardest of deadlines and bring the even the most motivated of web project teams to their knees. 

There’s an interesting article, No Small Task: Migrating Content to a New CMS, on CMS Wire highlighting one aspect of the content equation – the partuicularly ugly task of migrating from one CMS (or even a large volume of static pages) to another content management system. This is usually where a business stakeholder or the Project Manager asks the development team to “just write a script or something” (OK, OK, full disclosure, guilty as charged on more than one ocassion). Unfortumately, there is usually no sliver bullet. A mix of automated and manual intervention is the likely scenario you face. 

So, what’s a web team to do? Well, some better tips from the article include:

  • Do a full content inventory
  • Identify process efficienies
  • Be wary of hyperlink and bookmarking
  • Quality Assurance is critical
  • Assess the cost / value proposition for automation vs. manual entry

The last bullet is the one that is often least understood. Sure, many times a script can be written to get content from one database to another. A lot depends on the database strcutures, but the bigger issue has more to do with how the content is used in the new CMS. Normally, features and content that are critical to the enhancemnts in the new site are not in the old structure (or at least not easily re-purposed). So, even if you do get the content over smoothly, you still need to go back over in order to build an effective new web site.

Whatever you decide, form a plan early to tackle the issue.

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