Have you ever watched a flock of birds migrating, soaring over your head in a coordinated effort to get to their new location? Pretty cool, right? Year after year, birds move majestically through the sky, on a mission in a coordinated pattern to accomplish their goal. If only content migrations could mirror that coordination and simplicity. Content migrations, moving digital content from one platform to another, are the ugly ducklings of the migration set. More specifically, they are the “groan, we just can’t face it” sort of migration that has executives putting them off for far too long, employees dreading the task, customers fed up with old platforms and vendors pushing new content platforms by oversimplifying the content migration process.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the appropriate planning, knowledge, expectations and leadership, content migrations can be successfully completed on time, on budget and with satisfied customers, both internally and externally. Let’s look at the top ten content migration factors to consider for a successful content migration journey.
Top 10 Content Migration Elements
It’s important early on in the process of a content migration to establish the “why” of what you are doing. Those leading the migration need to craft a clear explanation of why the migration is needed and why it is being undertaken. Consider this explanation from the standpoint of all stakeholders — customers, employees, the company as a whole, etc. Write a concise “mission statement” and communicate this, multiple times, to everyone in your company who will be affected by the migration.
When developing the “why” of your migration, it’s also important to start with realistically communicated expectations. Expectations should include the fact that there will be bumps in the road. Surprises will pop up out of nowhere, and you will have to deal with them in terms of timing and budget. When planning, factor in time and money to deal with the unknown. Because if there’s one thing that is known, it is that the unknown will reveal itself at the worst possible time!
3. Content Landscape Inventory
At the outset of a project, take full inventory of all existing content, platforms and media types. Don’t rush into the excitement of a new website or content management platform without fully evaluating and logging all current content pieces and what feeds them to your site or social media. This step is invaluable and will save you many headaches down the road.
In addition to identifying all pieces of existing content and determining if they can be reused or scrapped and noting what new content needs created, it’s important to identify existing workflows. You want to make sure that your new platform can accommodate workflows you currently have in place. For example, if you identify that content pieces A and B work together to create a special offer for customers, and you realize that your new content platform doesn’t have a spot for content piece B, it’s far better to know that before starting the migration so that you can account for it in creating the new plan, than when you are 75% of the way through and have to create a last minute work around that takes you over budget and over time.
Identify and include key stakeholders early on. Too often, higher-level management identify the need for a content migration and begin the process without looping in the day-to-day content producers. These content employees, which may include employees in SEO, marketing and social media, have an intimate knowledge of content, workflows, processes and procedures and can provide valuable insight into what needs to be considered when moving pieces of content around and selecting and/or programming new platforms.
Be sure to carefully evaluate technology capabilities of potential new content management platforms early and often. Loop in as many of your programming experts, from managers to rank and file, as early as you can. Have them work with your content teams who’ve identified the complete content landscape and workflows to see what percentage of current content and processes can be accommodated by the potential platforms and what workarounds or programming modifications will need to be made to accommodate the remaining percentage. If you’re switching to HTTPS or adding tracking (such as Google Analytics) to your website, which you should, then your technology team will need to plan for those tasks.
7. Pilot Mindset
Go into the migration with a “start small and then scale” attitude. Test, evaluate and then roll out. Too many times, those in the midst of migrations make assumptions when they shouldn’t. For example, don’t assume that users will automatically understand how to use new platforms. Start with a small group and test, revise and then roll out to a larger group.
It’s important to have a “PR manager” as it were when it comes to a content migration. This person should be responsible for crafting communications throughout the migration process and distributing those communications, from the initial “why” to the daily reports of what’s working, what’s not, timing interruptions, etc. Keeping everyone apprised of progress will cultivate a sense of unity about a project, and it will be easier for them to ride out the rough waters of change that will inevitably come.
After doing all of the above, create a master timeline with input from all stakeholders, from executives leading the charge to programmers and front-line content producers. Create a timeline that is reasonable yet challenges the team. Build in time for the unknown or surprise problems, but don’t provide so much cushion that teams lose their focus. Once you’ve established and distributed the timeline, have someone responsible for checking it regularly, communicating accomplishments against goals and updating the timeline to reflect progress.
Create a master budget for the content migration so that you have a fully loaded understanding of what this migration will cost you in terms of new technology, staff resources and content production. Again, ensure someone owns the budget and regularly tracks actual expenses against projections, updates the budget and communicates appropriately to stakeholders.
If you carefully consider these ten elements when planning a content migration, it will help you avoid some of the missteps that others have faced. To find out more about how EnVeritas Group can help you lead a successful content migration, contact Harris Quinn via [email protected].
Aubrae Wagner – Content Creator
Aubrae Wagner has worked in the content marketing field for over 15 years, helping companies create and manage content that creates sales, increases branding and accomplishes goals. She has led global teams in the creation of content in a number of industries, from travel and hospitality to manufacturing and retail sales. She specializes in large scale content production and managing complex projects.