Irish author Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” We agree because we’ve both made and seen a lot of mistakes, which equates to a lot of experience. At EnVeritas Group, we definitely don’t let our mistakes, or the mistakes we see others make, go to waste. We learn from them, build from them and look out for them in future projects. The voice of experience can certainly be a welcoming one when you are faced with what seems like an overwhelmingly large content migration project. We’ve channeled the expertise of our seasoned content marketing experts to help you by pointing out the top 10 mistakes you should avoid when considering a content migration project.

1. Under-Emphasize the Task

“Too often, we see organizations embark on extensive website redesigns involving new page templates, new navigation and new site organization, all of which are exciting developments. Unfortunately, ‘what to do with the content’ is sometimes a decision that’s shelved until too close to launch. It shouldn’t be. What if your new page templates have text fields your old ones didn’t have? What if the images, graphics and videos you want to migrate over from your old site need to fit new size or resolution specs? Worse, what if their current formats aren’t supported by your new content management system (CMS)? The key is to have a content migration plan from the onset of your relaunch process. After all, content is what draws users into your site in the first place.”
Joey Hall, VP Client Services

2. Fail to Create a Realistic Timeline

“It seems everyone becomes as optimistic as Pollyanna when they initially put time projections on content migration projects. I once had a potential client with hundreds of thousands of website pages, all of which had different formats and types of content and more stakeholders than you could count, that estimated they could research and select a new CMS and successfully migrate all their content without any hiccups in delivery or lost revenue in a 4-6 month period. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I laundry listed the ways this was impractical, from the fact that a full-scale content audit alone would take weeks if not months to the fact that organizational education and buy-in from hundreds of stakeholders is key.”
Brice Bay, CEO

3. Assume Your Budget is Fixed

“At the beginning of a project, definitely budget for the ‘known unknown.’ You may not know what the unknown is, but it will definitely happen. Once you establish a budget for the content migration project and include your ‘known unknown,’ don’t consider it set in stone. The budget, like the migration project, will change and move as the target changes and moves. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the target will absolutely change and move. Even with the best planning measures and your smartest people working on moving your content from one platform to another, unexpected challenges will arise. Solving these challenges takes time, people, software or a combination of all three to fix. This boils down to budget adjustments. Regularly update your budget and inform executive stakeholders of the changes, giving them the opportunity to see changes incrementally, ask questions and provide guidance.”
Michael Quattlebaum, CFO

4. Ignore Workflows

“I’ve seen too many content migration projects fly into production without the proper preflight workflow checks. It’s important you understand which content pieces influence each other and how both your current CMS and manual processes are setup to trigger the next step toward a final result. For example, do you require website updaters to enter a code that then signals the system to make preset selections? What happens if the new system isn’t capable of doing that or a new process needs to be communicated to updaters, but no one thought to map that out beforehand? You get the idea. Suddenly you have a fire on your hands that you could have anticipated had you mapped out workflows for each event on your website.”
Sara Hinson, Senior Client Services Account Manager

5. Don’t Dive Deep when Researching a CMS

“It seems like it should go without saying, but take the appropriate amount of time to dig deeply into prospective content management systems. Don’t rely on price or brand name to drive your decision. Make sure you understand your current website and CMS workflows, and have those mapped out so you can ask intelligent questions about CMS capabilities and compatibilities. Know your current set-ups flaws and how you would like to fix them. Vet prospects rigorously to ensure they can solve the problems you need to solve.”
Aubrae Wagner, Content Specialist

6. Overestimate Software

“Assuming that the CMS you have chosen will solve the majority of your problems without any customization gets people into trouble when doing content migrations. Our experience has been that software platforms can solve a lot of problems, but for large or complicated websites and eCommerce platforms, there are moving parts that need customization by expert programmers who understand both business demands and code.”
Bekk Blando, Software Engineer

7. Treat Internal Programmers as Extraneous to the CMS Decision Making Process

“It’s interesting to note the folks around the discussion table at the beginning of potential CMS discussions. It’s definitely numbers people and suits with “Cs” in their titles, but there seems to be limited, if any, involvement of in-the-trenches programmers. Absent are the people who spend their days living and breathing the code that makes the systems run (or not depending on the legacy problems you may have). Be sure to think about the triumvirate of business needs, content and software capacity, on the current site and potential new site, as a unit when considering a content migration project.”
Ben Hudson, Senior Software Engineer

8. Ignore Everyone Except English Speakers

“Too many times those migrating content to a new website or CMS platform focus solely on the English content, forgetting that content in other languages needs to be migrated as well. The start of a content migration project is a great time to take stock of the content in multiple languages on your site. Audit your content in all languages and see what content needs to be refreshed, translated or created from scratch. Be strategic in language selection to get the biggest return on your investment, and ensure that the new content system can handle the languages you have or plan to have.”
Lisa Plumridge, Chief Content Officer

9. Forget that Your Front Line Employees Have Tons of Valuable Intel

“From the very beginning of the CMS evaluation and selection process and the subsequent migration of content, it’s crucial to involve the content team that knows your website, content and processes for updating content best. Even with a thorough content audit, it’s likely that you’ll still miss important elements that inform content migration to a new site, such as variety that exists within site pages that seem to be the same, differences among multiple sites that appear similar but have just enough disparity to cause trouble and processes that are detailed and require multiple stakeholders’ input. Rely on the people who are closest to the sites and stakeholders on a day-to-day basis; they can usually spot potential problems that would have had you delaying launch or losing revenue.”
Laurel Reese, Senior Project Manager

10. Ignore Murphy’s Law

“With a theatre background, I know the show always must go on, despite whatever ‘ole Murphy throws at us. And Murphy always throws a few curve balls, whether it’s a theatre performance suddenly losing all lights or a content migration backup failure. Go into the project with the mindset of ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong,’ and you will be mentally prepared for the inevitable, unexpected problems and surprises. If you handle them with grace and a solutions-minded approach, it will set you apart as a leader. If you are managing a content migration project, be sure to build a ‘cushion of time’ each day in your schedule to deal with the inevitable problems. Much like those doing the budgeting should plan for extra wiggle room, your timelines and project plans, in addition to your daily schedule, need to have a bit of built-in flexibility, or you risk burning out, making mistakes or both.”
Kathleen Gossman, Senior Project Manager

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