CMS Content Migration Opportunities and Concerns

In preparing for a meeting to discuss architecture for migrating data from one CMS to another, I realize that I have written a few things about data migration, but that I need a short list of potential opportunities and concerns. If you have anything to add, please comment on this blog post.

  • ROI: Customers tend to assume that data migration should be automated and relatively straightforward, so they are often concerned when my first question is about the ROI of automation relative to manual copy and paste. The data volume and structure may not warrant the investment required for automated migration and subsequent testing, and the quality of some content may not warrant migration at all, as old content can become a liability without adding value. Not only might a manual process be more cost-effective, but it can add value, such as by reviewing content and metadata. Unfortunately, based on their initial expectations of automation, customers generally do no to hear suggestions for a manual process, and especially for additional effort to review their existing content.
  • Opportunity: Could migration be an opportunity not only to reconsider technology platform and record structure, but to reconsider the information architecture, discard redundant and obsolete content, update content for currency, consistency of voice and otherwise, and for other general improvements?
  • Synchronization: Which system has primacy for what data during the migration? Are there phases during which CMS uses must perform dual data entry, such as to correct data in the live CMS after importing data into the new CMS but before that system goes live?
  • Process: How will the migration occur? Is it necessary to replace the entire CMS at once, or individual CMS repositories, or individual projects, or individual pages, or components, or text elements, or otherwise?
  • Automation: To support batching imports and testing subsets of imports, any automated process should allow application to a subset of the data required for a full import.
  • Simplify: In general, the simplest solution presents the lowest cost and risk. More complex solutions do not always add corresponding value.
  • Structure: How will the individual record and aggregate structures such as hierarchies map between systems and the technologies used to consume the data? Will the new structures be optimal for all potential consuming applications, or somehow shaped by their structure in the legacy CMS?
  • Testing: What is the strategy for testing after different phases of the import process? Under what criteria is migration testing complete?
  • Tools: Would it make sense to use import tools provided by the vendor for the text, the binary, or all content to import, or would it be better to write something custom against the vendor’s APIs? In the first case, how much effort might be involved in getting the data into the required format? In the second case, how much more or less relative effort would be required, and what additional value could a custom process add?
  • Export: Is it possible to export the data from the legacy CMS into an intermediary system to address issues with the content, metadata, information architecture, and otherwise, and to use that intermediary system as the source for the target CMS, where that intermediary system could be something as simple as Excel spreadsheets in which users can make their changes before import?
  • Order: What import order makes the most sense? Generally, binaries do not reference text, so we can import binary data first, but what about content entries that reference other content entries?
  • References: What is the strategy for managing structured (fields) and unstructured (markup) links in the imported data including between CMS entries, from CMS entries to media, and from CMS entries to external sites? How does this affect the order or logic of the import process?
  • Style: What should the import process do with any styles, JavaScript, or other solution-specific markup or code in the imported data?

See Also

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