Content Manager’s Guide to CMS Migrations – Part 1 of 3: Your First CMS

So your company finally made the big investment to install a content management system (CMS) for the first time.

Smart move.

Your competitors are already there. Millennials are changing the way the world shops. In today’s e-commerce driven world, you must adapt to survive and thrive. And that means deploying your product information efficiently across all delivery channels. A CMS allows you to do just that.

A CMS offers three primary benefits for content management:

  • Governance — Control over data, voice, style and editing privileges
  • Single repository — One “source of truth” for data and one-stop, efficient maintenance
  • Repurposing — Re-using content across multiple channels

This three-part examines a CMS implementation from a content manager’s perspective. Part One covers planning for the first-time CMS user.

Planning: Prepare for a Marathon

Any CMS implementation is a collaborative effort involving stakeholders from across your organization. The process is slow and painstaking and will take somewhere between one year to 18 months to implement, with another six months or more of post-launch cleanup and troubleshooting.

Your project team taps people from IT, marketing, and perhaps product management as well as your own content group. Hopefully you’ll have a strong project manager who keeps everybody on track and avoid the dreaded “scope creep” that hijacks so many meetings. Together, you can look forward to a rollercoaster ride of frustrations and victories, 12-hour days and endless meetings, cold pizza and lost weekends.

Not to scare, but beware.

For yourself and your own content staff, be sure to assess regular workloads against the demands of the migration. Data modeling and system testing are time-eaters. At some point migration duty morphs into a full-time job. To the extent you can, lighten the load on your Migration Team members.

Content Inventory: Herding Cats

As content manager, one of your most critical preparatory tasks is to gather your content.

Determining the “scope” of a content migration is like wrangling kittens.  Chances are, product data is popping out of every file drawer in the company. Your job is to identify (1) sources of information, and (2) how much information to migrate, such as the number of SKUs or product families.

Create a submission schedule and put everyone in product management and marketing on notice: Do XYZ by this date if you want your information in the system. For product information, your catalogs, brochures, sales sheets and other collateral are obvious sources. For marketing messages and other “static” content you might need to sweep a bit wider.

Organize your results into general categories that make sense for you – perhaps by business unit or product type, and refine down from there into manageable batches to review and prepare for input into the system. Do the math with your available staff hours to establish a migration timeline and schedule.

Note: Not every scrap of information needs to find its way into your CMS. As gatekeeper, you should decide what is CMS-worthy, and what is not. For example, active product information is a keeper, but discontinued products may not be, and obsolete messages should be left behind. Start clean. Start fresh.

Speak Up for Content

As content manager, your job is to ensure that the needs of your business AND your CMS users are met. This means constructing a data model that (1) effectively channels your content to web or print, (2) is as simple and easy as possible for your content developers to use, and (3) results in a customer-friendly presentation that facilitates sales.

If the CMS feeds both an e-commerce web site and print catalogs, make certain that the data model supports both platforms. If you design the model for one and disregard the other, you will regret it later. Think it through carefully.

Always remember that while the IT people understand their world, and the sales and marketing folks know theirs, your team is the content experts. Don’t be cowed by IT technobabble in the planning meetings; speak up and be heard.  You are the champion for content.

I’ve worked side-by-side with very brilliant software developers during migrations. As the data model was on the drawing board they appreciated guidance from me, the end user; my advice was valuable input from a perspective outside their realm, and it helped them to create a more user-friendly interface.

A Content Migration Planning Checklist

  • Staffing — Who will be involved? Who are the project leads? Will you need additional resources? Define roles and responsibilities.
  • IT — How will the CMS interface and integrate with your existing IT infrastructure?
  • Source content — Where is it, and in what forms?
  • Scope — How much content needs to be added? How large is the job?
  • Data model — How will you structure information within your CMS?
  • Output channels — What are the end uses for your CMS content, (ie, Web, catalogs, etc.)?
  • Timeline

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to advance the reader’s general knowledge about content management systems and should not be interpreted as a guide for specific applications or circumstances. Readers are encouraged to consult their CMS provider or a reputable content consultant for guidance with their individual data migration projects.

NEXT UP: In Part 2 we’ll look at Data Modeling for content migrations.

Dan Skantar is Director of Content Services for JP Enterprises

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