CMS Upgrade from a Client's Perspective
With content management systems used at such a macro level, and new versions coming out on what feels like a daily basis, it can be overwhelming to be an organization in a sea of choices, looking for a life raft of information to make the right decision on upgrading their content management system.
After hearing from well-known industry analyst Mark Grannan of Forrester Research, and implementation expert Heather MacFayden of Falcon-Software, I wanted to get a perspective from the client-side, so I reached out to Corina Ursu, Creative Director at Regency Fireplace Products, to hear about her recent experience with a CMS upgrade, facilitated by Falcon-Software.
Regency Fireplace Products is a global leader in the design, manufacturing and marketing of hearth products. Having started in Vancouver, Canada in 1979, it is still headquartered there and supplies over 2000 retailers throughout the world. In addition to the CMS Upgrade, Regency was in the market for a new and improved website with four main business objectives: up-to-date design, support for multiple languages, mobile responsiveness and to have an overall elevated customer experience. Corina dives into further detail in the interview but in a few short weeks following the launch, Regency was happy to report on statistics showing increased user engagement, and mobile usage of their site skyrocket.
Upgrading Their Kentico CMS
The first step for Regency with this new project, was to upgrade their Kentico CMS to the most current version available at the time, Kentico 9, (Kentico 10 has since launched, on November 30th, 2016). When I asked why they chose to stick with Kentico and not explore another platform provider, Corina had a very simple yet impactful answer: “It’s a good match for the timely updates, new improvements every year, new features added, easier to use, to maintain”. Her compliments rang true for their vision, and reminded me of the end of my interview with their Director of Product, Karol Jarkovsky, where he eludes to their consistent forward momentum and their heavy reliance on independent research to know and deeply understand their valued customers.
One of the important elements of this upgrade, was the many changes and improvements to Kentico’s API in version 8, that would drastically affect all three sites Regency ran on Kentico if not tended to one-by-one. Falcon-Software systematically identified and addressed each to ensure Regency wouldn’t experience a negative impact to the function of their business due to this change.
As mentioned by Mark Grannan and Heather MacFayden, these versioning steps, have to be performed in sequence, in order to arrive at a final version destination, there is no skipping ahead so to speak. In other words, to get from Kentico 7, to Kentico 9, Regency had to pass through Kentico 8, where the API changes would come into effect.
Many in the CMS industry are aware of this process, but it is one of the ways an upgrade can be complex (and costly) the further behind an organization gets and if you’re an organization not particularly well-versed in the CMS world, you’ll need a trusted ally to guide you through.
A Partner Can Help or Inhibit
This is where the choice of an implementation partner can be crucial. With the complexity of an upgrade being a common inhibitor to organizations in need, its important to find a partner who will minimize and not add to the complex nature of an upgrade. Another important factor, is finding one who understands the importance of a thorough knowledge transfer so an organization is equipped to be as self-sufficient as they can be post-launch. Finally, a key factor is a cohesion between the working teams of the organization, and the implementation firm.
Interestingly enough, Corina commented on the almost decade long relationship with Falcon-Software by saying she looks upon their team as simply part of her own, having worked with Falcon-Software on two projects previous to this most recent one. To hear from the partner side, I reached out to Wendy Cardiff, Web Project Manager at Falcon-Software, who worked closely with Regency, to hear a bit about what made their working relationship so successful. “Regency came to us highly prepared. In the initial stages they had a document prepared of all their needs for the project, and we took those specifications, assimilated them to our unique project process and created the requirements. I think the key to the success of this project was the fundamental understanding shared between our team and the Regency team and the investment we had in their success, as we have with all of our clients. Even post launch, Regency had real-time data of users navigating their site and we worked with them to take note of the pattern and adjust the site accordingly, to ensure it was as streamlined to use as possible.”
How to Prepare for an Upgrade
Preparation is another meaningful consideration when it comes to a CMS upgrade. As Heather
MacFayden mentioned, it can be utilized from a monetary standpoint, with an ‘upgrade savings’ amount being allocated within an organization’s budget to make upgrades less of a financial burden when they arise. Another thing Mark Grannan suggested, was to prepare a content audit, using the example of moving an entire house: sort out which content needs to go, which needs to come with you, and the best way to unpack that content when it gets to its new location.
All in all, upgrades can be done independently, or in the case of Regency Fireplace Products, as the first phase of a brand new website implementation. Either way, an organization shouldn’t feel embarrassed or concerned if they are unsure the best route to take, which platform to choose and which version they should go to. Conduct your own market research, make use of informational sites like us at CMS-Connected or if you prefer a human connection, reach out to those at integration firms, like Heather MacFayden at Falcon-Software to see what kind of insight can be shared.