Industry Insights

Top Web CMS Integration Firm Discusses the Upgrade Barriers

Last month, here at CMS-Connected, we published an article entitled Forrester Analyst Assesses When & Why to Upgrade Your CMS which included an interview with Forrester’s Senior Analyst Mark Grannan and a poll that poses the question: What are the barriers to upgrading your current platform to the latest release? To follow up and address the results of the poll from an integration standpoint, CMS-Connected Tech Reporter, Laura Myers sat down with Heather MacFayden, Vice President and Director of Production at Falcon-Software, to inquire about the prominent barriers chosen by our CMS-Connected audience, as she has worked with many CMS platforms throughout her more than 20-year career in the space.

The results of the poll made it very clear that cost is a major barrier to upgrading. It came as no surprise for Heather to hear that one of the most common pain points is the monetary cost. To address this issue, she spoke from experience and made a great point saying that the misconception on the maintenance fee often leads them to underestimate the cost. Just because you are paying a maintenance fee doesn’t mean that you will have the upgrades implemented free of charge. There is still a service and resource cost of implementation. A maintenance fee only allows access to all the upgrades and as a result, she says, the real cost often gets missed in budgeting. 

To put this into context, when you consider purchasing a vehicle, you'll see the price tag on the window, but you know there is still more to the cost of owning a vehicle than listed on the brochure or included in salesperson’s pitch, right? The same consideration should be applied when budgeting for a content management system. Besides, if you don’t upgrade your CMS, you are basically throwing money away. Let me explain how so. Typically, part of a maintenance fee goes to research and development activities that vendors do for improving and updating the CMS. When you do not take advantage of the enhancements that come with the new versions, you are simply not getting what you paid for. Although other CMS clients that stay current with version upgrades would appreciate your contribution, it is a real loss for your business if you are not taking part.  

Based on the results of the poll, another common pain point is the complexity of a system. If you stick with the stagnant CMS software versions, are you saving your business some complexities? Or are you causing difficulty of having to implement new technologies all at once, as you can’t simply skip over all the version releases and jump into the most recent upgrade? During the video interview, Heather shed light on this prominent barrier and explained what those complexities might be and how organizations can limit them. The first factor mentioned was having a number of environments to upgrade which naturally affects the time and cost of the project. However, she reminds us that the more behind you are, the more increments involved in your upgrade which means more workload and more complexity. 

One of the ways of limiting complexity is the avoidance of source code modifications. During the interview, Heather mentioned that at Falcon-Software, the project managers often recommend their clients to not do any source code modifications to their CMS files. In the event their clients have already done that, they then recommend making duplicates and copies of those files to make changes to those ones to keep the structure and integrity of the CMS. She explained the reason, saying: “If you do source coding modifications and there is no good audit trail for the changes that have been made, then you can run yourself into some dangerous zones when it comes to doing an upgrade.” 

Another incremental step Heather recommends organizations follow during the upgrade process is the regression test. Regression testing is a type of software testing that verifies that the software previously developed and tested still performs correctly even after it was changed or interfaced with other software. The more integration you have, the more regression testing you should run to make sure everything still works with the new changes. Based on Heather’s experience, a lot of people underestimate that the regression test has to happen. 

After all, just like any project within an organization, upgrading your CMS should be a calculated and defined process, and more often the complexity doesn’t come from the upgrade itself but the process. However, if you avoid upgrading your technology because of the complexity of your current system, remember that you also open your doors to cyber-attacks that can tarnish your online creditability. According to the Menlo Security’s findings, 22% of the top million dollar websites have reported having outdated infrastructures. You might think that your website is relatively small so you couldn’t be a victim of any cyber-attack but the bad news is, many attacks are automated so it is mostly a matter of luck. Here are some examples of the worst that can happen: 

  • removing all content

  • replacing your content with offensive material

  • spamming the site with links

  • changing passwords to take over the admin access

So do you still think that “ignorance is bliss”

What If You Won’t Support An Upgrade Path?

We also asked Heather what could happen if an organization won’t support an upgrade path. She explained it from an integration standpoint: “If you don’t upgrade your CMS, your website won’t go down but you will definitely lose out on functionality as vendors always come up with the latest technology to stay ahead of the trends," said Heather MacFayden. She then added: “So when you get behind, eventually, you will get to the point where you will want to do some updates to your site, and all of a sudden you can’t do them, as making them has become more complicated and difficult.” When you lose out on functionality, a result is, you will lose your visitors. Studies have shown that if your website takes more than 4 seconds to load, your conversion rate will be declined by 40%. Moreover, you might think 3 "Mississippis" wouldn’t be a big deal but most customers will wait no more than 3 seconds before abandoning the site. The latest version of a CMS often comes with a more efficient code that enables faster running and a more responsive site. So when you ignore the upgrades you also ignore the benefit of new features and enhanced functionality that bolster the back-end interface and front-end capabilities. Just because your web-ecosystem may not be a problem today, doesn’t mean you will never face the challenges of falling behind. When that happens, though, it might become a bigger initiative to undertake at that time as, again, the longer you leave it, the longer the process takes. 

Another brutal consequence of getting too far behind your update is that your technology will no longer be a supported version from the vendor, meaning that you are basically on your own when a problem occurs. Therefore, Heather’s recommendation is typically, don't let yourself get more than one major version behind. 

Internal Governance 

If you have watched the interview with Mark Grannan, you may recall that one of the things he touched on was the internal governance struggles that can inhibit an upgrade from moving forward. Heather also sees this as one of the biggest challenges when it comes to upgrading a CMS and believes that the best way to overcome this roadblock is to make a plan in advance. Typically, most of the CMS vendors come up with a major update anywhere between 12 and 18 months of time. As CMS is not a one-off purchase, Heather suggests her clients make sure that they have allocated a technology upgrade budget. In fact, she even thinks that those plans should be made when an organization purchases a CMS in the first place. After all, it is not really professional to ask whoever makes the buying decisions within the organization to approve a relatively high expense, say, in the middle of the year, if it is not included in the annual budget. 

Other Barriers 

As a result of the poll, we had 6% of organizational representatives choose “other”, so we wondered if Heather could venture a guess as to what those other barriers may be. She came up with three other possible reasons: 

  • Organizational changes: A company could be acquired or shift their business. 

  • Resource changes: When organizations appoint, say, a new CEO or CMO, there are chances that the new person could not be used to managing the current system as they have come from a different CMS knowledge background. 

  • Not getting the most out of the CMS: If the features don’t get used, people start devalueing the platform. To tackle this issue, Heather believes that it is important to have an evangelist within the organization for the CMS that they have in place. It should be someone who is proactive with using the features and functionality, knows how to use it, what the platform can do, and, more importantly, someone who consistently looks forward to figuring out what the organization's use is of the software to get the most out of it. 

As we discussed in the first part of this series, content management software vendors consistently report that anywhere between 15 – 55% of their current clients are behind more than a year on upgrading their CMS. That is what I call an opportunity for a competitive advantage. After all, when you do not upgrade your CMS, you are not only endangering your website’s security and its creditability but you are also losing out on the benefits of new enhancements which is, arguably, the most exciting part of upgrading your technology. Upgrading your website may necessitate time and budget but the opportunity cost can easily add up to be more than your total cost of having the right technology in place.

If you would like to get some additional advice or consultation on upgrading your web content management software, Heather MacFayden can be reached at or reach her toll free at 800.707.1311.

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.

Featured Case Studies