"Migration" Might be the Most Dangerous Word in CMS

By Deane Barker on July 7, 2012

I’m beginning to think that “migration” is one of the most dangerously misinterpreted words in the content management industry.  I’ve resolved that whenever this word comes up, all discussion stops until it is defined to the common understanding of all parties.

“Migration,” in the context of this industry commonly means one of two things:

  1. The movement of content from CMS A to CMS B.  Both systems exist and are functionally able to support a website – CMS A is  supporting your website now, and CMS B has been configured and developed to do so, it just lacks content.

  2. The same as above, but with the important addition that CMS B does not exist yet.

In my experience, consultants generally use the former definition, while customers use the latter.  Obviously, this causes significant issues.

There have been several times (a couple of them very recent, hence this post) when a potential customer has asked me, “how much will the content migration cost?”  I have provided a number, then realized sometime later – to my horror – that they didn’t just expect content to be moved, they expected their entire new CMS built and configured to support that content.

For those of us in the industry, we would normally call that process an “integration” or “implementation.”  But for a customer, they tend to look at the entire process from a much wider perspective, and the entire process of going from old to new is a “migration.”  They are migrating their entire content environment – actual words and pictures, but also technical platform and accompanying processes.

Additionally, I find that customers chronically underestimate the work required to integrate a new CMS.  Especially with the advent of new drag-and-drop page composition tools, many prospects have been oversold into thinking that CMS-powered websites are a point-and-click affair and can be configured to duplicate their current website functionality in a couple of afternoons.

So, in the future, whenever this word “migration” comes up, I’m going to throw out the analogy of moving from one house to another.  Is the second house built and are we just moving your furniture into it?  Or does that second house not even exist yet?

Comments (3)

Daniel Berg says:

Great post! Like the house moving analogy, will borrow it for “migration” meetings with clients.

David Hobbs says:

Great post Deane. Maybe one of the reasons I like migrations so much is that they are so dangerous! This statement of yours is so true: “In my experience, consultants generally use the former definition, while customers use the latter. Obviously, this causes significant issues.” Right now I’m helping a client develop an RFP, making many of the migration (both content and functionality) needs as clear as possible for the bid.

Tim S says:

I think there may be room for on more rule, which is: the clients content is NOT in a CMS but they want it moved to one. Another thought I have is what static files in the old site are considered a part of the migration and which ones are available via URL but has basically expired from the clients site?