June 6, 2017
Implementing a New CMS? Get the Right Plan in Place

So, you’re moving to a new content management system because your old system is not providing you with the capabilities you need to create the best experiences for your customers. If you think the hard part is selecting the right Web CMS, think again. The hard part is actually implementing your new CMS. This is because there's so much to think about and do. Here are a few tips from the Ingeniux implementation teams who do it for a living.

The Right People, The Right Support

Team is critical. You need to bring the right people into the project at the right time. Project management, IT architects, designers, developers – all key roles. But you also need executive involvement. A senior marketing leader who may own the implementation, and a senior IT leader who understands how the CMS fits into the overall IT architecture for the company. Both need to supply critical insights and ideas and be prepared to remove roadblocks that pop up along the way.

You may work with a design agency to help you create the right branding and design. You may work with an external development team who has expertise with the CMS you selected. In both instances, you'll want to ensure the relationship works for you from the beginning, with clear roles and responsibilities in addition to expected outcomes.

Business users also play a key role in how the CMS is implemented. They are end users of the system, responsible for keeping the website up to date. These users will want to ensure what you implement is easy to work with and provides all the functionality they need.

Equally important is the support of an executive sponsor who is like a guiding light throughout the project. The executive sponsor owns the project overall and is the final stamp of approval during key milestones. This person ensures your project has the appropriate resources and support within the company.

Depending on the CMS you select, you will also work with key people from the CMS vendor. They may provide a project manager, architect, or developer resources, as well as testing and deployment resources (especially if it's a SaaS-based CMS).

One key piece of advice: Make sure each team member understands their role and responsibilities, as well as the amount of time they must commit to the implementation project. 

The 5 D's of a Successful Implementatin 

There's a lot of things that need to happen when you implement a new CMS, especially if you've decided to implement a brand new design and information architecture (which everyone pretty much does). The best way to lay out your implementation plan is to divide it into five phases:

Discovery: Discovery is all about figuring out what you want. It's a high-level view of your expectations and how you see your website. How will you engage with customers, what features and functions do you expect to see? These are the high-level requirements that will guide the design. Which means it goes hand-in-hand with the Design Phase.

Design: You already have a clear understanding of your web, brand, and marketing strategy. If you don't, stop now and do that. Once you have that in hand, it's time to think about the design of your website. But here's an important point: Design doesn't start with a visual appearance, it starts with a content strategy and information architecture.

Your customers come to your website to find information; you need to figure out the right way to provide that. Once you know that, the visual aspects come into play. It's these three things together that define the design of your website.

Definition: Once you have all the requirements defined and the design planned, then you can create the plans that explain how to implement the CMS. During this phase, you define the content model, the search strategy, the content re-use strategy, the graphical design and so on. This is your technical specification, and it needs sign-off before you start any development. 

Development: No surprise, the development phase is the actual implementation of the CMS and the development of the templates, visual design (markup layer), administration components and everything else that's outlined in your technical design. Development typically happens in stages where you focus on specific aspects of the technical spec.

During this phase, you'll integrate any third-party applications or datasets, and you'll perform unit and quality assurance testing to ensure what you have development works as expected.

Deployment: Everything is built, it has passed QA, and you're ready to push it live. Before you do, make sure you have trained your users on how to use it. Migrate the content you want from your old CMS and make sure everything is working as expected. If something isn't right, decide if you need to resolve it before going live or if you can add it to a list of things to do once you are live. 

Hope for Smooth Sailing, But Prepare for the Unexpected

Five key phases of a CMS implementation. Done well, you'll have a smooth ride and come out on the end with a great website and a new easy to use CMS. It's the best you can hope for. But be prepared for hiccups. They do happen, and that's okay.

The best requirements gathering processes and the greatest developers can't always ensure you'll get exactly what you need. Often, when you start using the CMS, you'll realize it doesn't work exactly the way you need it to. Maybe you forgot a key process or didn't think about how much easier it would be to perform an action a different way. Maybe you didn't implement the right content migration plan.

A wise project team will plan for this and have time set aside to deal with what may come after launch. You may also determine you need to plan an update project and work with the CMS as implemented until you use it for a while and determine other key improvements you want.

Keep your implementation plan to these five key phases, and you'll do well. This is the process we use at Ingeniux. Want to know exactly how we're involved in each phase? Check out the Ingeniux CMS Implementation Guide.

Posted by David Hillis
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