Moving away from one eCommerce platform to another is a big decision. There’s much to consider, from the platform choice, the financial impact, the internal systems and processes, and even the long-term business strategy. When handled correctly, a migration from one platform to another (whether that’s website hosting, cloud software solutions, or eCommerce platforms) should appear outwards to be a seamless transition.
Over the years, we’ve worked with many clients to migrate their eCommerce website and associated infrastructure from one system to another. We’ve experienced the highs of when it’s worked well. And we’ve commiserated with clients when they’ve told us about historical problems that they may have had with previous migrations.
Our role as independent consultants is to help clients identify the most common pressure points within the planning stages of any migration project. Our approach is to create a roadmap of what should be done and when. We take the time to consider your internal systems and processes, and we understand how you need your chosen platform to link in with your external suppliers. Within this roadmap, we predict and anticipate any issues that could arise, and from this, we can incorporate mitigation strategies and contingency planning.
This thorough planning means that we can help to manage a migration from start to finish on time, and budget.
With this in mind, here are three common pressure points that we believe are relevant for all migrations, regardless of what size of business you are or what sector you work in.
Pressure Point #1 - Internal Organisation
Handling a migration process from one eCommerce platform to another is a rare project that will impact almost every single person within your business. It is, therefore, imperative that you consider your internal communications as part of your project plan.
You need to have a system in place that enables representatives from all areas of your business to have their input into the planning stages. By taking the time to talk to individual team members outside of your core project management team, you can assess what attributes are required that can help you to identify the right platform selection. You can also find out from other departments what their pressure points are from your existing platform, giving you a holistic overview as to its overall impact upon your business.
With this knowledge, you can start to understand what you need from your new platform and you can align this information with your long-term business strategy.
Resourcing is an intrinsic part of your internal organisation
In our experience, migrations often suffer when internal teams simply do not have the capacity or skills to handle such a complex project. You may be outsourcing the entire migration to one singular third party, or you may be allocated specific roles to external agencies in a bid to benefit from their expertise. However, you do need to have one singular point of contact to whom external contractors can report with the updates relating to the migration. This may be a specific project manager within your team, or it could be your eCommerce, marketing, or business development personnel.
Whoever it is, they need to be able to dedicate the time and focus to the project.
Even minor delays in communication can lead to parts of the project becoming bottle-necked.
And when small decisions are delayed, this can have a big impact on the progress of other elements of the migration.
This person also needs to filter through communication elsewhere in the business. They need to be able to showcase the progress to internal teams. They also need regular communication with the migration team to confirm any changing wants or needs. As with any resourcing matters, the internal teams also need to factor in contingency planning in case something happens to the primary contact. Simple issues such as annual leave or sick leave could result in avoidable delays if contingency plans are not in place from the outset.
Decision-making and final sign off
We also recommend that as part of your migration planning, you consider your decision-making hierarchy.
Whilst it’s important to have multiple people involved in the planning stages from across your business to enable input, it’s also important to consider timescales. The person responsible for decision-making and project sign-off needs to be someone who is accessible. If you have a strong vertical hierarchy where decisions need to be led by the C-Suite executives, then this needs to be factored into your timescales.
Swift decisions can be crucial to maintaining the momentum of your migration campaign, especially when outsourcing to external suppliers and agencies.
Pressure Point #2 - The complexity of Data Migration
If your migration requires the transfer of data, then this must be planned in full.
Your data is used by multiple departments, so you must ensure that everyone within your business is aware of any migration plans. Your data must be backed up in full, and we also recommend that you work with your IT department to implement and test your disaster recovery plans. This will give you confidence that you can easily retrieve that data in case you are hit by an unexpected issue during the migration.
When planning your timescales, make sure that you talk to individual departments to ensure that they are not negatively impacted by any downtime that may commence during the migration. You may feel that an out-of-hours migration is best, but could these timescales interfere with any work undertaken by other departments?
You also need to consider the external appearance of your website whilst the migration takes place. From a customer perspective, they should be unaware that any technical changes are taking place. This complexity means that your internal team will be [maintaining two websites simultaneously] – the existing website and your new website. You need to ensure that you have the resources in place to continue offering high levels of customer service on your existing site until the migration is complete.
Pressure point #3 - Preparing for the unexpected
With migrations to new platforms, you can never over-prepare. And it’s this preparedness that will help you to deal with difficulties as they arise.
When things go wrong, it’s generally due to time restraints, unrealistic expectations, or budgetary issues. And in the last 12 months, we’ve seen first-hand how societal issues and other external factors can almost derail entire projects.
It’s important to note that migration plans need to have an element of flexibility incorporated into them. They need to have the scope to adapt and change because often how a project theoretically looks at the start can appear quite different at the end. There are many reasons why a project may change – your business needs may be different, new technologies may emerge, trends can come and go. But it’s how you cope with these ongoing changes that make a big difference to your migration plans.
Implementing Contingency Planning
A common issue that causes many migration projects to overrun, is that they simply weren’t prepared to implement any contingency planning scenarios when issues arise. Within your planning stages, it’s important that you not only predict what issues could come up but also prepare for how you plan to overcome them. That way, you already have a plan in place to help you maintain your progress throughout the migration.
For example, you may be choosing to upgrade your platform or software solution because it has come to its end of life (for example, retailers still using Magento 1). In these circumstances, updates and security fixes will no longer be available from the manufacturer. This could potentially put your business and your infrastructure at risk from hackers, bugs, and viruses. Your contingency in this situation would be to continually check your backups are protected and to implement strong disaster recovery plans to help you retrieve any data in the event of compromise or loss.
Similarly, your internal team should remain focused on the rolling responsibilities of those involved in the migration plans. Do they still have the capacity to be involved for the duration of the project or are they being asked to focus on other work matters? If they were on annual leave or unavailable for a few days, is there someone else who can take their place?
Another mitigating factor to consider is the change management processes.
As we mentioned, the final project will likely be vastly different from the initial scope. Suggested changes that come through mid-project can have a significant impact on the entire plan – this is why we advocate for involving all departments during the initial planning stages. Of course, when we are talking about migrations, these projects can typically take 6-12 months to achieve completion and your business outlook may have changed over that timeframe. These changes are natural, but it’s how they are fed into the migration that can cause unnecessary delays.
Our role is to help you overcome these pressure points
At each stage of the project, we know that clients will have different expectations, and as experienced consultants, it’s our job to manage these expectations. It’s why much of our project management is focused on client communication and why we focus heavily on timescales and budgets. This careful management and continual communication mean that our clients are well aware of the progress of the migration. And as such, they can start to plan their long-term business strategies around the anticipated launch date.
Migrating to a new platform requires careful planning. Our independent analysis of your business means that we can proactively identify the right platform for your needs and identify a successful roadmap for implementation that matches your timescales and your budget.
To find out more about our services, please get in touch.