moving is easy

Looking for Clarity in the Murky Waters of Content Migration

Feb 13, 2015

There’s a lot of good insight out there.  In a recent CMSWire post, Plan for Migration Success with Search, the author, Martin White, draws some parallels between search and the success of content migration.  He’s partially right.

Moving CMS platforms will always have implications on search.  But that’s about as far as the connection goes.  Search is about as relevant to content migration as wine tasting is to a grape harvest.

It’s unavoidable.  Regardless of the processes used to migrate content, no matter how well structured your metadata and taxonomy, moving from one CMS to another will require rebuilding search. 

Like moving into a new house, the path from the front door to the kitchen to the shelf in the cabinet where you put the cups and saucers is sure to change.  Differences in software architecture make it incumbent on the systems integrator to understand how to recreate that path.  Presumably, the navigation tools in the new CMS platform will help make those cups and saucers more accessible and easier to find.

I agree with Mr. White.  Good planning and proper preparation of your content inventory will always pay dividends.  Before you move, it helps to know what to move and what to toss or replace.  Here’s where Mr. White and I disagree.  Unless you’re dealing with mountains of unstructured content or a legacy database, using search to conduct a content inventory and validate the results invites conflict.  Failing to find the cups and saucers in the new house doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t moved. 

In practice things get shuffled around in a content migration a lot.  Templates change, fields are split and merged, and the content hierarchy gets tweaked and reordered.  Even with like-for-like migrations, the only method for providing empirical evidence of a successful move is to employ software automation.  With migration software, every action performed generates an audit trail that records the movement of each item - where it was in the source system, where it is in the target system, time stamped and status confirmed.  If the cups and saucers come up missing, check the log file.  The movers may have mislabeled that box and stuffed it in a bedroom closet.

Keep search in your hip pocket.  Measuring the success of a website migration shouldn’t be subjected to the scrutiny of search results before and after.  To avoid concerns about leaving something behind or breaking it in the process, use a methodology that eliminates the risk of human error and programmatically controls the movement of content between sites.


 [Image courtesy of Beth Kanter via Flickr Creative Commons]