Your platform is outdated from Day One: How to plan web content management for the future

Would it surprise you to learn your content management platform has a best-before date?

Best-before dates. We check for them when we buy groceries and before we eat our food. We all know that if the tub of yogurt in your refrigerator is a day or two past the expiration date it’s probably still safe to eat. If it was six months past the best-before, however, would you eat it? Of course not! 

So would it surprise you to learn that your content management platform also has a best-before date?In the same way, your content management platform—whether you call it a content management system (CMS), or a web content management (WCM) platform—will still be okay if it’s a bit dated. But wait too long and, just as expired yogurt will make you sick, a content platform past its best-before can hurt your business and your performance.

The average lifecycle of your digital content management platform isn’t long. You get three to five years, generally, before you need a refresh. Exactly how long, however, varies depending on various factors, including your industry, your budget, and technological change, amongst others.

Right now, for example, we’re at work with our clients updating sites that were last refreshed between 2012 and 2017. And we practice what we preach: at Symetris we’ve changed and updated our website four times since its inception, in 2005, 2008, 2012, and most recently in 2019.

Why do digital content management systems “expire”?

There are a variety of factors that can lead to your digital content management platform needing a redo:

  • Like any technological system, your CMS can degrade over time. As more content is added and more users interact with it, the platform may build up idiosyncrasies over time and performance may suffer. It can be easier to do a full overhaul at that point than to try to fix a multitude of problems.
  • Your company’s needs or tastes might have changed since the last refresh, meaning your site may no longer suit or reflect the goals or vision of your company. Likewise, personnel changes in the team operating the platform can impact the management of and strategy behind the platform and require updating.
  • A technology used on your platform may no longer be supported, meaning no further updates and no further troubleshooting by the supplier. Expired software not only affects the performance of a CMS but also increases your vulnerability to hacking by malicious actors.
  • Or perhaps a supplier has pointed out to you that it’s time to change. Maybe they’re experiencing interface challenges that ultimately increase the cost of executing fixes and enhancements for you. Or the features offered have fallen behind industry standards and are in need of modernization.

Know the best-before date of your CMS

The first step in effective platform lifecycle management is to understand and take control of the expiration date of your digital content management platform. Know when it is starting to show its age and when to begin the process to change it before it expires.

Failure to take control of this process can have serious negative consequences:

  • The critical need for a replatforming comes as a surprise, forcing you to rush the process of technology selection, approvals, and engaging suppliers at the last minute
  • It will be more expensive as you will not have the time to sort out what features are necessary, and which are optional. You risk including too many out of fear of missing some
  • Your site runs the risk of ending up “boring.” When you rush, you tend to make safe decisions due to time constraints instead of going for something bolder.

Keep in mind that not all parts of a digital ecosystem expire at the same time, so it’s vital to know and understand the expiration date of your platforms and take steps to keep them up to date at all times.

Knowing the schedule of when your platform needs an update has additional benefits that allow you to maximize the ROI of redevelopment. For example, you can plan and justify the budget needed for a redesign. Likewise, new options and features are being developed constantly, and having your refresh date in mind will help you focus on which ones to implement when the time comes.

Avoid having your back against the wall

A chief danger with the redevelopment of a platform is underestimating how little time you have and how much work there is to do.

For the average replatforming you have around four weeks to answer all questions from your suppliers, find historical data, coordinate and validate with all parties involved, and do everything else you need to ensure that your new platform can go live as planned. And remember: all this information has to be gathered and ready to implement before your existing platform’s expiration date.

Some parts of your site are easier to “move” than others, such as the message or the content. They rarely change and can be moved easier than other features. But one of the key things to realize is that you likely have more assets than you think.

Your assets will include:

  • What your audience knows about you: articles, folders, press releases, content that you give your audience; this is usually what’s the easiest to transfer
  • What you know about your audience: user profiles, emails, interactions
  • What you know about yourself: metadata, permissions, content revisions, processes, etc.

5 tips to help guide your replatforming

If you’re looking at the need to replatform soon, we want to help. Here’s five key tips, based on our experience with clients and our own site redesigns, to keep in mind as you prepare.

  1. Map out your digital ecosystem. How frequently do you map out your systems? Make sure you plot out which frequency of mapping it out, data & systems that you have, understanding how parties involved use these systems
  2. Eliminate waste. What parts of your system go used? What data is collected but not used, creating overload? Clean up and get rid of documentation and tools that are not used anymore
  3. Maintain a “roadmap.” Always prepare for the “next step” and keep separate documentation for the sections of your system that expire less quickly
  4. Familiarize yourself. Know the forces that guide your ecosystem architecture (see diagram below)
  5. Get some outside help! Regardless of your background or capabilities, embarking on a replatforming without outside guidance puts you at a disadvantage. Relying on outside experts will let you bounce ideas off people with a depth of experience in helping clients replatform, and will help your replatforming go faster overall

If you follow these five guidelines during your replatforming, based on our experience and that of our clients you can expect your investment curve will be flatter, you will waste less money and time, and you can extend the lifecycle of your content management platforms.

After reading this, have you realized that your platform is about to expire? Share what you're looking to achieve in the form below. One of our digital solutions experts will be in touch with you within one business day to talk about your options.