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Econsultancy has, in the past, provided a number of buyers' guides for digital technology.

However, I thought it would be useful to publish a brief and generic guide to replatforming, given that many companies are focusing on updating legacy technology.

Recently I read a simple guide to mitigating the risk of system migration, written by Code Computerlove, which I thought was good enough to summarise here.

It is applicable to anything from CRM to ecommerce.

1. Build a case across the business

Why are you changing platform? No matter which department triggers the change, most others will be affected, too.

Building out your objectives and goals for replatforming by allowing other teams to contribute to the process is vital.

2. Form a steering group

It can be difficult for departments to work together on a replatforming project if business as usual is normally a siloed affair.

Create a diverse steering group led by an enthusiastic agent of change.

The job of this group is to research and strategise, in order to evaluate how the new technology will impact on the business' platforms, performance, people and processes.

steer

3. Benchmark performance

Revisit your objectives in order to define goals and then measure with specific KPIs and metrics.

You don't simply have to benchmark performance as a monetary figure. Benchmarks could include efficiency (some measure of time required for a desired output) or even staff retention. 

4. Navigate the marketplace

There are no real shortcuts here, with plenty of platforms and implementers to choose from.

The IT team will have a large say in this choice, often having a preference for a particular framework such as PHP or .NET.

Be clear on what you want the technology to do (how complex does it need to be?) then invite the right suppliers to showcase their products.

5. Evaluate cost versus value

Open source and licensed products will be available. The licensed product is more expensive but may deliver more value, too, dependant on your requirements.

It's important not to dismiss costlier platforms that may bring in more revenue in the long term, through greater flexibility or functionality.

wordpress logo

6. Test to ensure a positive impact

Prioritise where the business needs most support and test the impact of new technology here first.

For example, a new website build might employ A/B testing and rapid prototyping to ensure that new functionality is an improvement on the legacy.

To what degree the new functionality outperforms the old is important to know when managing stakeholder expectations.

7. Replace the most valuable parts first

Changing everything at once is risky.

'Application strangulation' is the technique of keeping old infrastructure in place and replacing it as you go, prioritising the most valuable parts.

8. De-couple your systems

If systems are too closely integrated, updating functionality can be more labour intensive and expensive that it needs to be.

Utilising multiple vendors and a looser integration should allow for systems to be swapped in and out more easily as the market changes. 

This is often dubbed microservices architecture over monolithic application. Services should be scalable in isolation.

paltrow  chris martin

9. Think in products not projects

Projects are absolute and have an endpoint, which doesn't accurately reflect the nature of technology, which is always changing.

Product management is more cost-effective in the long run and will drive more value for the business.

10. Don't forget SEO

This is most pertinent for a website migration, obviously, but warrants a mention.

Benchmarking current success is important to ensure rankings are maintained after migration, from key terms to the long tail.

Ben Davis

Published 16 May, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

One factor you might have added: is that of getting buy-in from all sides.
Yes, a steering group is a good step in that direction.
But buying a 'whole platform' technology thing has the complexity that IT are not being allowed to make the decision for themselves: which they can do for many other pure-IT choices.

It's not uncommon for me to hear when chatting to big brand sites, that the platform they ended up had serious shortcomings that make it much harder for IT to keep moving things forward: all because Business teams over-ruled IT guys. Often due to a high-level promise that sales guys made, that was theoretically logical but in practise...not so useful.

It can end up with the tail wagging the dog: where big organisations end up hamstring by their platform's limitations!

10 months ago

David Hobbs

David Hobbs, Early Digital Strategist at David Hobbs Consulting LLC

When I tried downloading the migration report you linked to I got an error (after providing my email address etc). Another report (no email address required) that readers may enjoy is my Website Migration Handbook v1 at http://migrationhandbook.com/v1/.

I am glad that you mention product management, which I think is a key point. Also, I think the sequencing of making changes is key. Value is one factor — sometimes a useful way to look at it is what needs to change first to test a hypothesis, or what needs to change first to get the most buy-in for subsequent steps.

Deri made a good comment about buy-in — I think in many ways the issue is that people don't understand the *implications* of what they are buying into, so a key is making sure that people actually understand the impacts (positive and negative of different options that are being discussed).

Also, one key point on the cost vs. value is that the implementation and upkeep cost, which usually dwarves licensing costs.

10 months ago

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