How to Decide If It's Time to Upgrade Your CMS


Many companies upgrade their CMS as part of a larger digital transformation initiative. Adopting a new CMS doesn’t mean you have to completely redesign your website, but it presents an opportunity to rethink and improve the digital experiences you’re providing to your customers.

A CMS upgrade can be a tricky business given that every company has different needs and requirements. Some may not require an overhaul of their current system, others might need to scale up their team with more developers and designers as they grow. Some might need an implementation partner to help them make the most of their current CMS. If you feel like a CMS upgrade is in order, this blog will give you some tips on how to determine if your company needs a new one.

5 Signs Your CMS Needs Upgrading

Before we embark on the adventure of choosing a new CMS or upgrading your existing one, let’s take a minute to recognize the telltale signs that your current CMS hasn’t aged well and isn’t prepared for the changing needs of its users.

  1. Omnichannel experiences are difficult to launch and manage: Omnichannel marketing and the delivery of omnichannel customer experiences are a mark of a modern CMS. If your platform can’t cope with the new methods of content delivery, it’s outdated.
  2. Your marketing team relies heavily on your IT department: Independence from the IT department is something every marketing team craves. A headless or hybrid headless CMS decouples content from presentation and gives marketers the freedom to create customer experiences without IT’s help.
  3. You’re cobbling together and relying on themes, plugins, and integrations from various vendors to keep your digital experience running: Themes and plugins are a part of WordPress and Drupal legacy practices. Modern CMSs give you the tools to integrate the best tech stack, so you don’t have to include technologies that don’t play well together.
  4. Launching new websites in different regions or countries is difficult and costly: Localization and multilingual capabilities are the marks of a modern CMS. If creating or translating content into a foreign language and deploying it to your CMS is a pain, you’re using an outdated platform.
  5. Your content is stored in multiple locations, leading to content siloes, duplicated content, irregular messaging/branding: Modern CMSs are created to prevent data silos. If your content is stored all over the place and takes you ages to find a specific piece of content or a particular asset, you need a new CMS.

Taking Your First Steps Towards a CMS Upgrade

A CMS upgrade is often seen as a complex and expensive process, but it shouldn’t be. It all depends on your needs, the stage your business is in, and your current infrastructure. However, if you realize that your CMS is outdated after reading the warning signs, an upgrade can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter how heavily customized your old CMS is or how many plugins and third-party integrations you’ve added to it; upgrading sooner rather than later could save you tons of money. This includes development costs, reducing time spent troubleshooting issues due to incompatibilities between new features and the existing system, and minimizing resource drain from staff who would otherwise be spending time working around limitations of the old CMS.

Here’s your roadmap toward a successful CMS update:

1. Identify the key reasons why you are upgrading

  1. Writing these down and agreeing to them will ensure everyone is marching toward the same goal.
  2. Make sure you are comparing the value you will get from the upgrade to the cost of doing the upgrade before you start.

2. Determine what needs to be upgraded

  1. A CMS has many moving pieces. You need to determine which pieces you will need to upgrade. It may also be dependent on the CMS and the version of that CMS that you are upgrading to.
  2. Some CMSs have analytics data that need to be migrated, some don’t; take that into account.
  3. The codebase for your website will likely need to be upgraded, but the difficulty of this will be dependent on how different the version you are on is from the version you are going to.
  4. Will you need new servers or will you upgrade existing software?

3. Determine your end state/target

  1. Will you be updating your UI (user interface) at the same time, or will the website look and function exactly the same as it does now after the upgrade?
  2. Will you be putting the new site in the same hosting environment as it is now, or will you be using this opportunity to migrate to the cloud?

4. Content Inventory

  1. Whether you will be doing the upgrade yourself or whether you will be asking for assistance from a partner, you will need an inventory to better plan what is getting upgraded.
  2. This includes # of pages, # of media items (images, videos, pdf), # of templates, # of fields of metadata, # of users and groups.
  3. You can organize these in spreadsheets as inputs for the work or as inputs for requests for quotes from a partner.

5. Determine your Strategy — 2 ways to do an upgrade of a CMS are:

  1. In-place upgrade: Upgrade all the servers or pieces you have now following the vendor’s upgrade procedure. This has the advantage that the vendor typically has documentation on a proven way to do this. The disadvantage is that you are typically left with a lot of garbage in your implementation that is leftover from the old implementation.
  2. New Environments + Migration: Create totally new servers and migrate the content to the new servers from the old servers. The advantage of this is that you are starting with a clean installation based on the latest procedures and structure for how the vendor recommends.

6. Choose a partner to assist you

  1. A partner that has been through the process before can much more easily identify common pitfalls and save you time and money in the long run.

7. Determine how you will be verifying that everything has been upgraded properly

  1. The obvious way is to log into your CMS and make sure you have all the new features you expect from your upgraded CMS.
  2. But how do you make sure you have all the functionality and content working exactly as it did before?
  3. Typically the result of this exercise is a Test Plan. If you already have comprehensive test cases for your site, they can be used as-is assuming you did not choose to change the User Interface during the upgrade. If you do not have comprehensive test cases, those will need to be created either by your team or by your partner.

Read More: Your CMS is Broken, Should You Upgrade or Migrate

Oshyn: Your CMS Implementation Partner

You need to consider your business goals, marketing needs, and IT requirements when selecting a content management system. Your CMS is the neural center of your digital presence. You can’t just pick one and call it a day. An upgrade and implementation partner like Oshyn can help you make an informed decision and will help you choose the right CMS platform for the job.

Oshyn has carried out upgrade processes for many ambitious companies looking for the best enterprise-grade technology to drive better business outcomes.

If you want to learn more about selecting the right CMS for your business, read our ebook How to Choose the Right CMS for Your Company.