In today’s digital world, organizations have more tools and opportunities than ever at their fingertips that allow them to connect with their customers, manage product information and other important data, and track how people interact with them. These systems can provide a wealth of valuable information and tools, but it’s important to make sure that they don’t result in data silos.
Unfortunately, integrating these systems together seamlessly is often easier said than done. Here at WSOL, we’ve worked on a wide variety of projects in which we’ve implemented third party systems into websites utilizing a content management system (CMS), and we’ve found that these types of integrations can become especially complicated when they are being done as part of a CMS migration.
When moving to a new CMS, how can you be sure that the systems you currently use will continue to provide you with the value you need once your new website is live? We’ve put together some tips for making sure you are able to implement the third party integrations you need during a CMS migration:
Create a Wish List
As early as possible in the project, you should make a complete list of all of the systems which you currently utilize and which you plan to integrate into your website. Once you understand exactly what you have, you’ll want to make a “wish list” for what should be included in the new website. This will help you understand whether you’ll be able to implement the same systems, find out what can and can’t be done, and determine which integrations are worth the time and money necessary to implement them or whether there is an easier way to replicate their functionality.
Understand the Complications
With each of the third party systems you want to use, you’ll need to verify whether there are already working instances in which they've been integrated with your CMS platform. Is there a native plugin or API that you can use? Will support be available to help you ensure that data is passed correctly between your CMS and the third party system?
If a plugin isn’t available, a new integration will need to be built using custom code. This means that you’ll be forcing two separate systems to work together that weren’t designed to do so, so you’ll need to understand how this will affect both systems, as well as your site’s end users. If you’re the first to attempt this integration, you’ll be exploring new territory, meaning that you’re likely to experience plenty of trial and error as you try to make sure it’s working correctly.
Additionally, you’ll need to be aware of what ongoing support is available for both the third party system and the CMS platform. If new versions of either software are released, will your integration continue to function properly, or will it need to be rewritten?
To further complicate things, sometimes integrations need to exist not just between third party systems and the CMS platform, but between multiple third party systems. For instance, you may use a CRM system to track sales data and a marketing automation platform (MAP) to manage email campaigns and track lead information. You’ll not only want to integrate both of these systems with your website, but they should also connect with each other to ensure that your sales and marketing teams are working together. Understanding who manages each system and making sure the teams working with each system know how what they do affects everyone else is essential for your website's ongoing success.
Determine “Must Have” Vs. “Nice To Have”
Once you’ve gotten a picture of all of your various integrations and how they fit together, you’ll need to determine which ones are essential and which ones aren’t (and understand the difference between the two, which is often harder than it seems!). You may have a system that you’ve been using and are familiar with, but creating an integration with your new CMS platform would require custom coding that would be more trouble than it’s worth. Finding out whether there is an alternative that is easier and cheaper to use or, possibly, a way to recreate the functionality within the CMS environment itself can often make a big difference in the time, work, and cost of the project.
Dedicate a subject matter expert
It is important to have someone on staff who will own each software integration, and if you can, have multiple staff cross trained. The reason for this is because, in most cases, once the integration is in place and all of the bugs are worked out things function without any further intervention. In fact, things can work so well, that you almost forget that there is a third party application working in the background. Then, a year passes by and an update or change is needed and no one remembers how to make the updates, or maybe the person who managed this is no longer available. We've seen it, and in some instances a malfunctioning third party application can wreak all sorts of havoc on your CMS and other connected systems. Having dedicated internal resource, or partner to manage the installed third party applications can prevent a lot of headaches.
Find a Partner
Overcoming all of these challenges might seem like a tall order, and that’s why it’s a good idea to work with an experienced partner who can provide guidance and help you determine which options will best suit your needs. At WSOL, we have a great deal of experience working with CMS platforms like Episerver and Ektron, and we’ve completed a number of complex CMS migration projects. If you have any questions about how we can help you make sure your website migration is a success, please contact us. We look forward to working with you to create a digital strategy that maximizes your ROI!