Over the past year, my two co-workers and I were tasked with implementing and migrating to SharePoint 2007 during a website redesign. Our site was over 10,000 pages, with quite a bit of duplicate content and none of it was in a content management system at the time. This was a daunting task, and it became a bit overwhelming to think about it too much. All of the HTML/CSS code was completely unusable, as it was table-based and we were migrating to a standards-based approach. We found that this really meant that we were going to need to move everything by hand to ensure that the code was properly formatted.
The first thing we did, and it’s something that I highly recommend, is divide the many sections of our site into essentials and non-essentials. We determined that our home page and 12 other sections were the key components to our college’s website, and we effectively built a phased approach around that fact. The initial launch included the 12 sections plus the home page, and from there we created a list based on which sections were most important from an end-user perspective. Each week we would work through five to ten sections.
It took just over a year to migrate all of sections, but we were rewarded with a great looking site that was standards-compliant, accessible and usable. The entire process was long and stressful, but we did it correctly throughout. At one point, our CIO brought in a consulting team to try to get three months work done in just one month. I predicted that this was too much work and that they would not be able to effectively learn our process in time. After the month, none of the work was done to our standards, and we continued working as before, but this time a month behind.
It’s important for senior management to understand that migrating into a CMS will be a slow and steady process. There aren’t many ways to speed up a large site’s migration when it’s never been in one before, especially during a redesign. It’s likely that the structure of the code will change, not just from the redesign, but from the migration into the CMS. Large sites can be exceedingly difficult to migrate in this way, as they are more prone to scope creep during a large project timeline. Scope creep occurs when users want massive changes to their sections before they are live in the newly redesigned site, or even new applications on top of it.
One way to mitigate scope creep is to communicate a stop on all non-essential website updates during the project timeline. A year may seem like a long time, but you’ll find that with any large site there are hundreds of pages that may not have been updated for three or more years. A few more months won’t hurt anyone, and you won’t be pulling your hair out trying to make updates while redesigning at the same time.
Our entire implementation and migration took just over a year, and was subject to various levels of scope creep, but we finally finished it. When you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t lose yourself in the minutia; instead keep an eye on the big picture without delving too deep. A consistent middle-ground is important to keep moving with such a large project.