Time to say goodbye to SharePoint for your public website

Author: Akhil Mittal | Categories: CMS selection, SharePoint, Web Content Management

Almost a decade ago, SharePoint emerged on a market scenario where the business community was evolving from custom static brochure sites to business managed dynamic content. When it was launched with the Microsoft Content Management Server functionality included, SharePoint became an attractive option. SharePoint for intranet was already a known name and hence Microsoft promoted the integration factor between the intranet and the public website. Moreover, similar skill requirement made its pitch easier especially for the technology teams. SharePoint got entry into many mid-sized as well as large enterprises for their public websites. Microsoft invested a fair bit in web content management functionalities in SharePoint 2010 and then added useful enhancements in SharePoint 2013. However there were some critical shortfalls:

  • SharePoint was always pushed as an IT tool rather than a marketing platform. Marketing teams were asked to adapt their processes as per SharePoint functionalities rather than the other way round. Most common complaint being the content editing experience. The complexity in content editing within SharePoint gave rise to increased uneasiness with marketing teams and led to issues such as delays in updating content which was the core purpose of the tool
  • SharePoint remained limited to being a tool meant only for basic online presence. It never graduated to become a customer experience management platform. There was no plan even to add marketing automation functionalities in the tool. This was one prime reasons why large enterprises felt hesitant to adopt it further

With its focus on the cloud technologies, including the launch of Office 365 and Azure, Microsoft took a wise decision, at least I think so. Microsoft did realize that SharePoint required a complete make-over to keep it relevant for public websites. It decided not to invest any further in this domain. Microsoft made the announcement and advised its users to start migrating out of SharePoint for public websites. As per the announcement, “Customers can continue to use and develop their existing sites for a minimum of two years after the changeover date of March 9, 2015. During that time, existing customers should plan to move to one of the third-party solutions that are offered or to a different solution of their choice.” Come March 2017 and this deadline will come to is end. Most of the SharePoint customers (for public websites) have already moved on to third party web CMS platforms by now. In case you have not, there is NO time left anymore. You need to take the decision today and start the migration initiative.

What are the alternatives?

There is no dearth of good WCM platforms today. One can get a whole list of these platforms from reports published by research firms including Gartner and Forrester. There are strengths and weaknesses of each platform. It is difficult to point out that one of these platforms is the best fit for every scenario. Hence we need to consider some critical points while making this decision in addition to the regular WCM selection criteria viz. workflow, security, architecture, content editor, digital asset management, multi-language support and analytics :

  1. Integration with SharePoint: Many companies who bought SharePoint for public websites, did so because SharePoint was already used internally for their business process automation. In case your organization is one of them, then there is a high possibility that you are still leveraging SharePoint for your critical workflows internally including marketing and communication processes. Your new WCM platform should be able to connect seamlessly with these workflows
  2. Development platform: It is always easier if the development platform is same i.e. .Net framework. This helps not only in retaining the same skill sets but also helps in multiple integration points

How to go about it?

This is no rocket science but careful planning and well execution can help make this process less painful. Here are some tips:

Strategy planning & roadmap: Consider this as an opportunity rather than a compulsive move. This can be the best time to go back to the drawing board and ask basic questions that we might have missed the last time. Marketing and technology teams should be both involved in this exercise. Start with your marketing objectives, customer experience management goals, omni-channel KPIs and conversion goals

  1. External partner selection: I might be biased in my opinion here, but strongly feel that an external partner with expertise in similar migrations can be of great help
  2. Platform selection: If the strategy plan & roadmap is well articulated, selection of platform should not be a big difficulty. Certain tips mentioned above could be helpful
  3. Gap Analysis: It is very important to be aware about gaps between the expectations and the current scenario. Current website(s) should be thoroughly evaluated against the roadmap created as well as mapped against the platform capabilities
  4. Migration planning: This spans across the architectural design to analysis of the content inventory, findings from the gap analysis to creation of the test plans
  5. Migration: The time taken for migration can vary a lot depending upon the methodology followed. Here are some of the common steps: a. Platform & content migration: Usual way is manually migrating each element. This is fine but highly inefficient both in terms of time & effort taken as well as the accuracy levels. I always suggest a more automated way of migration. Experienced services partners who have done similar migrations in the past can help here with automated tools custom built for such migrations. b.   Testing & bug fixing c.   Deployment

I will share some more thoughts and content on this topic in coming weeks. Meanwhile, feel free to let me know if you have any queries or suggestion on the same.