Sitecore 9 Upgrade - Alpha Solutions

Organizations choose to move to the latest Sitecore release for a variety, and often combination of, reasons. Here are some of the most common.

3.26.21

BY KEVIN GREGORY

  • Features - Take advantage of newest Sitecore features to better connect with and understand your customers. See What’s New in Sitecore.
  • Technology Platform - Migrate your Sitecore solution into the cloud or as part of an infrastructure upgrade.
  • Optimization - Streamline your Sitecore time-to-market through improved business user experience and development methodologies.
  • Support - Ensure continuity of support and reduce risk by staying current on the latest Sitecore version.  Check out the Product Support Lifecycle for end-of-support timelines.

Whatever your reasons for beginning a Sitecore upgrade, Alpha Solutions is ready to help you achieve a smooth upgrade that brings you the latest Sitecore capabilities. We’ll help you identify the critical decision points that will ensure a cost-efficient upgrade that sets your Sitecore solution up for success in the future.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR UPGRADE OBJECTIVES

The first step in any Sitecore upgrade project is to develop a clear understanding of the goals behind the upgrade. Although the top-level reasoning might be straightforward, such as installing the latest version as part of an on-prem to cloud migration, there can be important details that affect the scope and complexity of the upgrade process. Due to the evolving nature of the Sitecore platform, a good understanding of these secondary goals & constraints is critical to ensure effort is focused on the right areas. To help identify these goals (and non-goals), we typically approach the discussion through the lens of the various Sitecore system stakeholders and audiences:

  • Website visitors – How are they interacting with the Sitecore website(s), and what are they using those sites to accomplish? What expectations do they have and to what degree are those met at present?
  • Business users – What types of tasks are performed using Sitecore and on what frequency? What is the scope of regular content updates and analytics / reporting tasks?
  • Administrators / developers / systems engineers – What are the most frequent administration tasks and challenges? How actively is the system being changed and enhanced? What opportunities exist for improvement?

This information is critical in identifying what matters most in the existing Sitecore solution, and what benefits each of these audiences can expect from an upgrade. This helps the team prioritize the areas that matter while ensuring effort is not wasted on those that are less important.

ANALYZING YOUR SITECORE SYSTEM

Another critical aspect of planning for a Sitecore upgrade is understanding the scope of the existing system. Sitecore’s various features store and collect a variety of data ranging from webpages, product data, documents, and analytics. The type and quantity of the data that is valuable to your organization can impact upgrade scope and complexity. Therefore, it is beneficial to have a good grasp on data types and volume early in the planning process. Here’s a few to consider:

  • Website Content – The pages, articles, and information displayed on the site.  Much of this will be critical to retain during an upgrade but consider whether some older information like news article archives may be less relevant and warrant a cleanup.
  • Media – Documents and images available on the website. Again, there may be outdated information that does not need to be carried over, and some types of media cleanup can yield significant storage / time savings.
  • Analytics and Contacts – Sitecore can collect a significant volume of visitor interaction and other analytics data. Based on your organization’s usage of Sitecore’s analytics and personalization capabilities, this historic data may or may not be highly relevant or valued.

THE NATURE OF A SITECORE UPGRADE

The Sitecore platform has evolved over time to bring innovative digital solutions and to take advantage of new technology trends. Although these bring valuable capabilities to the platform, over time Sitecore will introduce new approaches and phase out older ones. A Sitecore upgrade is very likely to be confronted with at least some changes to the underlying Sitecore technology platform. Some of these can be addressed through code changes or alterations to the workflow of users, but others may warrant a change of business processes or the user experience.

One such example is the introduction of Sitecore Forms as part of Sitecore 9’s release. Sitecore Forms provided a completely new authoring experience for business users wishing to create forms on the website. However, the underlying technology is a complete departure from the previous Web Forms for Marketers module.

The information gathered above concerning your organization’s upgrade goals and audience behavior is important when making decisions about how to proceed in these cases. For a solution with a limited number of forms, it may be most efficient to simply re-create the forms in Sitecore Forms. In other cases where an organization relies heavily upon forms for important business processes and regularly pulls reporting data from Sitecore, it may be warranted to build a custom process to ensure a complete data migration.

Identifying these major changes between Sitecore versions and understanding the impact on stakeholders and future objectives is critical to ensuring effort is spent on the correct aspects of the Sitecore upgrade. Start by checking out the latest Sitecore release notes, and get in touch with us to learn more.

DEVELOPING THE SITECORE UPGRADE APPROACH

Alpha Solutions will work with you to develop a Sitecore upgrade project plan tailored for your organization’s objectives. Here’s how a project might be structured:

  • Information Gathering – learn about your goals, usage scenarios from your subject matter experts, and collect information about your Sitecore installation.
  • Infrastructure and Solution Review – Analysis of your implementation-specific code, configuration and Sitecore customizations. Discuss desired infrastructure and deployment approach.
  • Evaluation and Recommendations – Develop a clear plan for each type of functionality and data to be upgraded / migrated. Identify opportunities for taking advantage of new features.
  • Solution Upgrade and Data Migration – Provision the latest Sitecore version, upgrade the existing implementation-specific code, and perform data migrations / conversions.
  • Upgrade Testing – Perform testing of the migrated system capabilities. Compare before/after states to ensure compatibility and expected behavior.
  • Go-Live and Enhancement – Cutover to the latest Sitecore version and integrate the new Sitecore features into your solution.

NEXT STEPS

Are you considering a Sitecore upgrade? Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you through a smooth upgrade and take advantage of Sitecore’s latest offerings.