Fast web content migration: what went right for a global oil company

Your organization probably already changed your WCMS platform three times since the 1990's. What is the secret to a fast and effective web site migration? 

This case study outlines how a global Oil Company migrated over 150 websites to a new WCMS platform in less than 6 months using a templated approach and repeatable methodology for simultaneous website migrations.

This Global Oil Company successfully developed a diverse, often award-winning, estate of web properties, during the 1990’s. In 2001 the business was ready to “move up a gear” and create a single e-architecture to:

  • Present a single, trusted face to the customer;
  • Enable global sharing and re-use of content and applications;
  • Enable personalization of content for site visitors;
  • Become the easiest company to do business with on the web.
The 2-phase project concept was:
    1. Design a set of re-usable “products” (guidelines, procedures, user guides and software tools) that could be deployed, on a site by site basis, regardless of the language or technology, to re-build sites in the new e-architecture;
    2. Execute a plan to re-build the first 90 sites (representing over 30 countries and 20 languages) in a three-month period. The process shown below is used for each site with many sites moving through the process in community groups (i.e. at the same time).

    The product and process design phase (3 months):

    The product design phase was critical for “getting the CMS right” before putting it to work. These nine key activities were conducted largely in tandem to ensure a short development and testing phase and better teaming:

    1. Website Analysis (existing sites)
    2. Generic Process of Migration (for all sites to migrate)
    3. Global Template Library (translation of old pages to new page templates)
    4. Technical Preparation (offshore team)*
    5. Metadata and Taxonomy (new)
    6. Custom Functions and Applications*
    7. Migration Procedures (step by step)
    8. Testing the process and templates
    9. Change Management and Communication to site owners
    *See notes in the Migration Phase

    Each process involved a variety of skilled professionals. The Site Analysis and Template Design process, for example, began with a detailed analysis of all the existing web sites and web content. This analysis resulted in aggregated Presentation Layer Template specifications, and these, in turn, enabled the design of a small number of Data Capture Templates. Additionally, new templates were designed to meet the visual strategy and future site functionality, and all templates were “personalization enabled” with input from other workstreams in the Product Design Phase, like Metadata and Taxonomy.

    An iterative process of testing and piloting the tools and approach in selected sites was used to refine the designs, processes and user materials before deployment. 

    The migration phase (3 months):

    All 150 global sites followed the same method to migrate, often simultaneously. Each individual site required between 1 - 6 weeks to complete all the steps, depending on its time and complexity:
    1. ISRS (Individual Site Requirements Specification)
    2. New system training (site owners, editors and content managers)
    3. Content Migration (offshore)
    4. User Acceptance Testing (owners check the migration worked)
    5. Data transfer (from migration to development environment)
    6. Customization (by the site owner)
    7. Final test and Launch (site moved to production)
    The client wanted a fast migration with a low impact on each country's communication teams (site owners and editors). We decided to hire a low-cost offshore team to perform the repeatable process of copying content from the old system into our strongly typed templates. That way we could hand over fully migrated sites to the country teams and train them in the new system using their own site and their own content.

    Steps 1, 2 and 4 were supported by the offshore team and step 3 was entirely executed by the offshore team.  We also considered hiring local (UK) university students over the summer holiday for this role, but there were additional benefits in using the offshore method (India).

    Some locally developed applications from the old platform could not be re-built in the time scale. Others, like the gas station locator, were rebuilt as global applications in the new platform.

    What went right?

    Even if organizations change systems every 7-10 years, web content migration is not a routine job for communicators. OilCo recognized it was not the best use of communication team skills and so our approach led to some of the main success factors:
    1. HQ migrated the content and then trained users in the new platform with their own sites. This was hugely successful. First of all, the local web teams did not have to waste time learning how to migrate (a one-off task) and it was done quickly and painlessly for them using lower-cost resources. Secondly, the training used their new site, and with their own content. Communication teams started editing their sites right away and the training was much more effective for them.
    2. Strongly typed templates deskilled the migration process into an (almost) "copy-paste" activity. Simplification to this level made the migration of 10's of thousands of webpages, images, and databases in 20 languages a fast bulk migration process. It's cheaper to do this with a low cost outside resources since there is no long term benefit in learning how to migrate from system X to system Y.
    3. A repeatable process meant that every site followed exactly the same plan, regardless of complexity. This made change management and communication about the project simpler since every site owner would have the same experience. It also made life easier for technical teams and it was a process that could be reused for brand new sites as well.


    • Cost savings from global sharing and re-use of content and applications: no more re-inventing the wheel!
      • e.g. Multiple "Gas Station Locator" applications had previously been developed, these were replaced in the new system by a global application.
    • Use of a global site taxonomy and metadata
      • Replaced multiple local taxonomies
    • More consistent global brand management
      • Strongly typed templates
      • Centrally controlled and designed presentation templates
    • Fast and efficient migration of all content
      • deactivation of the old platform quickly for immediate cost saving
      • realize the business benefits of the new platform sooner
    • Faster build and deployment of new sites using the same process

    Cite as:
    Wilson, O.L.F. (February 2020). Fast web content migration: what went right for a global oil company [Blog post]. Retrieved from

    Copyright (C) Owen L F Wilson, 2020

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