In a few short years communities have transformed from a misunderstood and undervalued tool to a strategic part of a company.

During those ensuing years, many organizations have successfully deployed communities to replace legacy portals, extranets and intranets to serve either — or both — internal and external audiences. 

Commercial platforms such as Salesforce, Lithium, IBM Connections, Jive, or open source platforms like Liferay or Drupal provide the foundation on which many of these run. But as with many enterprise software-based solutions, business conditions and opportunities change which calls for a migration from one software vendor to another.   

Many potential business factors drive the need for the migration. But opportunities including creating a more unified and compelling experience for your community members, reducing technology platform costs, aggregating disparate experiences into one, and/or taking advantage of SaaS and cloud-first platforms such as Salesforce and its Community Cloud product to integrate with existing investments outweigh the potential headaches that migrations can cause.

A number of best practices and guidelines have emerged from community platform migrations I've witnessed that can help avoid the headaches.  

8 Business Drivers of Community Migration

A number of reasons might prompt a move from one community platform to another. While these reasons typically vary from organization to organization, the key drivers generally fall into one or more of the following buckets (this list is not exhaustive): 

  1. Platform Innovation: At the time your company chose platform A it was the leader, but now platform X has a more compelling feature set and product roadmap.
  2. Siloed Data and or Business Processes: Your community platform is failing because it doesn’t integrate into business processes, or the data is siloed.
  3. Current Cost of Customizations or Integrations: Your company customized your community platform to integrate business processes like customer support and the ongoing remediation and maintenance is outweighing the benefits. Platform X offers this feature out of the box.
  4. Enterprise Software Benefits: Existing technology investments in a platform like Salesforce (with licensing and support benefits) makes using a separate community platform no longer make sense.
  5. Licensing Cost Savings: By moving from your current community platform to platform X, you can reduce license costs.
  6. Poor Adoption and Engagement: Lack of widespread use and infrequent visitors make you question your current platform.
  7. User Experience: Switching platforms gives you the opportunity to simplify, improve and consolidate a number of disparate processes, tools and point solutions e.g. marketing, sales and service. 
  8. Scalability: Platform X offers a strong value proposition by enabling you to incorporate additional use cases, consolidated business processes and audiences as you expand your digital strategy and grow your business.

Get Started: Develop a Migration Strategy

Community migrations are not typical technology projects. Consider a number of factors before migration so that it results in your desired outcomes — the reason you migrated in the first place. 

Insufficient planning increases the risk of hurting the community you’ve worked so hard to build. It is painful to see a once vibrant community turn into a ghost town post migration.

A number of elements feed into a successful migration, which include determining to what degree the migration needs to preserve:

  • The community experience: how the site looks and feels, navigates and is organized
  • Profiles and reputations: retaining the identities your community members have developed and invested time in to create, both in terms of their profiles as well as the activity in the community
  • Community content/data: retaining and maintaining the integrity of the discussions, files, photos, videos as well as features such as Links and @mentions.

Inadequate migration strategies often lead to disastrous results. 

For example, one failed community migration converted all questions and answers into flat PDF documents, which resulted in losing all context for the content and impacting search (e.g. dates, authors, locations, etc.). Another failed migration moved all discussions, but did not retain the identity of the author and replies, instead moving everything under one user profile and identity “Data loader.” 

Imagine if you were member of that community, and invested time and effort to create and contribute valuable content, only to login to the new community to see your posts and reputation vanish.

Developing a strategy to appropriately preserve the community experience, select features like profiles and discussions, and structure of the existing community is vital to maintaining active members and community vitality. That strategy typically begins with a detailed analysis and inventory of your current community platform.  

These Questions Will Inform Your Migration Strategy

The following questions can help pinpoint the critical considerations as you formulate a migration strategy and plan:

Strategy Related Questions

  • Describe the top 3-5 business objectives associated with the community (e.g. call deflection, consumer loyalty, etc)
  • Who are the unique audiences and personas for this community?
  • Are there known friction points and or challenges these audiences face using the community that the migration effort should address?
  • Are there any restrictions/business rules associated with community use cases (e.g. special permissions, restricted access areas, etc.)

Community Environment Related Questions

  • Current community platform version and hosting model?
  • What visual or functional customizations does the current community include?
  • Total number of registered community users?
  • Active monthly community users?
  • Total number of user generated pieces of content (discussions, ideas, posts)?
  • Any additional content types to migrate (e.g., articles, files, blogs etc)?
  • Has the standard user profile been customized (e.g., with custom profile fields)?
  • Are gamification features like leaderboards, points and reputation levels in use?

Technology Related Questions 

  • Is Single Sign On and/or a third party identity management provider being used with the community (e.g. Okta, Ping, Microsoft Active directory)?
  • Are there any known integrations between the community and a third party platform (e.g. CRM, ERP, Service Cloud, Content Management, Knowledgebase, etc.)?
  • Are there any known integrations between the community and a third party demand generation or marketing automation or BI platforms (e.g. Adobe, Marketo, Tableau, etc)?

The answers you give to these questions will go far to inform your migration strategy. With your migration strategy in hand, you're ready for the next steps — formulating your migration approach and executing the community migration. Check in tomorrow for these crucial steps.