In any complex system or entity, there is often a ‘big red button’ - an option that’s typically only considered as a last resort. For most CIOs in charge of e-commerce platforms, this button is likely to be labelled as ‘replatforming’. When evaluating the need to replatform, it's crucial to consider the content management system (CMS) that's helping to power the e-commerce experience.

E-commerce replatforming involves shifting your website and other e-commerce assets from an existing CMS to a different one, often involving a change in vendors. Multiple existing bottlenecks or pain points in the existing CMS can help to justify undertaking this major intervention.

Though it can be a painful and expensive undertaking, replatforming is often quite inevitable – all CMS systems hit a plateau, eventually reaching a point of obsolescence or inefficiency that starts to affect your business negatively.

Also, with the breakneck speed at which digital technology, devices, and consumer behaviour is evolving these days, the likelihood of reaching that point in the near future has only grown stronger.

Building a Case for Replatforming – Signs & Symptoms

Does your current system require constant maintenance and bug fixes? Are your employees apprehensive at the sight of even a minor system update? Are your clients complaining about poor online service? Does it lack essential features like omnichannel support and easy integration of third-party systems?

If the answers are in the affirmative for multiple questions of this nature and your current software partner does not have adequate upgrade options, replatforming is probably the best option. The important thing to note here is that these symptoms have to be spread across your organisation, and not just localised.

In the case of the latter, a less drastic step like redesigning or repurposing of individual subsystems may suffice. But when the concerns are related to the broader systems, a replatforming may well be on the cards. We can classify the different signs and symptoms based on where they originate.

1. Customer Side

These are often the most obvious signs that the current CMS system is proving to be inadequate. Your customers may be experiencing difficulty in accessing necessary information or completing an online purchase. If they cannot use your platform on specific devices (like mobile phones), this is cause for concern. Apart from customer complaints, other subtle symptoms can include spikes in page bounce rates, onsite search queries, and slower page load times.

2. IT Side

Often, it is your tech team that bears the brunt of an aging and outdated CMS system. They may find that they’re spending more and more time in system maintenance. If even minor updates result in widespread errors, plugin failures, and time-consuming patches, it might be time to shift to a new platform.

Another critical reason that on its own may be worthy of replatforming is the lack of integration features. Modern e-commerce platforms have to be incredibly flexible, with the ability to integrate a wide range of software systems, plugins, APIs, and other third-party solutions. A CMS that does not provide such essential features is holding companies back from providing better customer experiences.

3. Financial Side

Rising costs of the software platform can be a compelling reason, especially for smaller organisations with limited resources. Often it isn’t the actual licensing cost that prompts a replatforming decision – it is the additional costs of system maintenance, error-fixing, and so on. It can be seen that inefficient systems have an indirect impact on a company’s financials, acting as an additional incentive to replatform to a modern e-commerce platform.

4. Marketing Side

If your marketing department is struggling with basic tasks like site updates, content publishing, social media integration, and personalisation of services, it should raise serious red flags about your existing CMS. Speed is of the essence in e-commerce – if everything takes a particularly long time and requires more effort (compared to your competition), you should consider migrating to a more efficient platform.

The Case Against Replatforming – Risk Factors

If migrating to a new platform can solve all those myriad problems listed above, it stands to reason that replatforming should be a high priority project. But in reality, most organisations balk at the prospect of shifting their entire e-commerce setup to a new, unfamiliar platform.

This reaction is based on some valid, albeit often exaggerated fears:

  • Cost and time overruns – replatforming projects often miss their budget goals and timelines, resulting in significant losses to the business
  • Disruption – a system-wide change that affects all your departments, clients, and partners will undoubtedly affect your ongoing projects and routines
  • Sunk cost fallacy – legacy systems often absorb a lot of investments, making executives wary and reluctant to abandon it for a new platform

Business organisations thrive on stability but it also breeds an instinct that is highly resistant to change, both in the minds of the employees and higher-level management. A legacy system is often a tangled web of networks that affects virtually all departments and aspects of a business. These are some of the risk factors associated with effecting change to legacy systems.

1. Online Impact

If done without adequate research and preparation, migration to a new platform can result in continued disruption of your e-commerce activities. There is always a risk that your websites will take a hit, either in terms of reduced functionality or decreased accessibility. Marketing and SEO will face some short-term impacts, with a chance of decreased incoming traffic.

2. Inadequate Research

To taste success, a replatforming project should have a clear understanding of the needs of the organisation, as well as the capabilities of the new platform. This calls for extensive research and preparation. Due care should be taken in the selection of the new platform. If the project goals are not clearly aligned with the existing requirements of the chosen platform, the whole endeavour could end up as a wasteful exercise.

3. Lack of Technical Expertise

Modern CMS and DXP systems are very user-friendly when it comes to front-end functionality. But they are much more complex than legacy systems when it comes to back-end maintenance. It’s likely that you’ll need to augment or improve your existing IT staff with adequate training and fresh hires to handle the replatforming. If there is a technical void, it could even lead to unforeseen delays and improper deployment of systems.

4. Data Security

Business data can be highly vulnerable during a system-wide migration to a new platform. Any loss here has the potential to severely affect your ability to conduct business as usual. In addition, if it involves user data, the impact could even affect your firm’s reputation. Cybercriminals often exploit the vulnerabilities during system upgrades and migrations. If adequate security countermeasures are not in place, your data could end up in the wrong hands.

5. Internal Resistance

When dealing with a project that will affect virtually all departments of an organisation, managers often face resistance from all corners.  It can be solved through sustained and clear channels of communication – you need to inform all stakeholders about the necessity of the project and how the benefits outweigh the short-term pains. Creating enough internal support and enthusiasm for a replatforming project can prove to be a very challenging task.

6. Inadequate Testing 

Time is always a luxury in business, especially during replatforming. When trying to bring a new system onboard, there tends to be at least a few bumps that need to be ironed out. The project plan should try to include as much time as possible for structured testing of all different systems and plugins. Failure in this aspect can lead to the deployment of a sub-optimal solution riddled with bugs and performance issues.

Is Your Business Considering Replatforming?

Businesses often find themselves undecided when considering a platform migration. While taking the plunge can massively improve the long-term prospects of their e-commerce business, the risks are also quite monumental. This is not a decision to be taken lightly – it requires extensive research, preparation, and discussions with all the stakeholders within and outside your business.

Find out more about the competitive advantages of modern B2B e-commerce platforms and how they enable businesses to meet customers’ growing expectations.

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