CMS Migration With a 4-D Approach

By Krishna Prasad 5 min read

If your company is using an older or inflexible content management system to manage and distribute web content, migrating to a new CMS such as Drupal is one of the best ways in which to enhance your digital marketing efforts. Migrating to a new CMS, though, isn’t an easy task for an organization that already has extensive repositories of data and content. Some of the issues that may complicate the migration include:

  • How can we handle the data migration process and transfer our content from the legacy system to the new one?
  • How can we migrate to the new system without negating the energy and money spent on SEO and building a strong online presence?
  • How can we address the SEO and data migration concerns without creating a migration process that’s overly complicated and costly?

Moving to a more robust CMS such as Drupal can extend your company’s digital marketing initiatives and allow you to earn greater returns from your marketing investments. Your existing content, data and search engine rankings are valuable assets, though, and you need a migration strategy that preserves those assets.

The 4-D Approach to Content Management System Migration

At TA Digital, we use what we like to call a “4-D Approach” when performing content management system migrations for our clients. The approach makes the migration as smooth as possible while addressing our clients’ concerns about the preservation of existing data and search engine rankings.

These are the steps of the 4-D approach to content management system migration.

4d Approach To Migration

Discover the Application

Document the Technical Landscape

Before beginning any migration to a new content management system, we need to gain a complete understanding of the topology and infrastructure of the legacy system. During the discovery process, we’ll document the technical and functional landscape of the legacy application. Some of the questions that we’ll seek to answer include:

  • What is the hosting environment of the legacy system?
  • What existing tools and third-party plugins will we need to migrate to the new system?
  • What data does the legacy system exchange with its integrations? Will preserving that data add complexity to the migration process? How will we remap the data to the new system? Will it be necessary to sanitize the data before migrating it?
  • Will we need to migrate all of the existing integrations to the new system, or will the new content management system have features that make some of those integrations redundant?

Document the Functions

During the last stage of the application discovery process, we examine the individual functions of the application.

  • What is the business relevance of each of the application’s functions?
  • Will we need to carry each of those functions over to the new system? Are some of those functions no longer necessary?
  • During the migration process, will we seek to enhance any of those functions?
  • Does the client want to take advantage of the more robust content management system by adding new features to the application during the migration?

Once we’ve completed all of the above steps, we’ll have a thorough understanding of the application and the business importance of its components. No migration of a business’s digital assets is a simple cut-and-paste operation. We ensure that the migration caters to the application’s functional and technical landscape.

Devise a Plan

Map the Data Flow

After we form an understanding of the application and its components, it’s time to plan the migration. We begin to form our strategy by comparing the technical architecture of the legacy application to that of the new content management system. We map the old architecture to the new one, documenting any interface changes that we will need to implement to maintain communication between the new content management system and any external applications in use. The questions that we answer at this stage include:

  • How many different sources will produce data?
  • How many different targets will consume that data?
  • What interfaces — such as the REST API, the SOAP API and data dumps — will we use to facilitate the exchange of data?
  • What are the capabilities and limitations of the current hosting infrastructure? Will the existing infrastructure be appropriate for the needs of the new content management system?

Once we’ve finished mapping the existing data exchange process, we create a map illustrating how the data from the legacy system will flow to the containers in the new content management system.

Create a Plan for Feature Migration

After we finish mapping how data will flow through the new system, we turn our attention to the features and components of the legacy system. We classify the existing features and components into three categories. Those categories are:

  1. Legacy components that we can migrate to the new system with no changes
  2. Legacy components that we will need to modify or enhance before we can migrate them to the new system
  3. Legacy components that we will need to rebuild from scratch rather than migrate to the new system

When we devise a plan for migrating, enhancing or recreating legacy components, we identify what impact introducing those components will have on the new content management system in terms of data and functionality. We also identify the components whose functions are most vital to the activities of the client. It is often necessary to complete a major migration in phases. We plan the phases of the migration to minimize the project’s impact on the business and ensure that the most important aspects of the migration are completed first.

Create a Plan for Maintaining Search Engine Rankings

SEO is one of the most crucial aspects of any migration to a new content management system. Any business with an existing website has put forth enormous effort into building that website’s search engine rankings. Changing the website’s URL structure, code base or text content could cause the site’s rankings on Google and other search engines to change. Some of the steps that we implement to ensure that the website’s status remains the same include:

  • Ensuring that all crucial data survives the migration from the legacy system to the new one
  • Ensuring that the data remains readable by Google and other search engines
  • Using 301 redirects to inform search engines of any URL changes resulting from decommissioned pages
  • Ensuring that the new system has appropriate schema and other metadata in place for maximum search engine visibility
  • Ensuring that the migration creates no 404 errors that could harm search engine rankings

Create a Testing Process

The final step of creating a migration strategy is developing a plan to test the new system after it goes live. The testing process should confirm that:

  • All features and functions of the new system work as they should
  • The new or legacy hosting architecture handles the demands of the new system without performance or reliability issues
  • All integrations communicate and share data as they should
  • All existing data has successfully transferred to the new system with no quality loss
  • All legacy URLs have corresponding URLs or 301 redirects in the new system

Upgrade Your Content Management System Now

At TA Digital, we’ve spent nearly two decades helping companies like yours harness the latest online marketing technologies to stimulate rapid growth. In today’s online marketing climate, we find that a great content management system is the most important digital tool that any company can possess. The right content management system helps your company reach potential customers where they are. It allows your company to present consistent branded experiences over any channel and to remain agile in the face of changing market conditions. If your current content management system — or lack of a content management system — is holding your company back, contact us now to learn more about how we can help.

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About TA Digital

TA Digital is the only global boutique agency that delivers the “best of both worlds” to clients seeking to achieve organizational success through digital transformation. Unlike smaller, regional agencies that lack the ability to scale or large organizations that succumb to a quantity-over-quality approach, we offer resource diversity while also providing meticulous attention to the details that enable strategic success.

Over the past 20 years, TA Digital has positioned clients to achieve digital maturity by focusing on data, customer-centricity and exponential return on investment; by melding exceptional user experience and data-driven methodologies with artificial intelligence and machine learning, we enable digital transformations that intelligently build upon the strategies we set into motion. We are known as a global leader that assists marketing and technology executives in understanding the digital ecosystem while identifying cultural and operational gaps within their business – ultimately ushering organizations toward a more mature model and profitable digital landscape.

Recognized in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019, and 2020 Inc. 5000 list as one of the most successful technology companies in the United States, TA Digital is pleased also to share high-level strategic partnerships with world class digital experience platform companies like Adobe, SAP and Salesforce and possess global partnerships with industry leaders such as Sitecore, Episerver, Elastic Path, BigCommerce, AWS, Azure and Coveo.


Written By

Krishna Prasad