At the onset of a CMS implementation many times developers are faced with an important decision.
“Do I integrate the new system into our current system or replace the old system entirely?”
Whether you are trying to integrate a new CMS into your current static site or are trying to integrate features into your current system by adding another, I would say two words if you are thinking about integrating… USE CATION. Replacing your current system with another can be a daunting task and there are challenges you will face but thinking that integrating will provide you with a more seamless transition or that your current system is fine the way it is might take you down a road to disaster. Don’t let pride in your previous work blind you to the potential dangers that integration may cause.
The Dangers of Integration
There are a lot of reasons one might consider trying to integrate a new system with their current site development methodology (CMS or static). From time concerns to pride there are many things that will make integration look like a good alternative to replacement however, there are significant downsides as well.
Multi-method or Multi-system Confusion
When you try to integrate two systems or methods of building sites you run the risk of seriously confusing your end users. For example trying to combine a static site with a CMS to add news feeds or using one CMS for content and another system for calendar events. People will be lead to think that that system is only capable of doing that one thing. So in the example they will think that your CMS can only be used for news feeds, when in truth it could power the entire site if set up to do so. This will confuse your end users as they will be using one system to “write news” and going into something like Dreamweaver to edit their other static pages. “What good is a CMS that only works on certain pages?” I can’t count on all of my appendages how many times I’ve heard this gripe from end users.
Double your Systems, Double your Work
When you have two systems running one site you now have double the amount of work to do when design and structural changes need to be made. You now need to make the changes in one place, test them get approval then turn around and make sure those changes are reflected on the other system so everything stays in sync.
This point also applies to access management. If a users needs to be able to edit content on the entire site you now have two methods or systems to ensure the access on. Not to mention that the access might need to vary from one system to the next simply because of different roles and permissions schemes between systems.
Remember that users will still need training, so you’ve doubled you work in this area to. Two systems means two curriculum to update and teach. Not only that but you are also going to be increasing the amount that employees need to know in order to be content editors.
Meeting the intent
A lot of times CIOs and managers that don’t know these systems in-depth will give some “gray” objectives for the system and you to accomplish. When C-Level employees or managers ask for something outside of their wheel house it’s important to find out the problem they are really trying to solve before getting started. In many cases they will ask for one thing only to find out later that they really needed something else entirely.
As a web development professional I would strongly encourage you to take requests with a grain of salt. Think about what your client or higher ups really need in the long run. Sure they might think that it’s better in the short term to do an integration but what about in a year when it’s done and now your running two systems to do one thing? Will you need double the staff to run multiple systems? Will the integration be as seamless as you hopped?
Benefits of Replacement
Having an entire site on one system will not only be easier for you to manage but will be easier for end users to keep straight. By investing wholly in a single system you reduce the amount of total manpower and skill required to keep things on the site performing optimally.
I am not saying that in no situation should you ever integrate two methods of building a site. There will be instances where the potential benefits of running separate systems in tandem will out weigh the potential downsides. But be cautious and make sure your not integrating for the wrong reasons.
There are along downsides and considerations to replacement. URL rerouting, massive migrations of content, migration priority and how to integrate with existing data services in the new system. These are all issues you may encounter but they are not show stoppers.