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5 Things to Know When Migrating an E-Commerce Platform

In this post, we will share our best practices for completing a successful migration project based on our experience with real migration projects. Similar to the way a chef prepares a meal, the secret is gathering the right ingredients before you get started.   

At Wizeline, we often support our clients in various migration projects. Our teams work with e-commerce brands to modernize their tech stack and drive business outcomes as a result. We recently completed a Magento V1 to V2 migration and want to share some best practices that can be applied to any migration.

Magento Migration

As background, Magento 1 was released in 2008 as an open-source platform for small and medium online retailers. In the years since, the platform has taken off and now ~25% of e-commerce shops run on Magento. The world of online retail has changed quite a bit in the 12 years since Magento 1 launched and its parent company, Adobe, is sunsetting the product. Retailers who relied on Magento 1 now must migrate to Magento 2 to avoid exposing their business to security risks or losing third-party compatibility. Beyond avoiding these negatives, retailers that migrate to Magento 2 will experience an improved all-around performance, a more responsive mobile checkout experience, and support for popular payment gateways without additional integrations. 

In a recent Magento migration project, we documented some of our best practices and came up with five tips that can apply to any e-commerce platform migration.

  1. Understand the customer’s objectives
  2. No mystery ingredients
  3. Prepare for the change
  4. Set up a realistic time frame
  5. Mise en Place: Assemble the right team & tools

1. Understand the customer’s objectives

When Wizeline prepares for a migration, we take the time to understand our client’s perspective. This is the first important step in the process of migration, as we need to learn why they need to migrate and how their platform works. For that we:

  • Familiarize ourselves with the current operations of the e-commerce platform
  • Review the constraints (any customizations, dependencies, extensions or themes that will not be available after migration)
  • Clarify precisely what is included in the migration effort and identify blockers

During our initial meeting, the client provides an inventory of their needs, which, at this point, can still be quite high-level. This meeting is typically led by a Wizeline Solution Architect, who will bring experience and expertise working with similar customers and tech stacks. 

As a team, we validate our initial assumptions and proactively communicate any questions, risks, or items for follow-up. We study our client’s vision and needs, and then internally prepare to meet their expectations. 

2. No mystery ingredients

We’ve learned that some aspects of our client’s storefront might be unknown to them, and that can affect the migration process. 

For example, storefront extensions or plug-ins can execute calls to external services, and the client may not be aware of it. These extensions could create compatibility issues during the migration. 

As your partner, it is our job to discover these unknowns. We start by analyzing the architecture to discover third-party integrations or important security issues. We make note of all the practices within the infrastructure that can be difficult to migrate. If possible, we get an input about the traffic statistics of the store we are about to migrate. This can help generate the appropriate infrastructure with their cloud provider(s).

Usually, this phase includes many stakeholder interviews to better understand their current setup. We create reports with our assumptions based on the interviews to later validate them with the client.

3. Prepare for the change

Change is the central subject of the migration, and many stakeholders might not be prepared for it! Before any engineering work begins, we walk our end stakeholders through a change management plan, so they become comfortable with the process and timing. They need to be mindful of the adjustments and changes to their platform and online storefronts. For example, some of the extensions might not be suitable for the migration and alternative solutions will need to be considered and implemented as replacements.

For the migration to be successful, we provide a plan based on the objectives and business details that the client shared earlier. After we identify pain points, we articulate our proposed solutions and benefits. 

Figure 1. General Migration Overview

 

In our experience, migrations are the least painful when the stakeholders understand the risks and processes as well as the change management that will need to take place once it is complete. Clear communication at all phases will keep all parties aligned. 

Workshops, though often used for design-centric projects, are also valuable for migration projects. A useful exercise at Wizeline is a pre-mortem analysis, during which the team meets before the engineering work starts to identify potential issues and present solutions. For a successful migration to occur, stakeholder alignment and clear change management plans are crucial.

4. Set up a realistic time frame 

E-commerce companies have strong incentives for their migration to happen very quickly. However, it is better to be realistic since early on and plan accordingly than to accelerate the time frame.

On average, a full e-commerce platform migration takes between two and three months. This timeline can extend if the client requires a broader scope in the migration effort. For example, more time will be required if the storefront has a complex database model or if the client wants the integration of a new visual theme. Wizeline plans a five to six-week discovery exercise, which includes detailed estimates to predict the migration timeline and align it with other product roadmaps. For example, the client might want to migrate to cloud infrastructure from on-premise data centers as well.

While retrieving all the information, we can estimate and set up a realistic time frame to perform the migration. At this point, we develop a holistic plan that includes the approach, resources, costs, and time necessary for the migration. We prioritize the tasks and come down to an agreement on how to upskill our client’s business to make them more successful.

We favor being as flexible as possible, since the complexity of the migration may vary according to the platform.

5. Mise en Place: Assemble the right team & tools 

A project with this complexity requires a group of experts, along with technical skills. A Software Engineer, a Software Reliability Engineer, and a Quality Assurance Engineer are a must on our team, along with the Project Manager and a Technical Writer for optimal productivity.

When it comes to tools, we look for frameworks that make the migration run smoothly, such as CI/CD tools that can control the process of migration, the infrastructure, or the tests. We share the advantage of automation with the client and discuss how to use Infrastructure as a Service and Test Automation, combined with a thorough testing plan to facilitate a smooth migration.

The migration of an e-commerce platform may come with some unique characteristics. For example, Magento migration comes with specialized tools for data and code migration.

Need help migrating? We’re here to help!


Caroline Buck

Posted by Caroline Buck on July 21, 2020