Manual vs. automated content migration to Sitecore: things to consider

  • Posted on March 30, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

Content migration is not an easy task. It requires careful planning and many different variables to take into consideration. Depending on the volume of content to be migrated, automation of the migration process might be the right approach. Automated migration is always possible, however, if the amount of content to be migrated is not too high or its structure is undefined, it can become a longer and more expensive process than a manual one. By evaluating the scope of the migration and calculating the potential costs involved, you can evaluate the best approach.

Get to know your source

To automate migration, it is important to have a very well-defined data model of your source content and a clear definition of your target. For example, when migrating content from a legacy content management system to Sitecore you should confirm how the content is organized in the source system. Some initial questions include:

  • Is it accessible through an API or via a direct connection to its database?
  • If through API, which kind (REST or SOAP), and which programming languages can be used to access it? Is the API documentation accessible?
  • How much time should be allocated to understanding or figuring it out (in case API documentation is poor or missing altogether)?
  • If it’s organized via direct database access, what DBMS is used?
  • Can we connect to it via C#.NET code?
  • If no API or no direct database access is available or possible, does the legacy site have a well-structured HTML output that could allow scripts to be written for a direct crawling of the published site to retrieve its content?

In some cases, automated migrations may require a combination of both: crawling the front-end output and accessing the backend system through API or database queries.

How to calculate automation costs

To calculate whether the effort to use automated scripts is worth considering, check how much effort would be required to manually migrate the content. You can do that by checking the complexity of the new design and how long a content author would require in Sitecore to manually create each page.

For example: let’s assume a page of simple to medium complexity requires 20 minutes on average to be created. That gives us, for someone working 8 hours a day on such a task, an average of three pages per hour and a total of 24 pages per day. If you have a team of five people working on this task you should be able to migrate close to 120 pages per day, or 600 pages in one week. This scenario is optimistic and maybe even aggressive. Based on my experience on previous migration projects, for medium complexity, considering breaks, meetings and other unplanned interruptions to the migration entry work, this number should be kept to a max of 20 pages per day, giving us 500 pages per week with a team of five resources. A thousand pages would require two weeks for content entry only. On top of that, you also need to add a team for QA that could start their work in parallel to the content entry, adding as well at least another week at the end of final reviews of the content based on QA feedback.


Figure 1. Sample timeline for manual content migration. Does not include site build activities (prior to migration) and deployment to production (after UAT and fixes are finalized). Durations are for relative reference only. Actual project durations will vary depending on content and templates complexity and volume.

Now you can calculate how much the total effort for both teams would cost. Don’t forget to add all necessary overseeing and management in your cost considerations, as well any infrastructure setup or VMs to be created and maintained during this process. Calculate how much effort would be required to automate this process, and then compare both estimates in terms of cost and duration.

As a rule of thumb, when scripts need to be written from scratch or existing scripts may require a good amount of customization, automated migration generally becomes more cost effective when volume exceeds 1,000 pages. But in some cases, especially when the automated process can leverage existing tools for similar scenarios with minimal or no customization, automatically migrating fewer pages could also be considered.

With migration scope and anticipated costs in mind, you can decide if automation is the right approach for your initiative. For a deeper understanding of content migration strategy, automation techniques and innovative ways to leverage your content for a richer customer experience, contact the Avanade team. Our end-to-end Sitecore capabilities can help you from early migration planning to execution and beyond.

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