Technology & Engineering August 21, 2014
How to Ensure A Risk-Free, Global Website Rollout
A large-scale or global rollout strategy for a new website can seem daunting. You may be launching up to a hundred new sites, in various languages, managed by teams around the globe with differing local requirements and resource availability. Putting the effort into the planning phase, and ensuring you have the relevant resource at the right time, can mean the difference between a smooth running rollout, and one that overruns on both time and budget.
The payoff of putting the effort in early is not only a successful rollout, but a successful website too – one that engages and serves your customers better, has room to grow, and holds the power to streamline your processes.
Here’s our top tips to help ensure your rollout runs smoothly, to time and to budget.
Own Your Rollout Strategy
Mitigate the risk of overruns and additional costs by appointing a central project manager on your side, who will be the central point of contact for the whole rollout – running regular calls with the CMS vendor and local country teams in order to make sure vital deadlines are met and any issues are dealt with.
IT and third party suppliers will need to work together to set up user access, update DNS entries, create new site folders and, eventually, push sites live. All of these things are key to a successful rollout. A key question is whether there is a ‘change board’ process this needs to go through? It is probable that change approval through internal channels will be required, so be certain that you plan ahead, get buy-in from IT from the start, and get required resource booked in advance.
Have a central team dedicated to developing a content plan and creating your content in an organised way, in the right formats. Get your CMS vendor to be a part of this too, as how much content there is and the goals of the content will affect them. After all, if content planning, entry and management is something they can assist with, it makes sense to use their expertise from the start.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a lot of old content that needs to be re-purposed?
- What formats is the content in? Are they appropriate for the new setup?
- Who needs to sign-off re-purposing or re-formatting content?
Usually, the master site will be in English. A central team can quickly enter the content and build the site out, ready to be signed-off for other countries to localise and translate. For those sites that are remaining in English, it makes sense to tie-in with completion of the master. It doesn’t take much effort to adapt Australia, New Zealand, USA etc. from a master site that is already in English. In this way you can potentially rollout several sites very quickly, early on in the project.
Collaborate with Local Site Teams
Each country site needs a local project manager, or point of contact, to manage local activities and report on progress.
It is best for local country editors to be a dedicated team, or global rollouts may end up being delayed. Teams that try to fit this work in around other responsibilities often end up pushing the timescales and requiring additional training, as they are not using the system enough to get to grips with it. Do not underestimate the task of getting local sites ready for launch. If the task cannot be resourced locally, get content entry experts involved.
Which stakeholders do you need to sign-off before you can go live? Get them lined up in advance. Make use of some simple checklists to tick off things, including:
- Are all links working? (Try using a link checking tool like Xenu Link Sleuth)
- Are all labels, keywords and categories translated?
- Do contact forms send to relevant, local email addresses?
Your enterprise CMS vendor will likely be able to help with checklists, and can often re-purpose the internal system tests to provide checklists like this.
Before the final go-live, have a site signed off locally and then centrally. Central may pick up on something that has been missed or on-brand consistency issues, and it is always advisable to have another pair of eyes check things.
A Considerate Approach
Since a large-scale or global rollout is likely to be a long term, multi-phase project, there are several things that need to be considered:
- Holidays for key team members across the project need to be taken into account and timescales adjusted accordingly.
- Think of other teams/units and what projects they may have coming up – is there any other development work happening that may impact on the rollout? Any system downtime that may impact their tasks?
- We advise developing phase two whilst phase one is being rolled out. However, be sure to engage key stakeholders and ensure they are brought in on this. Inform country teams of upcoming new features that require further content work in advance.
- Bugs and technical issues are inevitable, so plan to allow time and resource for finding and fixing them.
- Keep documentation updated to reflect changes, new additions or improved ways of doing things.
- Provide thorough training. All too often, local editors are given minimal training and then are resourced onto other tasks. This results in the knowledge being lost easily, and additional training/support being required. If the rollout is a key business priority, dedicate the people, time and training budget to make it a success.
Quite often, existing country sites are to be replaced by the new ones. In this situation, consider the need for staging2.website.countrycode and www2.website.countrycode URLs to allow you to continue to update and manage the existing sites whilst reviewing, testing and preparing the new ones. Also, think about mapping old URLs to new ones using 301 redirects to update search engine spiders. This all takes time and needs to be planned up front.
It is also important to make sure you have adequate publishing capabilities. If you are creating your new sites in parallel with maintaining your existing ones, consider the impacts on your existing publishing and deployment processes.
Doing large scale, or global publishing/deployments of your new sites at the same time as someone else is trying to publish an urgent press release on your live site shouldn’t be a problem. Enterprise content management systems usually allow you to publish your new sites on a lower priority than BAU (Business As Usual) content changes, or you can increase the power of your publishing servers to manage the publishing activities required for a set period of time.
Use an RACI matrix to ensure each team member understands what they are responsible and accountable for, and what they should be consulted and informed about. This prevents any confusion later, and ensures everyone knows what they are needed for in terms of review, input and sign-off at key stages.
Global rollouts carry risks. Moving to an entirely different website for your business has the potential for content mistakes, technical issues and delays. The result, though, is a more efficient and technically sound digital platform to move your business forward.
Consider the impact on business, especially for commerce websites, or sites that funnel users into taking an action to book or spend. It is assumed that the testing would have been done as part of the initial project, prior to rollouts, but be prepared for demands to amend local sites if their knowledge of the local market dictates that something may not be a success with the end user.
Plan, plan, plan
If you ensure that you plan ahead, and use the points set out in this article to help you, then you can minimise the risks and manage your global rollout efficiently.
As with any project, a rollout will be a success if you dedicate the time upfront to plan it effectively and ensure it is resourced properly.
Have you a global rollout success story, tips to share, or are you seeking advice for your global rollout strategy? Post us a comment – we’d love to hear from you.