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Navigating an Optimizely CMS 12 Upgrade

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
Published on May 10, 2023

Key considerations and best practices when planning and executing an Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade

Content Management Systems (CMS) are critical components of many organizations' online presence, enabling them to manage, edit, and publish content with ease. However, as technology evolves, so must your CMS. With Microsoft's evolution of the ASP.NET framework and the introduction of .NET 6, a major Optimizely CMS upgrade will become inevitable for organizations that wish to continue receiving support for their Optimizely CMS platform. This blog will explore the important factors to consider when planning and executing an Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, including timeline, project scope, internal resources, and potential partnerships. 


Understanding the Need for an Optimizely CMS 12 Upgrade 

Although upgrading your Optimizely (formally Episerver) CMS website to CMS 12 may not be mandatory at this time, it is important to recognize that it will eventually become a requirement. As of now, Optimizely is only releasing bug fixes and security updates for the non-CMS 12 versions of their CMS product. All new features and functionality are being developed on version 12 and higher. This means that without upgrading, your ability to continually recognize a positive ROI (return on investment) for your Optimizely software investment will begin to dwindle because you will no longer be able to take advantage of the latest features which expedite the time-to-market for your most critical business initiatives.  


Navigating the Optimizely CMS 12 Upgrade Process 

Having established the necessity of the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, it's important to understand that this is a major CMS upgrade. This will not be similar to performing the normal Optimizely continuous release upgrades. Microsoft has made significant changes to the underlying ASP.NET framework, which will require almost every piece of the website’s backend coding to be modified during the upgrade process. While this doesn't necessitate a complete website rewrite, it might be the perfect opportunity to pair the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade with a website redesign or rebrand. This can help with the budgeting aspects of the project and ensure that your organization stays current and competitive in the digital landscape. 

To ensure a smooth and successful transition, it's crucial to consider several key aspects that will directly impact the outcome of your upgrade. The following sections will delve into the intricacies of defining the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade timeline and project scope, assessing internal resources, knowing your organization's limits, and potentially finding a partner for the upgrade process. By paying close attention to these areas, you can confidently take on the journey of upgrading your Optimizely CMS and maximizing the benefits it brings to your organization. 


Step 1: Define Project Scope 

Before initiating the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, you need to define the project's implementation scope. With a large percentage of the website’s code requiring adaptation to the latest version of ASP.NET, this should involve identifying success metrics, desired outcomes, functional specifications, and any limitations, constraints, or dependencies. Consider the following questions when determining the scope: 

  1. How will we know if the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade process was successful? 
  2. How will the upgrade impact the website's functionality and user experience? 
  3. Are there any technical or budgetary constraints that may impact the project? 
  4. Will a website redesign be part of the upgrade process? 
  5. Will the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade affect any other connected systems?  
  6. Are there or should there be any infrastructure changes made as a result of the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade? 
  7. Do we have the functional specifications for all of our website's features documented?
    • Pro Tip: this will be critical for post-upgrade quality assurance. 
  8. Are there any software licensing considerations required as a result of the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade? 

By understanding the project's scope, your organization can set realistic expectations and minimize unknown issues, which can lead to delays and cost overruns. 


Step 2: Assess Internal Resources 

A major CMS upgrade requires a dedicated team of skilled professionals, including project managers, developers, designers, and quality assurance testers. You need to assess your organization's internal resources to determine if you have the necessary expertise and capacity to execute the upgrade. Consider your team's current workload, skill sets, and availability to ensure that they can commit to the project without compromising other responsibilities. 

It's crucial to be realistic about your organization's capabilities when planning a major CMS upgrade. Recognize the limits of your internal resources and be prepared to seek external support if needed. Identifying these limitations early in the process will help prevent delays, frustration, and potential failure. If your organization lacks the required expertise or capacity, consider partnering with an external agency who can support the upgrade process. This partnership can provide access to specialized knowledge and resources, as well as valuable insights and best practices from previous upgrade projects. 


Step 3: Find a Partner for the Optimizely CMS 12 Upgrade Process 

If you identify that your organization requires external assistance for the Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, it's essential to invest time in researching and selecting the most suitable partner. Find a partner with an established track record in successfully executing similar projects, and take the following factors into account when making your decision: 

  1. Technical expertise: Confirm that the partner possesses the necessary skills and experience with Optimizely CMS 12 and the ASP.NET 6 framework. 
  2. Communication: Choose a partner who prioritizes effective communication, ensuring they are responsive, transparent, and committed to providing regular progress updates. 
  3. Budget and timeline: Be candid about your budget and timeline constraints and verify that the partner can accommodate your requirements.  
    • Pro Tip: If you are considering a partner for your Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, work on a project timeline collaboratively. This will ensure that any timeline you communicate to your internal stakeholders is realistic based on the project's constraints.  

By considering these factors, you can establish a productive partnership that will support your organization throughout the upgrade process and contribute to its success. 

Step 4: Define the Timeline 

Any major CMS upgrade is a complex and time-consuming process that requires careful planning and coordination. Optimizely's CMS 12 upgrade is no exception. Begin by outlining a clear timeline, which should include milestones, deadlines, and contingencies for any unforeseen challenges. Allocate sufficient time for each phase, including research, planning, development, testing, and deployment. Ensure that all relevant stakeholders are aware of the timeline and their responsibilities throughout the upgrade process. 


Next Steps to Start the Upgrade Process

A successful Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade necessitates meticulous planning, efficient resource allocation, and a comprehensive understanding of your organization's capabilities. With Microsoft's significant updates to the ASP.NET framework, it becomes increasingly vital for organizations to prepare for this transition. To ensure a seamless Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, contemplate the following steps: 

  1. Define the project scope and limitations, encompassing external integrations. 
  2. Evaluate internal resources, identifying any skill or capacity gaps. 
  3. Investigate potential partners for the upgrade process, taking into account their technical expertise, communication, and ability to work within or assist in defining your budget and timeline. 
  4. Establish a well-defined timeline complete with milestones, deadlines, and contingency plans. 

By following these steps, your organization will be well-equipped to navigate the complexities of an Optimizely CMS 12 upgrade, enabling you to harness the advantages and potential offered by cutting-edge technology.