May 23, 2019
Last week I sat down with Kate Weaver, a community veteran and former Director of Extranet Communities at Health Catalyst. The purpose of our conversation was to discuss her experience migrating from one community platform to another. Kate’s story should prove helpful to other community owners considering a similar path.
Andrew Kratz: Kate, before we start can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into the community and collaboration industry?
Kate Weaver: I worked in the IT industry for 18 years, primarily in healthcare, before finding a position as a Community Manager for a healthcare analytics company. They needed someone who knew the healthcare industry (HIPAA, healthcare vocabulary, medical record systems, etc.), and understood product and web development, to implement and grow a new community from “scratch” (a vendor-built platform with homegrown content). My role grew from Community Manager to Director of Extranet Communities as we built out an interactive, employee-cultivated, client-serving community.
AK: What prompted you and your organization to consider a new platform?
KW: When I found out the vendor who built our community platform had been sold, I started talking to my network of community managers and attending webinars hosted by the platform’s new owners to learn more about the fate of the platform product, but it sounded like the platform was in trouble. I also received emails from Social Edge with additional details about the future of the platform, based on your company’s information.
Unfortunately, signs pointed to a future that had no new features or development and limited support. Our contract price was also going to increase significantly, as our user activity was increasing as well. Our choices were to either migrate by February, before we had to renew our contract, or wait another year, pay a more expensive license fee, risk any arising support issues, and have to migrate more content and user accounts in another year. My assessment was that the migration was going to be more complicated and more expensive if we waited a year.
AK: We often speak to clients about the three parts of a migration:
Can we dive into each of those with you?
KW: Yes, let’s do it.
AK: For the platform selection did you have a specific process you used?
KW: I interviewed four of my most trusted community manager contacts and listened to their reasons for considering different platform options. Everyone was concerned about the future of their current platform and considering several alternatives. I used the comparison tool on the Feverbee website to do a comparison of the platforms that seemed to be the best fit for our needs and budget - that comparison tool is very helpful. I also emailed Social Edge, explained our most important community needs, and you sent me a list of several platforms to consider, based on our needs (size, audience, integrations, and growth), and why each was worth consideration.
Finally, I contacted the three companies I’d narrowed it down to, and asked for demos of their products. At that point, I asked members of my team to sit in on the demos as well, to get their input. Budget was also important - the price difference was three-fold between the most and least expensive platform alternatives. Our final choice was the best fit for our scope, schedule and budget.
AK: For the content migration, our clients always have the most questions for us in this area. It is understandable as there could be years of knowledge stored in their community and they don't want to lose it. What was your experience with data migration? The process? The end result?
KW: This was the easiest part of the migration. With a small team, we knew we couldn’t do the content migration on our own - 4,000 pieces of content was a lot to move ourselves. We knew we needed help. Fortunately, we had the funds to hire Social Edge to do the “heavy lifting” for us, allowing me and my team to work on the configuration and some redesign, as well as adding content from a recent acquisition, into our community, before the new community went live on the new platform.
The expert team from Social Edge had done several migration efforts to the platform before, so they had a seamless process and a smart project plan, which allowed us to migrate the content efficiently and with a lot less stress than we would have, had we tried to do it ourselves. We had a very successful migration that happened on time and on budget - what few issues we did find were quickly identified and mitigated.
AK: Finally, regarding the platform configuration: we find clients don't realize there is no way to automate this part of the process which can result in a lot of work for the client or service partner. What was your experience here and how did you handle the set-up?
KW: Configuring the new platform was a two-part process. The first part, which could have been quite overwhelming, was figuring out how to change the elements of our community from the old platform to fit into the configuration options of the new platform. Things like metadata including text formatting and font sizes were not an easy one-to-one conversion. Bigger issues came up, too, such as how tabs or subsets of information were related to the “parent” set of information.
In our case, spaces/subspaces did not migrate directly to a group/subgroup setup, this became an issue specifically for ideation. This was the other piece of the migration process that we were glad we could hire Social Edge to help us through, and the insight we got from your experts was so helpful, I’m sure we avoided several pitfalls thanks to their guidance and hard work helping us configure our new community.
The second part of configuration, which was exciting, included some redesign by my team. After two years of growing our community, and some new products and services to share with our community audience, we used this as our time to do some reorganizing of the community, changing some parts about the UI to make it more logical to use and easy to navigate.
AK: Clients often ask for a “lift and shift” where they essentially want a similar experience on a new software platform. Is that what you did? Were there any adjustments you made while making the move to a new software platform?
KW: What we’d signed up for was just that - move our content and users over to a new platform that we felt confident would be a better solution for us in the long-term. What we got was a chance to rethink what we were presenting in our community, how we wanted to change some of the architecture and layout, and how we wanted to get our audience’s attention directed to specific information. We also took some time to purge old and outdated pages and content.
Essentially, this was the time to do version 2.0, which was better, nicer looking, easier to navigate, and more efficient to use. That was another bonus that came with hiring Social Edge to help us migrate and configure - they trained us and demonstrated how to use the new platform, from creating new pages and page elements (widgets), to user permissions, to reporting and analytics.
AK: Kate, I know you are interested in working with companies on their community. In addition to your migration experience, in what other areas of a community can you help other companies?
KW: Based on my most recent experience with migration, I’d definitely like to help other organizations through the process of evaluating when and how to migrate their community, and select the best platform and migration plan to meet their needs. Two other areas in which I’d like to help other companies are 1) increasing member engagement and 2) proving community ROI/VOI.
In my previous role, we set up a great system for analyzing and reporting on member activity, trends, and content value, using the information to understand who was accessing what information, whether they were returning, what content they were revisiting, what roles and organizations they came from, etc. This was how we started to identify our champions, get them more deeply engaged, and then they would draw in new members. This information helped us increase member engagement and report back to content owners and our organization’s leadership about the increase we were seeing in member engagement, repeat visitors, valuable content, and most visited pages. We also used this information to help us decide how to reorganize and purge so more popular content was easily accessible and less popular or helpful content was moved or purged.
AK: Thanks so much for your time today, Kate. Clients considering a community migration will appreciate your answers and expertise!
Are you considering a community migration? If so, please contact the Social Edge team at email@example.com so we can help you make the best decision for your organization.