There are many reasons why a business might decide to move on from their incumbent agency. From poor service to a lack of productivity, a skills or knowledge gap hindering your project, or just feeling like it’s time for a change. In some cases, you may not even have a choice but to move as, sadly, your agency has ceased trading. To top it off, you’ve invested time, money and effort into building your website and your agency will likely have all the know-how behind your existing digital estate. So, how do you switch to a new agency without risking everything you’ve built?
It’s likely in the upcoming months, many smaller web development agencies will disappear as casualties of the COVID-19 crisis. This will force businesses relying on these agencies to embark on a site migration out of necessity, rather than choice. Switching agency is a big, and often daunting, process. But, with proper research and preparation, you can make it relatively seamless. Here are some things to remember when the time comes to make a switch.
Apprehension is the norm
Every business has experienced initial apprehension ahead of a website migration project.
But, it’s important to embrace the changes that occur within your business when it comes to making the switch. See it as an opportunity to make improvements that your previous agency may not have been able to accommodate. If you need some guidance on how to select the right agency for your objectives, take a read of our blog on this topic.
Depending on who is managing your migration internally, different people will have different concerns. These could include which areas of the migration the agency handles, whether the agency can continue delivering iterative improvements and future phases of development, alongside technical and marketing considerations too. Some questions you may find yourself pondering are:
- Have we chosen the right agency?
- Is our website going to be impacted by downtime if we switch?
- Is it going to take a lot of time and effort?
- Will there be a lack of service?
- Will they understand our website?
All of these are valid questions to consider ahead of switching agencies or embarking on a website migration, but don’t let them put you off. When looking for a new agency, you will likely be looking for a long-term strategic partner too who will provide the reassurance that they’re able to successfully deliver your project.
Create a schedule of the work that needs to be done and find out more about an agency’s support desk and their ongoing support. An agency should provide you with a selection of support options tailored to your business objectives and budget that go beyond just your migration. Support services such as retainer plans, timebanks, support desks, annual audits, and warranties help to get the most from your digital investment, elongating the time between new website builds for your business. Considering these factors will provide a clear indication of how the agency plans to facilitate your site migration and forge a partnership with you.
Preparation is key
Once you have chosen a new agency, the success of your website migration project doesn’t just sit with them. To guarantee a smooth transition, it is essential to ensure all documentation has been created and your project team has been finalised. Your documentation includes anything you have available that may be useful to your new agency such as technical specifications, implementation notes, source code and branch documentation.
First impressions count. The initial meeting between your new agency and your project team is an opportunity for collaborative discussions to set objectives and requirements in more detail and create realistic expectations on both sides. It’s also the time for introductions.
Initial introductions are a necessity to outline individual roles and responsibilities from the start of a project. This also ensures each member of the team understands who they will be working with and who the main points of contact are. During this process, ensure secondary contacts are identified to provide information or sign off in the absence of a primary contact, this will help the project stay on track.
At this stage, all documentation you have should be made available to your new agency. Before handing it over, you need to take the time to review it from a business perspective. This helps tie up loose ends by ensuring any outstanding work you’re expecting your current agency to do before you leave is covered. Or, at the least, that it’s documented as being incomplete.
Access to information
Documentation isn’t the only thing that needs to be shared to get the project moving. There are likely to be many factors to your migration project including code repository, hosting, database logins and third-party accounts to name a few.
Your new agency will require access to these in order to support your online operations. Ensure you have access and logins securely documented and a plan in place to update them once you have made the switch. Moving agencies is also the perfect opportunity to step up your security, scrutinising different accounts and revoking access to anyone who no longer needs it.
At this stage, including an overview of your digital estate is a great way to demonstrate your business structure, existing platforms being used and any third-party integrations. This insight allows issues that may impact your site project to be identified as early as possible and highlight additional requirements that may not have been noted previously.
These stages will take place before your migration to your new agency begins. There are a number of factors your new agency will consider and take care of once it’s time to make the move.
Auditing current code and setup
An audit process is key to lift the hood on your website and better understand underlying issues with site code and security. Depending on the complexity of the issues, this can cause the initial site migration to be pushed back until they are rectified. This is done to ensure your website is migrated in the safest possible way, protecting not only your site, but valuable business data as well.
Following a comprehensive site audit, a detailed list of recommended changes is identified, along with order of priority. The primary focus of this audit would be to uncover the level of technical debt that a website may have, and how much effort should be invested in resolving the problems. In some cases, these may need to be addressed ahead of a site migration, but the majority of amends will be addressed as part of an ongoing retainer plan with your new agency.
A retainer plan is tailored to the level of ongoing support your business requires. This form of iterative website improvement works successfully for many of our clients including Ryobi Tools, Institution of Structural Engineers, Places for People and Newcastle Building Society, who purchase annual development retainers for both one-off projects and larger pieces of support work.
Liaising with your incumbent agency
It’s likely at some stage in the migration process, your new agency will need to liaise directly with your incumbent agency alongside any third-party hosting or CRM providers you work with.
Many agencies will be happy to do this on your behalf. Again, it helps to ensure we have all the relevant information required to make the site migration run as smoothly as possible.
A project migration plan details each step of your site migration, including site downtime, sign off deadlines and roles and responsibilities of both the agency and the client. Setting out the project in this way allows us to plan ahead and start actioning future development phases as soon as possible.
Your website is an important - perhaps currently the most important - asset for your business. If you have made the decision to switch agency, whatever your reason may be, and require guidance on how to take the next steps, contact the team at NetConstruct.