AEM Cloud Service: How to move to the cloud step by step
Adobe introduced a new generation of cloud CMS with Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service at the end of 2019. This is one of the biggest changes in the CMS industry that will reshape the entire CMS landscape.
Content Management Systems in the cloud will be the future standard. Are you ready to make the switch?
Making the switch may be a big step for you and your organisation and you might have questions:
- Is your current CMS “cloud-ready”?
- Is Adobe Experience Manager as a cloud service the right CMS for you?
- What are the benefits of moving your CMS to the cloud?
- What challenges might you face?
- What are the steps required to move to the cloud?
Today, we are going to have a look at Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service, why it’s a market leader, and why it’s so different to the solution you are using right now.
Using a Cloud CMS requires a mindset shift in the way you implement CMS and website projects.
A new mindset and a new agile project approach enable you to migrate your existing CMS over to Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service in less than 3 months.
Are you ready?
Is your current Content Management System ready for the cloud?
You might think that your current CMS is ready for the cloud. You could simply take your current solution and “push it” to the cloud.
To judge if your current CMS is ready to offer a real cloud service, you could simply ask yourself (or your CMS vendor) the following questions:
- How can your website scale based on traffic automatically?
- What is the availability of your current solution? Is it 99,99%?
- Are you always on the latest version or are you running 2-3 versions behind?
- How can you innovate and deploy new features fast?
The idea of a cloud service is that the infrastructure layer is abstracted. You only focus on what matters: customer experience management.
Let’s have a look at a cloud-native CMS with Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service.
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What is Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service?
Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud service (or AEM Cloud Service in short) is a new generation of the Adobe experience management platform.
Despite offering a similar authoring experience and features than the managed service version of the content management system, AEM Cloud Service is a native cloud product that has been designed and developed for cloud purposes.
With AEM, the marketing team gets to manage the customer experience. The tool’s content management features help organise content and assets centrally.
The digital experience can be orchestrated from a single content hub. Personalised experiences can be delivered through various channels such as the website, mobile app, or e-commerce.
AEM Cloud Service is software-as-a-service – not another CMS repackaged in a cloud-like infrastructure.
The solution has many great features and key criteria such as:
- AEM Cloud Service is always on the latest version.
- AEM Cloud Service is scalable.
- AEM Cloud Service is always up and running.
The CMS can now automatically scale based on website traffic. There also is an authoring cluster now. This means that authors won’t see any downtime when an upgrade happens.
If you have more questions about Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service please visit this FAQ page.
The benefits of Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service for your company
You might already be using cloud solutions at your company and understand their benefits. Let’s highlight some benefits specific to AEM Cloud Service.
Decreased total cost of ownership
The total cost of ownership is reduced compared to an on-premise approach.
Your company won’t spend time, effort and resources setting up IT environments, servers and other operation models to maintain content management on-premise anymore.
As less people are required on the project, your team can spend their time creating value for the company.
The human resources needed for the project will work specifically on the experience management part – the one creating value – and not on the operation part.
Use the latest innovative features (and stop migrating)
AEM as a Cloud Service offers seamless daily maintenance updates and monthly feature updates. Your CMS will always be up-to-date and you will work with the most recent innovation offered by the tool.
More secure and reliable
As Adobe releases daily maintenance updates, as soon as a security patch must be applied, it’s done within a day.
Your solution will always be on the latest security standard.
The CI/CD workflow that comes with the solution will perform automatic integration tests during any website updates.
Always on and scalable
No more downtime and content freezes. The cloud service monitors the load on your website and increases the resources if needed automatically.
Faster time to value
AEM Cloud Service offers a brand new way to manage projects and bring your new website to life.
Focus on innovation and not operation
This is the main benefit of AEM Cloud Service.
You can focus on innovation, you can focus on delivering new features fast, you can focus on improving the customer experience. And you can stop speaking about IT operations.
A quick go-live and constant innovation
With Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service, you need a mindset shift. Stop thinking about a CMS project as you did before.
You should not spend time defining a 2-year roadmap of features, then spend months on development, and finally, use only half of the features you developed.
The main benefit of this lean approach is that you can transfer your existing website to AEM Cloud Service in less than 3 months.
You can reach almost 90% of your website design goals by following this lean approach.
Why not go live first and then spend time customising?
Once the website is live, you could start incorporating more features.
A lean approach to moving your CMS to the Cloud
The following approach is based on “low code” and few customisations. It leverages a set of default UX elements and best practices enabling you to create a great customer experience without intensive development activities.
The recommendation is to start small with a minimal viable website and deliver new features fast. Keyword: agility.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t develop custom elements with AEM Cloud Service. But if you start following this path, the project will become more complex and take more time.
To achieve agility and low code implementation, the project is based on the following key elements:
- The Digital Foundation Blueprint of Adobe,
- the AEM Core Component library
- and the One Inside Agile project approach.
Adobe Digital Foundation Blueprint
The Adobe Digital Foundation Blueprint is a new implementation methodology.
It provides best practices and recommended steps to implement a project with AEM Cloud Service.
It has been designed to deliver successful results at high speed. You will get one of the major benefits of the cloud by embracing this project methodology: faster time to value.
AEM Core Components
A component is a key part of the authoring activities with AEM. Editors can organize and break down content into various components which control the look and feel of the content.
The AEM Core Components is a library of standard components. The core components were designed to be very layout-agnostic and produce almost any layout for web pages. It’s possible and recommended to configure them based on your needs and style them based on your corporate identity.
The core components are very flexible and in most cases, you should be able to build more than 90% of your website with them without coding. The rest can be omitted or done later with custom development, preferably after go-live.
One Inside’s agile project approach
One Inside follows an agile approach for its AEM projects implementations.
During the implementation, a Scrum-based approach provides transparency throughout the development phases – including the possibility to embrace change at any time.
At the end of each 2-week sprint, a demo of the solution is presented to the project owner and key stakeholders.
Over the last decade, One Inside has created a documentation methodology tailored for AEM projects, including agile boards. Every stakeholder involved in the project can see the progress and everything is kept in sync from the implementation proposal to the QA.
Move to Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service step by step
The following part will give you insights about the main project phases and milestones. It’s based on Adobe’s Digital Foundation Blueprint and adapted based on One Inside’s expertise.
The described approach works for different scenarios. You can migrate your current AEM website to the cloud, migrate any CMS to the AEM Cloud Service or start from scratch with a brand new website.
The project is split into three main phases:
- Discovery: stakeholders from various parties (customer, partner, vendor) meet to align on the objectives and project scope.
- Implementation: this is where most of the work happens. Consultants and developers work on the configuration of AEM as a Cloud Service until the first release and go-live of the website.
- Optimisation: After the go-live, you continuously improve the customer experience by leveraging analytics and personalisation features.
(Please note that the design phase of the project won’t be discussed here. We assume that you already have a design for your website or will use the existing one when migrating.)
Let’s go through the steps of the discovery and implementation phases leading to the go-live of your website in 10 weeks.
Step 1 – Kickoff
We all know that the start of a project is key for its success. The main stakeholders have to meet and define the organisation chart and communication workflow. It’s also the right time to share project goals and key milestones.
Step 2 – UX solution design
The goal of this step is to understand the information architecture of the website and how the content is structured around page elements.
A component mapping is done between the existing website (or design) and the core component library.
At the end of this step, which core components have to be used and how they have to be configured to reproduce the website user experience has to be defined clearly.
The components will be skinned by the front-end development team to reproduce your branding style later.
Step 3 – Development environments
Even though AEM Cloud Service is in the cloud, development and configuration still happen locally.
Local environments for the developers and a build pipeline connected with the Adobe Cloud Manager have to be set up to streamline development activities.
An initial deployment of AEM is also done via the Cloud Manager and a very first version of the project is deployed to the staging environment (in the Cloud).
(More detail about the Cloud Manager can be found later in this article).
Once the environments are ready, and the core components structure defined, the implementation phase can start.
Step 4 – Configuration
This step consists of setting up Adobe Experience Manager and the sites, pages and component definitions.
Additional configurations are also done during this step such as:
- Single Sign-On
- Users permissions
- Asset library
- Cloud Service configurations
If you intend to use other tools from the Adobe Experience Cloud such as Launch to manage your marketing tags, Adobe Analytics or Target, it will be done during this step and via Adobe I/O.
Step 5 – Development
Most of the work in this phase is about component styling.
The front-end developers will extend the default core component stylesheet to include your corporate identity.
Global styling of the website will be done by adding the customer font, brand colour and background images. Then each template and core components selected previously will be skinned..
As an agile approach is followed, all the elements are tested continuously, and also demonstrated every two weeks by our team of AEM experts.
It’s also possible to create custom components at this stage or to migrate existing custom AEM components. We recommend doing custom work after go live.
Step 6 – Content Authoring
During this step, the site structure is created and the content is migrated together with the assets.
Different strategies can be considered based on the volume of pages to migrate:
- Content can be migrated manually by the editors.
- Content can be automatically migrated with Adobe cloud migration tools.
Step 7 – Prepare the optimisation
This step can run in parallel to all the others. It consists of preparing the steps after the go live and thinking about which optimisations make sense.
Stakeholders from business and marketing are required. Together with an analytics expert and an Adobe Experience Cloud consultant, they will define the analytics framework, the customer data model (used for segmentation), and personalisation concept.
Step 8 – Go live
Going live is about publishing the AEM artefacts to the productive environment (in the cloud).
For the very first “move to the cloud”, it is recommended to have the environment set up and tested all the way to the load balancer by doing quality and security checks of your AEM instance.
Once the AEM artefacts are published to the production environment and are deemed working, the go live is straightforward and involves only a simple DNS change.
What is Adobe Cloud Manager?
The Cloud Manager offers a standard mechanism to deploy new releases to cloud environments (staging, production) of Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service.
It’s the default delivery pipeline. The development team will have to go through it anytime they push something new to the website.
The Cloud Manager automates most of the deployment activities, such as building your code and testing it.
Adobe is releasing regular updates with daily minor fixes and monthly feature updates. Once a new product feature for the underlying Adobe Experience Manager is ready to be delivered, Adobe uses the same Cloud Manager as you to publish the new AEM version.
During such a product update, the customer code is merged with the new product release and tested thoroughly.
The complex mechanism (see image below) guarantees several important points:
- You are always on the latest version of AEM.
- You don’t have to manage product updates on your own anymore.
- New versions of AEM are tested completely and automatically against your own test scenarios and if tests fail, the update will be roll-backed and Adobe informs you so that the problem can be fixed.
- You have no interruption of the service.
Once you are live, optimise
Week 10 is the beginning of your customer experience management journey.
If you are using other products from the Adobe Experience Cloud such as Adobe Analytics or Adobe Target, it’s time to leverage them.
Too many companies acquire these solutions without using them to their full potential. The reason? Priority shifted as the team effort focused on other topics.
By using AEM Cloud Service, your team can focus on what matters the most: the customer experience and innovation.
- Analyse the collected user data and understand their behaviour.
- Segment your audience and personalise the experience.
- Use the core components library to enhance the UX faster than before.
Value is delivered more frequently.
Why you should move to the cloud now
You might think that it is too early to move to the cloud, that things are working ok for you and your website is doing fine.
But cloud-based digital experience management will be the future standard.
Adobe is the first mover that will lead the way. The rest of the CMS industry will follow, likely with less success and more delay.
A lean approach to website development is a new approach. Low code and less customisation will be the future standard.
The year 2020 has illustrated something important: agility is crucial. Customer behaviours can change anytime and you have to be ready for the change.
You can only benefit from moving your CMS to the cloud:
- Your teams focus on innovating instead of planning for product upgrades.
- You offer better user experience and performance.
- You release new innovations faster.
- You reduce the overall cost of operation.
- You leverage best practice and automate.
- You don’t care about operation, availability and security.
Your very next step: preparing the move to the cloud
Are you ready to move your CMS to the cloud?
Yes, you are and you understand the opportunity offered by Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service.
It’s time to assess your readiness, from a technical and human resources aspect, and to prepare your company for this change.
From a technical perspective, an evaluation of your current CMS must be performed.
- Are you already using AEM?
- How is your website deeply integrated into your current infrastructure?
- What are the key elements of your user experience?
Manage stakeholders to ensure success
Stakeholder management is another important aspect of such a project. Your coworkers have to understand the benefits of the solutio.
We recommend gathering a small project team with an entrepreneur mindset. They should not be afraid to test a new approach and go against the defined rules.
Document the impact of such a project and draw the future. It will be the best way to prepare the shift for the entire organisation, set up the foundation and outline a larger plan.
Are you ready to approach a CMS project in a new way and move to the cloud?
Let us know. We’re excited to help you.
Digital Solution Expert