Best Practices to Minimize AEM Upgrade Risks

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is a complex software solution with many moving parts. On the one hand, this makes it a powerful enterprise marketing tool. On the other hand, the complexity can be the source of problems when upgrading AEM across your organization. Why are carefully staged AEM upgrades so important? MarTech stack strategies are only “somewhat successful” at helping to achieve key priorities, according to 64% of marketing professionals. This is especially the case with failed upgrades of enterprise solutions like AEM, which can be a major strain on development teams, who often must rush to identify errors and fix multiple components to get the process back on track. For these reasons, it’s vital to work with a partner like Atypical Digital to help manage your AEM upgrade from start to finish. Here are best practices we employ for upgrading AEM to the latest version available, AEM 6.5, while minimizing common risks. Your team will avoid time-consuming issues and immediately be able to leverage AEM’s latest features.

1. Plan Your AEM Upgrade Properly

The most organized marketing professionals are 397% more likely to report success. Likewise, a well-planned and organized AEM upgrade process will account for your organization’s unique use cases and workflows, while minimizing inefficiencies and errors. It will also prevent the loss of important customizations and content assets and keep every aspect of the upgrade on schedule. The most effective AEM upgrade plans include the following: A Strategy for Author Training Author training will be vital for upgrading the skill set of your personnel when it comes to managing content. Depending on how you’ll use the new version of AEM, your team will have to get used to working within a new user interface, as well as the powerful content creation and deployment methods that AEM 6.5 makes available. First, look back at your existing authoring procedures and figure out which ones to keep and which to discard. An AEM upgrade is a great occasion for distinguishing between processes that work well and those you might want to tweak for better efficiency and alignment with your goals. Then, review the feature set of AEM 6.5 and decide with key stakeholders which new capabilities are most important and most in-line with refinements to authoring procedures. Finally, develop your author training plan in accordance with these decisions. The final training methodology might include, for example, making use of Adobe Digital Learning Services for relevant instruction on crucial aspects of AEM or working with an Adobe Preferred Partner like Atypical Digital to augment in-house staff or implement training that’s custom-tailored to your marketing initiatives. The best-case scenario is for your AEM upgrade and the training to run concurrently. That way, your authors will be able to hit the ground running as soon as your new AEM implementation goes live. Usage of the Pattern Detector A vital part of the planning phase, using the Pattern Detector, will help you determine how complex the AEM upgrade process will be before it’s fully underway. It will help identify which custom APIs the upgrade will render defunct, as well as configurations that will need to be addressed through further development. The Pattern Detector should be run in a staging environment resembling your production environment as closely as possible. After running it, your project management personnel should have rough insight into the length and intricacy of your AEM upgrade. Use the results of the Pattern Detector to develop a custom runbook and allocate time and resources effectively to the rest of the upgrade process. Creation of a Test Plan Creating a test plan is crucial for making sure your new AEM installation will meet all expectations and be as functional as before. Specifically, a test plan will ensure the successful migration of customized components, workflows, and integrations and serve as a foundation for airtight QA procedures once the upgrade is done. When creating the plan, be sure to include all unique changes and overlays to the AEM interface, as well as any other modifications that are important to your team’s daily usage and unique marketing strategies. This is key to making sure that every custom feature works just as well or better, post-upgrade.

2. Ensure the Compatibility of Your Systems

Compatibility issues are a significant source of risk, as they can potentially cause delays and errors when upgrading AEM. It’s important to sort these problems out relatively early in the process. Be Aware of Backward Compatibility Issues While AEM 6.5 was designed for maximum backward compatibility, the version of AEM you’re currently running can affect how much your custom code needs to be modified. It’s recommended to fix compatibility problems through development after a fresh upgrade of AEM. If this isn’t possible, you can run a special Compatibility Package with the upgraded AEM 6.5 as an intermediate step in getting your customizations to work within the new deployment. Confirm That All Hardware and Software Meet Technical Requirements It’s essential early on to understand all the technical requirements of AEM 6.5. Know what additional upgrades will be required, given your specific needs and use cases. For example, you might need the latest release of your operating system before upgrading AEM, or you might need new hardware to use the most recent version of the content repository. When taking inventory, be sure to account for all post-upgrade modifications that you’ll make to your workflow and maintenance procedures. This preparation will help you account for every necessary server environment, infrastructure, and hardware change so there are no surprises during or in the aftermath of upgrading.

3. Run Post-Upgrade Tests and Quality Assurance Checks

In 2020, data quality management metrics will be vital to marketers. This is certainly the case with complex, business-critical enterprise solutions like AEM. Post-upgrade tests and QA procedures verify the usability and performance of your AEM upgrade. They also minimize the risk of unexpected challenges long after the process is complete. Verify Logs, Packages, Bundles, and Backups Key verifications will help you ensure that important aspects of the AEM infrastructure have been successfully transitioned to their latest versions and that prior critical assets are accessible. For example, the upgrade.log file is useful for identifying errors in the AEM upgrade before you fully roll it out. Packages, bundles, and backups that are not updated or transferred properly may lead to critical functional issues in AEM after upgrading. Be sure to identify such issues immediately post-upgrade so they can be quickly addressed. Execute the Test Plan Finally, it’s time to run the test plan to verify that all components of your new AEM implementation are in perfect working order, including authoring, published sites, UI workflows, integrations, and performance. Make sure that while running the plan, you distinguish between Authoring and Publishing tasks as appropriate and that you thoroughly document the results of testing in each area.

Is Your Team Ready to Upgrade AEM without a Hitch?

The AEM upgrade process is necessary if you hope to avoid costly technical bottlenecks and keep creating the best-in-class digital experiences that can boost your brand. That said, the process can be complicated and challenging to navigate, with many potential pitfalls. For those reasons, it’s essential to work with an experienced partner who can help you manage the ins and outs of upgrading, all while ensuring that your custom assets, integrations, and workflows are carried through successfully. Atypical Digital has deep experience in handling complex AEM upgrades. We start by assessing your current deployment, as well as your organization’s unique needs for the upgrade. We then draw up an exhaustive blueprint to see your team through to the other side, and execute by employing best practices at every step. Whether you complete the upgrade in-house or work with us to execute the process, we’ll put our technical savvy and strategic thinking to use in ensuring a successful, error-free AEM upgrade. Atypical Digital is an Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) Preferred Partner specializing in helping enterprise brands leverage Adobe’s AEM platform to optimize their platforms for productivity and efficiency, free up IT-related tasks to make teams more productive, and maximize AEM stability and security. If you’re ready to take full advantage of the capabilities of AEM 6.5 with a properly executed upgrade, contact Atypical Digital today!


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