Conquering AEM Migration: Shift Seamlessly From Your CMS to Adobe Experience Manager


There are a lot of reasons why a CMS might start to feel…like a really tiny, cramped box.

The natural goal for all enterprises is growth, pure and simple. When things are going as they should, and your marketing and sales strategies are harmonious, you should definitely expect to see some serious scale. 

But you’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how quickly a struggling CMS can drain that demand you’ve been working so hard to generate. A CMS is sometimes one of the last “cramped boxes” we investigate as a cause for stunted scale.

If you’re beginning to feel like you’ve outgrown your CMS, you’re in the right place, and you’re not alone. Growing enterprises necessitate CMS solutions that grow alongside, and AEM is one such solution fondly heralded by enterprises everywhere as the “future-proof” content delivery powerhouse. So, are you ready for an AEM migration? Let’s find out.

Why Migrate From Other CMS to AEM

AEM is a topic of plenty of conversation for enterprise businesses and is considered a world-class CMS solution. Huge players in varying markets, like Canon, Breville, and Volkswagen, for example, have worked with the Experience Cloud suite of tools to scale their sites’ tangible results.

That doesn’t mean that all enterprise-level businesses use it now, and there are plenty of other competent solutions on the market to choose from. In your case, you may be using a CMS that has done the job for years—we see that a lot, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Truthfully, not every business is ready for or currently needs a solution like AEM. But there are certain common needs and frustrations across different cases that tend to lead companies to make the switch.

That said, how many of the following factors do you experience issues or limitations with within your current CMS?


If your business scales and your site traffic multiplies, that’s a good thing…until your site’s capacity can no longer handle the burden, leading to longer load times and difficulty displaying all elements.

With bounce probability increasing as much as 32% when page load time increases from 1 second to just 3, it’s little wonder why issues with site scalability can hurt a business so quickly.

With AEM on-premise, your CMS architecture is customizable to your needs and can be manually scaled to keep up with your needs over time. Alternatively, AEM as a Cloud Service even enables automatic scaling (both up and down) with fluctuations in site demand.

Complex Content Workflows

Most large businesses eventually reach a point where the content delivery process crosses many teams, uses a huge wealth of assets, and potentially crosses multiple sites. 

Many CMS platforms aren’t designed to smooth out this workflow as it becomes more complex. In fact, many CMS platforms can make navigating these complex workflows unnecessarily complicated.

AEM Assets is one feature of many in Experience Manager that helps prevent issues that arise from complicated content workflows, such as asset duplication, inconsistent asset usage, difficulty finding assets, and siloed content teams.

It accomplishes this by:

  • Providing expansive storage for all digital assets.
  • Smart cropping assets for responsive design.
  • Smart tagging assets so all teams can easily search for them.
  • Enabling collaboration on assets within the platform.

Multi-Channel Delivery

Businesses that want to reach audiences on a global scale will inevitably need multiple sites for the job, but this introduces many more opportunities for inconsistent content as it puts more strain on teams to update each site. Not many CMS platforms come loaded with the capability to manage many sites and unify content across all of them.

Multi-Site Manager is another powerful feature of AEM that enables content consistency across multiple sites while maintaining and streamlining experience personalization. To name a few cool features, you can:

  • Blueprint source sites to make site copies from.
  • Create live copy sites that sync all content from their blueprint.
  • Create alternate language masters from a site blueprint and run translation jobs.
  • Implement rollout configurations that push source site updates to all their copies.

Personalization Capabilities

Complex business needs often require custom solutions—there’s no way around it. When you come across the need for a solution that’s not an “out of the box” feature in your CMS, the last thing you want is to be blocked by the limits of the platform.

AEM is one of the most highly customizable CMS platforms. While it does come with some out-of-the-box, plug-and-play features, nearly everything, including your specific site infrastructure, can be customized.

AEM also uses quite a few open-source technologies, including Apache Sling and Apache Jackrabbit, which further opens up possibilities for customizable workflows and sites.

Total Cost of Ownership

Not all CMS platforms are designed to scale, and many may incorporate scalable features as piecemeal add-ons that can really add up. That, or you might have to account for the cost of additional tech support to implement custom solutions and troubleshoot mounting issues.

AEM’s upfront implementation costs can certainly be steep, and the cost of owning the software won’t be small. However, AEM’s cost structure is based on the actual user base or actual demand, depending on which version you choose.

While AEM on-premise is likely to be the more costly version to own over time, the popular alternative version, AEM as a Cloud Service, normally costs much less to own over time. This is partially due to its cloud-nativity, which eliminates product upgrade and hardware costs. It’s also partially due to its flexible pricing structure, which is based on site traffic (number of API calls and number of page views).

In addition, it’s important to factor in the added ROI from AEM when considering its price tag. Although implementation costs and cost of ownership are on the higher end of the spectrum, the added ROI that comes from AEM-hosted sites due to faster time-to-market, content unification, and improved site stability typically wholly justify the cost.

Take Canon, for example—a company that scaled their conversion rates by +150% year over year through the implementation of Adobe Experience Manager.

Security and Compliance

Security is never something to compromise on. But when it comes down to it, many platforms aren’t built with a security system robust enough, especially for industries with stricter security needs.

AEM as a Cloud Service is one of the most secure CMS options available due to its continuous security checks, full data encryption, and user authentication. It’s compliant with even the strictest of regulations, like HIPAA, FedRAMP, and FERPA, making it a prime choice to migrate to for regulated and sensitive industries.


We’ll just come right out and say it: AEM has been shown to expedite time-to-market by 10x. That’s no small number and is certainly an attractive reason for businesses to migrate when their current time-to-market is painfully sluggish.

AEM empowers teams and helps improve their workflow using a few standout capabilities:

  • AEM Assets, which acts as your source of truth for all content and eliminates time wasted re-uploading duplicate assets, looking for the correct assets, and cropping assets.
  • Experience Fragments, which componentize content and make it easily reusable across pages and sites.
  • Multi-site live copy and rollout configuration features, which we touched on earlier.

Your CMS to AEM Migration Strategy

We want you to know this upfront: Migration to AEM is an intricate process. From A to Z, the entire journey needs to be well-structured, reasonably paced and needs to involve the appropriate experts to ensure nothing is lost from your existing CMS to AEM.

It’s not a process to be afraid of, but it’s not one to take lightly either. In most cases, you should expect a proper migration to happen over the course of a few months, not weeks or days. Rather than forcing haste of implementation, you should prioritize taking the time needed to ensure smooth data transfer, rigorous testing, and adoption training for all teams.

Below, we’ll lay out a basic guide of what to expect from the migration process as a whole. It may look overwhelming, but we’d like to emphasize this: Don’t be discouraged. 

AEM is a future-proof, long-term solution befitting a thorough migration, and we’ve seen the ends justify the means first-hand. Yes, you’ll need an experienced tech team and a coordinated plan for migration—but if you don’t have the resources to provide either of those things, you can also enlist the help of an Adobe-specialized migration team.

That said, let’s take a broad look at what steps the typical migration to AEM goes through!\

Preparation Phase

This phase is all planning, no action. While it’s tempting to jump right into the thick of migrating, the very beginning of migration needs to start with a great plan, exceptional organization, and outstanding documentation. Being as detailed as possible is essential here.

Assess Current Environment 

Take stock of absolutely everything in your current CMS environment. Make note of what you’d like to bring over as-is, what you don’t want to bring over, and any elements needing improvements that should be upgraded or updated as they’re migrated over.

Define Objectives 

Establish the most important goals of your migration. These should be what you ultimately want to accomplish by making the switch. 

Some common goals we see include smoothing out integrations with your existing tech stack, establishing a source of truth for content, or achieving consistency across sites, etc.

Choose the Right Tools

Adobe’s included migration tools (like the Content Transfer Tool) might be enough to help your teams complete the migration effectively. 

However, some custom CMS solutions may need additional tools to extract and transform data, and you’ll need to establish those up front.

Plan Architecture 

You will need to work with your stakeholders and Adobe success team to define an architecture that meets your needs. Architectural components you’ll need to consider are user roles, content hierarchy (authoring and publishing environments, etc.), and permissions. 

Our advice would be to focus on the pain points you experience with your existing CMS’s architecture and ensure that you address those issues with how you structure your clean slate. You’ll also want to account for future must-haves in your architecture so that AEM continues to serve your needs over the long haul.

Design and Development Phase

We’ll affectionately call this the “matching game” stage. You’ll need to put heavy emphasis on bridging the divide between the two CMS software and finding equivalence in content, customizations, integrations, and data. In the end, what you bring over into AEM should have functionalities that match what you had in your old CMS, and the content should be 1:1.

Map Content 

Mapping your content will be a highly detailed process. For our purposes, we’ll keep it high-level, but just know that this is a step of migration you’ll want to allocate ample time toward.

Essentially, you’ll need to make a detailed map of all your old content types and fields. Then, you’ll need to pair the old content types and fields with the appropriate new content types and fields as they’ll appear in AEM. 

This involves understanding the specific differences between your current CMS and AEM, and being able to bridge the gap between the two so that all content migrates to the correct place.

You’ll also need to ensure that you map old metadata and attributes correctly to where they should be in AEM.

Custom Development 

Your earlier environment assessment should have pinpointed areas of your CMS that are customized. Your next step will be to replicate, or improve (as needed), these custom elements within AEM. You can accomplish this with custom templates, components, or scripts.

3rd-party integrations 

Similar to your customizations, your environment assessment should have accounted for any integrations you currently have in place. All essential integrations will need to be replicated in AEM and tested to ensure proper functionality and data flow.

Set Up Environments 

Now, your IT team will need to begin setting up development, production, and testing instances within your AEM environment. Your teams will need to consider that each environment might have varying capabilities depending on which AEM features you have at play (AEM Sites, AEM Assets, AEM Forms, etc.).

Migration Execution Phase

Once you’ve successfully mapped your content and uncovered the solutions necessary to recreate all integrations and customizations in AEM, you’re officially ready to begin the actual migration. This will likely take time and a watchful eye to ensure that the transfer over is as seamless as it can be.

Migrate Content 

Once you’ve effectively mapped all content that you expect to migrate, you can get the process going. You’ll likely employ any tools you’ve pre-established that you need to use in order to move all your content over to completion.

Implement Redirections

To prevent SEO dropoff and site traffic interruptions, you’ll need to build redirects from any old URLs to your new URLs hosted through AEM. Ensure you thoroughly review all old URLs that you cataloged as a part of your initial assessment and implement redirections for all of them.

Data Validation

This is your chance to double and triple-check that all your links, assets, and necessary data exist in AEM as they existed in your old CMS. Make sure that data not only came through, but that it came through correctly.

Testing and Quality Assurance Phase

The testing phase doesn’t just exist to ensure that the new site works on a basic level. This is where you’ll be stress-testing all elements related to site functionality, site performance under load, and robustness of site security. You’ll also need to collaborate with any stakeholders invested in the site, gather their feedback, and make adjustments as needed.

Launch and Post-Launch Phase

Once you have all your ducks in a row, the launch itself will be fairly straightforward, but what happens afterward can equally make or break your AEM experience. 

It’s important to continuously monitor your site and watch for changes in performance compared to when you ran on your old CMS. It’s also important that you have thorough measures in place to train all relevant teams to a level of comfort using AEM for content delivery.

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to keep an open ear for feedback from your stakeholders and teams as time goes on and as any issues or inefficiencies become apparent. Keeping AEM in a consistent state of evolution to meet the needs of your teams will be vital to maintaining efficiency when working with the platform—best not to set it and forget it.

WordPress to AEM Migration

WordPress is a popular CMS choice for many businesses, but especially as scalability becomes a top priority, WordPress can begin to hinder that growth over time. We’ll quickly cover a few reasons why this is the case and what you need to keep an eye on specifically when migrating from WordPress to AEM.

Architectural Differences

The largest difference of note between WordPress and AEM, and one which can make migration a larger challenge, is the difference in their architectures.

WordPress is known for being a monolithic CMS, which means that the software’s frontend and backend are tightly coupled, and content can’t be componentized for scale. AEM, on the other hand, has a headless modular architecture, using components to break up and templatize small fragments of content for easier reuse. 

So, one key challenge of migrating from WordPress to AEM will be mapping formerly monolithic content to fit within a freer, modular structure designed for scale. This migration will need to happen in incremental chunks, modulating the monolithic content piece by piece while keeping a watchful eye on content dependencies.

Things to watch for when mapping WordPress to AEM

WordPress famously relies heavily on plugins, many of which are created open source by a broad community of developers. 

It goes without saying that many of these plugins, especially those highly custom ones, will need to be recreated with custom components or scripts within AEM. 

On the other hand, you may also come across plugin functionalities that are included in AEM’s core functionalities, and in this case, you will need to ensure that AEM’s core functions reproduce the former plugin’s function equivalently. If not, further customizations or alternate solutions may be needed.

Similarly, themes you may have implemented or used in WordPress may need additional customizations in AEM to achieve the same appearance your site had before, which is important for brand consistency.

Tools to aid with migration

Both WordPress and AEM offer built-in tools to aid with migration, which can help simplify the process.

On the WordPress side, you can use the WordPress Export Tool to pull out everything you need to transfer to AEM. Likewise, AEM features the Content Transfer Tool which can import your content in bulk.

Otherwise, as with many other solutions, you can also implement custom script to import WordPress content into AEM.

Drupal to AEM Migration

Drupal is a popular competitor to AEM, which offers a lot more flexibility in terms of scale than a monolithically structured CMS would. 

However, Drupal still can struggle with effective scalability at a higher level, and doesn’t have specialized tools to better empower personalization or multi-site management—these two reasons alone are why growing enterprises tend to outpace the platform’s capabilities over time.

Let’s explore some of the specifics of migrating from Drupal to AEM and what you should look for.

Architectural Differences

Drupal is more similar to AEM than WordPress because both platforms operate on modular architectures. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the transition from Drupal to AEM will be 1:1.

Notably, Drupal is founded on a different scripting language than AEM, which may make it more difficult for teams to correctly map data and reproduce functionalities from one platform to the other. Drupal uses PHP, whereas AEM uses Java.

Things to watch for when mapping Drupal to AEM

The biggest issue to watch out for when prepping for migration from Drupal to AEM is mapping content to have similar functionality from one CMS to the other. 

Drupal, for instance, uses content Blocks as one means of modular content, and these blocks will need to be reconfigured as equivalent components in AEM. Modules and views are other Drupal features for which you’ll likely need to develop custom solutions to replicate within AEM.

Tools to aid with migration

While there aren’t any specific tools in Drupal specifically to aid with outward migration, the platform enables you to export your files and database entirely. From there, you can again rely on AEM’s robust migration tools, which we mentioned earlier, to import structured data.

Sitecore to AEM Migration

Sitecore stands sturdy as one of AEM’s closest competitors and features many core benefits that are similar to those of AEM. However, the most common reasons why enterprises eventually decide to switch to AEM center around advanced scalability and faster site performance under load.

AEM as a Cloud Service specifically features dynamic scalability, which makes opportunities for growth near-limitless, and Sitecore hasn’t expanded into this realm yet.

That said, let’s briefly touch on what to look out for in this implementation process.

Architectural Differences

Much like Drupal, Sitecore is similar to AEM in terms of architecture because they are both modular. However, many more differences arise in Sitecore’s use of the ASP.NET framework and Microsoft SQL Server. While ASP.NET can accommodate multiple coding languages, many Sitecore developers use C#.

This is a fairly far cry from AEM, which is founded on the Apache Sling framework, accommodates Java, and uses the Java Content Repository. So, translating content across these two fronts may require more content transformation or custom solutions to migrate.

Things to watch for when mapping Sitecore to AEM

Architectural details aside, it’ll be important for those migrating from Sitecore to AEM to monitor the differing content structures between the two platforms. Sitecore is known for having a hierarchical tree content structure, whereas AEM allows for more flexibility through its componentized content structure.

Building on the discussion around Sitecore’s ASP.NET framework, there may be a good amount of custom solutions or built-in functionalities that will need to be reimagined within the new bounds of Apache Sling and OSGi in AEM.

Tools to aid with migration

Again, while Sitecore doesn’t provide specific tools to aid with outward migration, Sitecore Powershell Extensions provides plenty of robust functionalities to retrieve data and package items, which may help smooth out the receipt of content and data by AEM.


So, how cramped does your CMS feel today? How cramped will it feel in a month? A year?

No matter the industry or goal, your CMS needs to be able to keep up with your enterprise’s ever-growing needs now and into the foreseeable future. Think of it this way: It’s the core battery behind your entire digital presence, and when digital presence is everything, you need a battery charged for the long run.

If you’re in a place where you’re able to continue with your current CMS successfully, more power to you! Or, if you’re seriously considering switching to AEM now to secure a better future for scale, security, and multi-channel personalization, we’re available to talk shop on the migration process and the support you’ll need to get it done right.

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