Adama Agricultural Solutions Ltd (formerly Makhteshim Agan) is one of the world’s largest agrochemical organisations. It manufactures and distributes crop protection solutions around the globe. Adama currently provides products and services in more than 120 countries, with annual revenues upward of $3 billion.
Adama approached Building Blocks to become a technical delivery partner during a time of large-scale change. Makteshim Agan was being aligned under the new Adama brand, and the company was undergoing a shift to work more closely with farmers, agronomists, distributors and the wider farming community, in order to support users, find ways to simplify and improve their work, and create a global network of like-minded stakeholders with similar goals.
Working in close partnership with several external agencies, Building Blocks led the technical build and delivery of the new Adama.com corporate website, as well as the build and rollout programme for a further 50 local country websites. This was alongside a series of enhancements, additional development projects, and an ongoing support contract providing monthly releases of improvements and support cases.
The key to success during this process was having a sound understanding of project governance and planning. It is not enough to simply plan for the initial build or launch; the long-term rollout strategy must be carefully considered and planned from the start.
Utilising Building Blocks’ extensive knowledge of SDL Tridion, it was possible to build, prepare, populate and release new country websites with very minimal effort and limited technical involvement.
By concentrating on four key areas of the global rollout process - Build, Training, Population, Release - it was possible to streamline the project and reduce the time-to-market to as little as three weeks for a completely new website (from start of build to go-live), in some cases.
Build: SDL Tridion
Due to the power of SDL Tridion Blueprinting, once the Master website and content was created within the CMS, it was a simple case of creating local country Publications below this to benefit from the initial outlay of effort, and have a basic Adama website ready to be localised and populated.
Each country site Publication was created following the standard Building Blocks process on an internal development and test environment, signed-off against a set of test-scripts and automated tests, and then rolled out to UAT and Production for population.
Live server setup tasks (i.e. SOLR setup for new countries/languages) were completed as part of the rollout to Production, meaning the act of pushing a site live was a simple one a content editor could perform when ready.
It is essential that the initial planning and build set the roadmap for all following country sites. For example, the initial build and setup can cover many items that, whilst not priority at the time, will help with the streamlining of the project moving forward to keep it under control, and on budget.
Some examples are:
- User groups, permissions and Tridion access for all countries, not just one country at a time. IT can sometimes be needed here to ensure remote workers and offices have access internally to Tridion and the relevant URLs.
- Brand and communications guidelines to ensure consistency, such as a wiki detailing sections that must appear on the new sites, and rules around how to use specific content to promote the brand (e.g. social media strategy, implementation guidelines, tone of voice).
- Analytics setup: ensure that as each country is rolled out, it is included within any analytics tools that may be needed and the right people have access.
- External launch procedures such as how a site launch will be communicated both internally and externally, and launch event packs. It is possible that as part of the long-term strategy, acquiring companies to bring into the central brand is likely, therefore a pack detailing all the steps to do this – from rebranding office spaces to migrating websites and content over to the new website – is required.
- Country specific requirements (such as right-to-left languages, fonts for non-Cyrillic characters etc.) should be obtained up front to prevent the need for additional development work and testing. If these can be planned and completed ahead of the country editor being involved, it ensures a smoother population and launch for each country.
Once the sites were available on the UAT and Production environments, the next logical step was to train the local country editors to populate their local market site easily, and look to benefit from any centrally created assets and content, where possible.
This training occurred around the globe to groups of country editors ranging from 2 – 25 attendees, of varying technical and language abilities.
One crucial aspect to consider is that a full, global rollout can span anywhere from 6 – 18 months, so there is likely to be additional developments and on-going support releases that either change or introduce new features and functionality. It is important to have a communication plan to editors and business users around any updates or new features, and ensure training materials are updated.
Building Blocks continuously updates training materials as part of ongoing development, and offer a weekly or bi-weekly screenshare session (allowing for different timezones), that content editors can choose to attend if they have specific questions. These sessions are then recorded and any useful details that come from editor questions built back into training materials where deemed necessary.
You can find more information on training here: Why training is vital for successful CMS projects.
Due to the fact that Building Blocks create websites with not just the end website user in mind but the content editors as well, it means the process of creating content and pages is simplified with a focus on re-use and ease of population.
Naturally, developers will look to build software from the perspective of ease of maintenance and best practice. Building Blocks involves the content team early in the specification stages, and our project managers are experienced in content entry within Tridion. This ensures that the end solution is not only technically sound, but makes the day-to-day life of the business users and content editors as easy as possible. After all, these users are often populating the website on top of other roles and responsibilities, so anything that can make this task easier is going to be welcomed.
See Benefits of Content Support as a service for Enterprises.
CMS training sessions ensure content editors can get to grips with the basics of Tridion and their specific implementation. By providing interactive Wiki guides to accompany the training, and an ongoing content support ticket system for editors to request assistance or additional remote training, the process of rolling out to multiple countries can be accelerated.
The build and deployment phases included all the live setup tasks (except actually publishing a site live), ensuring the process of launch was as quick and risk free as possible. Essentially, any Tridion user with system administrator privileges can activate the live publishing target, allow permission to see various country publisher/editor groups, and proceed to publish the site to live.
As part of continuously looking to improve our processes, Building Blocks has developed a check-list of common issues seen as part of a site launch, and a standard launch check-list to test each new site against. For example, content editors putting an absolute path to a page on staging into a navigation keyword. Ensuring issues like this are rectified, and content editors educated on topics like these, makes for a smoother launch process and continuous improvements within a client’s content teams.
Once live, tasks such as redirects from previous websites/pages, global country selector updates, and communications (both internal and external) to promote the launch are actioned. However, the ongoing support for the content team does not end at the point of launch. Building Blocks' support continues beyond the launch, as we understand that getting a site live is just the first step and the journey continues to update, refine and expand the content for many months and years to come.
The key to a seamless rollout
At a high level, the key to a seamless and quick global rollout strategy is effective planning. Ensure that:
- The upfront build and implementation considers not just the first website/Corporate site, but the roadmap for all local websites too, and any key requirements/objectives they may have;
- Your IT team is onside from the start as their input around infrastructure, users, DNS and go-lives could be crucial (depending on the scope of work for the internal IT team);
- Content editors are considered as a key end user and stakeholder. After all, it is them you will hear from every day when the system is impacting their day-to-day work. Make sure this feedback, when it comes, is positive;
- The launch process is considered and planned as early as possible, to ensure all effort that can be done ahead of launch day is complete;
- You have sufficient support in place to help your content team during, and after, the new site is live.
For more tips on managing a global rollout, see Top ten tips for international website roll outs.