Kentico releases a new major version of their flagship product - Kentico EMS - each calendar year. December 2017 saw the release of #KenticoStallion, or more formally, Kentico 11.
Each year I tend to blog about the latest version, and encourage the community at large to get on board ASAP (as I usually have - upgrading literally on day one of release... but I’m a total fanboy).
Read my last few annual upgrade posts on Kentico 8, Kentico 9, and Kentico 10, and while you’re at it, check out a bit of a deeper dive into how upgrades work!
The majority of Kentico customers pay an annual fee to stay up to date with support and for access to hotfixes and version upgrades (termed “maintenance”). Some stay up to date and take advantage of this, yet others fall behind and find that upgrading through multiple versions at once becomes a bit difficult.
Upgrading regularly not only makes each individual upgrade much easier (and therefore cheaper), but the benefits of staying up to date result in better efficiency, lower risk, and happier marketing and IT staff, allowing you to maximise the return on your original investment in the platform.
The Kentico Upgrade Cycle
Kentico release a new major version (e.g. 9, 10, 11) once per year, and a hotfix (e.g. 10.0.46) once per week. In some versions they have released minor versions (e.g. 8.1 and 8.2) but generally they stick to this annual version release, plus regular hotfixes.
A sensible and common strategy is to factor a major version upgrade into your plan once per year. Risk-averse customers (the majority!) like to wait for a couple of hotfixes to be released before taking the plunge, but this only translates to a delay of a couple of weeks. With versions being released toward the end of the calendar year, it makes sense to schedule in your major upgrade for the beginning of the following year.
Think of your annual upgrade as a regular service of your car. Yes, it carries a cost, but it brings it back up to as-new condition, and is significantly less than purchasing a new car. And in this case you might just get a new engine (or more likely some sweet automated driving/marketing features) thrown in for free!
Hotfixes are not strictly required, and in fact Kentico’s official line is to only apply them if you are experiencing a major bug. So they don’t need to be factored into your plan - you can leave it to your digital agency or solution partner to let you know if/when a hotfix is recommended or required. Their application is much simpler (aka. cheaper) than a fully-fledged upgrade.
Staying Up to Date
Sure, new features are great. As I said earlier, I bang on about them every year, and a quick Google search will give you more articles about Kentico 11 features than you can poke a stick at. But there are other real benefits to staying on the latest version of Kentico, including:
- Performance improvements - for example, I have previously recommended (scroll to about half way, just underneath the Dr Evil maniacal laughter GIF) moving from K9 to K10 purely on the back of their EMS performance gains.
- UI tuning and tweaking - the simple addition of Staging Task Groups in K9 changed the way some of our customers’ editors work (and us too).
- Reducing code debt/smell - underlying code/API changes are guaranteed to not break (only be marked as “deprecated”) during a single version upgrade. This means developers have a whole year to update and clean up their code.
- Developer efficiency/velocity - by keeping up to date with the latest improvements to the codebase from the vendor, developers can be more efficient in writing their code, and therefore spend less time on bug fixes, updates, enhancements and CI.
- Staff effectiveness and perception - no one likes working with old software. It is likely to slow people down and ingrain negativity towards your digital asset. We’ve heard people inexplicably trash-talking Kentico, only to find out that they’re still stuck on K5.5.
- Risk management - from a pure business risk management perspective, it should be the norm to ensure your business critical software is kept up to date and supported by your vendors. You should regularly upgrade your CMS just like any other piece of critical software in your business.
You’re already part-way there
Are you up to date with your Kentico licensing maintenance?
What’s licensing maintenance? It’s pretty important to understand, but I’ll leave that to Kentico to explain.
Do you have a developer, or an agency full of people, who know your site inside out, and even have a development environment sitting there on their machines?
You might even have a regular retainer with an agency, with a few hours left to throw at it.
If you’re really lucky, you might even have an agency who has invested a lot of R&D in making upgrades to recent Kentico version (9, 10 and 11) extremely smooth and painless. ;)
Upgrading might be easier than you think
We regularly get asked what’s involved in an upgrade, and how/why can the cost vary so much. For more info on how big/long an upgrade/piece of string is read this (particularly the “anatomy of an upgrade” part).
I’ll admit it, in the past (I’m talking 6 or 7 years in the past), upgrades have been a big deal. Don’t talk to me about the simple task of upgrading from version 5 to 6... **shudders**
But times have changed. Kentico has gotten better at their upgrades, and developers/agencies have more experience in applying them. Recently, K8 was significant (featuring a complete UI overhaul), and K9 was a big deal for complex sites with a lot of customisation (R.I.P. database views).
But K10’s upgrade process was much nicer, and I’m happy to report that K11’s is very nice! Of course I’ve already upgraded our own site, and I’m happy to report it only took a day or two end to end, with no major issues.
If you’re on a relatively recent version, upgrading could be easier than you think. Just ask your friendly local Kentico Gold Partner. ;)
New Features in Kentico 11
So by now hopefully you’re completely convinced that you need to upgrade to the latest version right now, and I’ve intentionally focused more on staying up to date in general, rather than this particular version being excellent.
But if you’re still not sold on Kentico 11, how about:
So what are you waiting for?
Plan your upgrades on a regular cycle, just like you would plan your car servicing, or upkeep/maintenance of any other significant asset. Yes, it carries a cost, but it comes with a multitude of benefits, reduces risk and cost in the long-term, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than buying a new car every couple of years.
If you’re already with us, we can easily give you an estimate for upgrading your site to Kentico 11, free of charge. Just drop us a line.
If you’re not lucky enough to be with us, then we can still have a look for you! We’ve done literally hundreds of upgrades, and we’d be happy to add yours to the list.