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The Sitecore XP Path Forward -
Part 3: Upgrade, Migrate, Modernize

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Maintaining an outdated version of your content management system can hinder your ability to achieve digital excellence. This guide on migration paths for Sitecore XP 8.x and 9.x explores the nuances of upgrading, modernizing, and evaluating the most suitable options for your organization. It is part of a series designed to help IT executives and architects navigate the complexities of the Sitecore ecosystem.

In Part 1 of our series, we provided an in-depth understanding of the Sitecore CMS product landscape. Part 2 covered modern web development concepts such as JAMstack and Experience Edge, highlighting their relevance in today’s tech environment. These foundations are crucial for meaningful discussions about modernization and transformation.

For this post, we will focus on customers currently using Sitecore XP 8.x or 9.x. We’ll outline the importance of upgrading and assess the viability of XM Cloud for your business. We will explore a modernization path if XM Cloud is an option, and if it’s not, we will evaluate whether you should remain on XP or migrate to XM, detailing what this migration path looks like. We’ll touch upon considerations such as integration, personalization, and infrastructure decisions. We focus on options within the Sitecore ecosystem, but in Part 4 of our series, we will discuss a specific instance where replatforming might make sense, factoring in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and other critical considerations.

The Importance of Upgrading

Staying on an outdated version of Sitecore can expose your organization to several risks, including security vulnerabilities, lack of support, and missed opportunities to leverage new features and improvements. As of December 31, 2021, Sitecore 8.x reached its end of life, and Sitecore 9.1 and under will follow suit on December 31, 2024. Versions 9.2 and 9.3 have been extended till Dec 31, 2025. Without support and updates, your platform’s reliability and security are compromised, which could lead to significant operational disruptions.

Occasionally, we see companies still using Sitecore XP 7.x, which is really out of date. While we won’t cover earlier versions in detail, most of the considerations discussed here also apply to those older versions.

Upgrading to Sitecore 10.x and remaining on XP, migrating to XM, or modernizing to XM Cloud ensures your organization benefits from the latest enhancements, robust security measures, and continuous support. XM Cloud, being a SaaS solution, is automatically kept up to date with the latest version of Sitecore, currently 10.4, eliminating the need for manual upgrades.

Sitecore 10.x introduces several enhancements and capabilities that can significantly benefit your organization:

1. JSS and Headless Services in 10.2: JavaScript Services (JSS) and Headless Services enable the development of decoupled, front-end applications using modern JavaScript frameworks, providing greater flexibility and performance.

2. GraphQL Authoring and Management API in 10.3: The GraphQL API facilitates more efficient querying and manipulation of content, improving the developer experience and enabling more dynamic and interactive applications.

3. Headless SXA in 10.3: Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) now supports headless development, allowing for more flexible and scalable front-end solutions.

4. Access to Experience Edge in 10.4: Experience Edge provides a scalable content delivery network, ensuring fast and reliable delivery of content across the globe. Customers with XP can use Experience Edge without modernizing to XM Cloud.

5. Composable Martech Orchestration with Sitecore Connect in 10.4: This feature allows seamless orchestration of various marketing technologies, enhancing the ability to integrate and utilize different tools within the Sitecore ecosystem.

6. Sitecore Experience Commerce Support: Note that Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC) is not supported for Sitecore XP 10.4. This is a critical consideration for organizations currently leveraging XC, as it impacts the decision to upgrade (to 10.4 specifically) and the need to evaluate alternative solutions.

Moreover, Sitecore XP 10.4 shares the same core as XM Cloud, which helps facilitate easier modernization down the road.

Evaluating Your Current Sitecore Instance

Before embarking on any migration path, it is crucial to evaluate your current Sitecore instance thoroughly. This assessment should include an evaluation of your digital presence, the front-end technologies in use, and the extent to which personalization, analytics, and marketing automation are embedded in your processes. More on the assessment specifics will follow in the upcoming sections.

For instance, many organizations using Sitecore XP 8.x and 9.x have built their sites with ASP.NET MVC. If your front-end is heavily reliant on this framework, you will need to consider how modernization might require refactoring or redevelopment. Similarly, if your organization has deeply integrated personalization rules and marketing automation (within XP), these elements must be carefully considered when planning either a migration to XM or modernization to XM Cloud. 

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If you’re interested in exploring the best path forward for your Sitecore XP setup – whether upgrading, migrating, or modernizing – we’re here to help. Schedule your consultation today.

Is XM Cloud even a Viable Option for your Business?

Determining whether XM Cloud is a viable option for your organization involves understanding your business needs and technical requirements. XM Cloud offers a SaaS-based approach with modern features, including headless architecture, flexible deployment options, and seamless integration with other SaaS solutions within the Sitecore ecosystem. However, it’s not suitable for every scenario. Here are some key considerations:

1. Portals and Authenticated Experiences: If your site includes portals and requires authenticated log-in experiences for end users, XM Cloud may not currently support all your needs. Portals are currently better suited for XP or XM. 

2. Advanced Personalization and Experimentation: While XM Cloud offers basic personalization capabilities, if your business relies heavily on advanced personalization and experimentation, you might need additional solutions such as Sitecore Personalize. This tool provides robust features for creating personalized experiences and conducting A/B testing, ensuring your digital presence meets the evolving expectations of your customers. If you’re using personalization in XP, can those rules work with the XM Cloud basic personalization capabilities or do you need to spend additional licensing on a tool like Sitecore Personalize? 

3. Use of Sitecore Forms: Sitecore announced a SaaS version of Forms in February, which expands the capabilities of XM Cloud. However, if your forms are deeply integrated and customized within your current XP setup, you’ll need to evaluate how these can be migrated or reimplemented in the new environment.

4. Integration Complexity: Assess the complexity of your current integrations. XM Cloud excels in environments where integrations can be handled through modern APIs and microservices, but if your current setup includes legacy systems with complex integrations, you may need to consider whether these can be effectively migrated.

6. Cloud-Native SaaS Solution: Consider whether a cloud-native SaaS solution aligns with your organization’s overall IT strategy. XM Cloud offers benefits such as reduced infrastructure management, scalability, and regular updates. However, if your organization has strict data residency requirements, compliance issues, or a preference for on-premise solutions, XM Cloud might not be the best fit. 

7. Internal Development Skillset: Do you have the right skillset internally to build a solution on XM Cloud? Say an agency built your current Sitecore sites on XP and you’ve hired 1-2 Sitecore developers for maintenance and feature development, would they be equipped to do the same thing with a site built on XM Cloud that encourages the use of JavaScript frameworks with Sitecore JSS?  


This section is about determining if XM Cloud aligns with your technical and business requirements – does it even make sense to consider? It is not a recommendation on what to do. In Part 4 of our series, we’ll discuss Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), licensing, and the cost implications of modernization or starting fresh, which will further inform your decision.

Migration Path if XM Cloud Isn't Viable for your Business

Remain on XP or Migrate to XM?

When XM Cloud doesn’t make sense for your business, organizations typically consider two primary options: staying on XP or transitioning to a more composable solution with XM. With the new features in Sitecore 10.x, you have the option to modernize your setup without necessarily switching to XM Cloud, making it an easier transition down the road if it becomes viable.


Key Considerations for Making the Determination

When deciding between staying on XP or migrating to XM, several key considerations should guide your decision-making process:

1. Personalization and xDB/xConnect: If your organization heavily utilizes XP’s personalization capabilities, including xDB and xConnect for data collection and customer insights, moving to XM will require significant changes. XM does not include xDB or xConnect, meaning you would need to migrate to Sitecore Personalize or another solution, which could add complexity and cost.

2. Capability Utilization: Consider how much of XP’s capabilities you are actually using. If you are not utilizing advanced features like marketing automation, and personalization at scale, moving to XM, which is a lighter, more flexible platform, might be more cost-effective and simpler to manage. Some organizations just need content management capabilities, so moving towards a more composable solution with XM could make sense. 

3. Future Growth and Flexibility: Assess your future needs. If your organization plans to scale digital operations, adopting a more composable architecture with XM can provide the flexibility needed to integrate additional SaaS tools and services down the road. A switch to a composable architecture can mean it’s faster to innovate and roll out new features.

4. Maintenance: Maintenance on XP can become increasingly complex due to its monolithic architecture. XM, on the other hand, may offer a more streamlined path for integrating new features and enhancements with less complexity. However, keep in mind that any significant changes or updates might still require careful planning and effort.

5. Experience Commerce (XC): If you’re using Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC) alongside XP, it’s crucial to consider the impact on your commerce functionality when migrating to XM. Since Sitecore XP 10.4 does not support XC, you will need to evaluate how your commerce systems will integrate and function with XM. This might require re-evaluating your e-commerce strategy and potentially adopting a different commerce solution that integrates seamlessly with XM.


Staying on XP

If your organization decides to stay on XP, upgrading to Sitecore 10.x is crucial to ensure you continue to receive support and benefit from the latest features. Note that upgrading from Sitecore 8.x directly to 10.x isn’t straightforward; you will need an incremental step of upgrading to 9.x first.

Modernizing your current setup is not essential. You do not need to use JAMstack architecture and deploy headless, nor do you need to use Experience Edge. However, these are options available to you depending on the specific version of 10.x you upgrade to.

If you think XM Cloud may make sense down the road, you can have an interim step of refactoring front-end code, leveraging JAMstack architecture, and using Experience Edge. Additionally, you can explore other SaaS solutions available in Sitecore’s product ecosystem, such as CDP and Personalize. This makes an eventual transition to XM Cloud more seamless.

If you stay on XP and upgrade to 10.x, you ensure compliance, which is key. This step helps maintain security and support while providing an opportunity to gradually modernize your setup if needed in the future.

If your XP setup is hosted on-prem, it may be a good time to evaluate whether that still makes sense or if you should consider moving to a cloud hosting solution like Azure or Sitecore’s Managed Cloud. 


Transitioning to a More Composable Solution with XM

For organizations looking to embrace a more composable architecture, transitioning to XM is a viable path. XM allows you to leverage Sitecore’s advanced capabilities while maintaining flexibility in your infrastructure choices. This approach is particularly beneficial for organizations that are not yet ready to fully transition to a SaaS-based solution like XM Cloud.

When considering this transition, it’s important to evaluate your infrastructure. Moving from an on-premise setup to a cloud-based solution offers numerous advantages, including reduced maintenance, scalability, and improved disaster recovery capabilities. Sitecore provides various hosting options, including Azure and Managed Cloud (Standard or Premium), allowing you to choose the best fit for your organization.

What steps would you need to follow assuming you’re staying with a front-end built with ASP.NET MVC and that you’ve upgraded already to Sitecore 10.x:

1. Assessment and Planning:

First, conduct a thorough assessment of your current Sitecore XP environment. This involves inventorying all components, customizations, integrations, and dependencies. Identify the content, media, and data that need to be migrated. It’s essential to evaluate custom code, modules, and any third-party integrations that might require refactoring or replacement. Defining the goals and requirements for the migration will help in creating a comprehensive migration plan.

2. Prepping for Migration:

Next, provision the XM environment and configure the necessary settings. Develop a detailed migration plan that outlines the entire process, including timelines, milestones, and responsibilities. This plan should also address potential risks and mitigation strategies to ensure a smooth transition.

3. Content and Data Migration:

During this phase, use tools like Unicorn or TDS to serialize and migrate your content. For any necessary data transformation, Sitecore PowerShell Extensions can be highly effective. The goal is to ensure that all your content and data are correctly transferred to the new XM environment without any loss or corruption.

4. Refactoring Custom Code:

Refactoring your custom code involves modifying the render logic in your components to align with XM’s capabilities. This may require replacing APIs and services unique to XP with their XM equivalents or third-party solutions. Additionally, review and update any workflows or processes tied to XP features to ensure they fit within the XM environment.

5. Integration:

Ensure that all external services or third-party integrations are compatible with XM. This might involve adapting the data flow and storage mechanisms to fit the new environment. Thoroughly testing these integrations is crucial to avoid any disruptions in your business processes.

6. Testing and Validation:

Conduct comprehensive functional testing to ensure that all features and functionalities work as expected in the new XM environment. Performance testing is equally important to verify that the new setup meets or exceeds the current system’s performance benchmarks. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) should be performed to validate that the migrated system fulfills business requirements and meets user expectations.

7. Deployment:

Once all testing is complete and any issues have been resolved, deploy the refactored application to the XM production environment. Post-deployment, closely monitor the new environment for any potential issues and optimize as necessary to ensure smooth operation.

By carefully assessing, planning, and executing these steps, you can successfully transition from Sitecore XP to Sitecore XM. This approach ensures compliance, security, and support while providing an opportunity to modernize your setup and prepare for potential future transitions to XM Cloud or other advanced Sitecore solutions.

Modernization Path if XM Cloud is Viable for your Business

For organizations that find XM Cloud to be a viable option, there are two primary paths to consider: starting fresh with XM Cloud or modernizing your existing Sitecore implementation through a  complete re-architecture. Below is a comprehensive approach to modernizing your digital presence if XM Cloud is suitable for your business.

Starting Fresh with XM Cloud

Starting fresh with XM Cloud allows your organization to leverage the latest capabilities of Sitecore’s composable DXP. This path is ideal if you are looking to build a new digital customer experience from the ground up. By taking advantage of XM Cloud’s headless architecture, flexible deployment options, and the ability to leverage Experience Edge for optimized content delivery, you can create a future-proof digital presence.

If you’re on XP 8.x and planning a major redesign, including a new content strategy, starting fresh with XM Cloud would make the most sense. Otherwise, all the steps involved with upgrading to Sitecore 10.x, followed by moving to XM Cloud, would take a long time and be very costly.


Design/Content Refresh and Complete Re-architecture

If you want to do a design and content refresh while keeping the same general look and feel of the site, this approach involves a complete re-architecture. This means first upgrading to Sitecore 10.x and then gradually transitioning to XM Cloud capabilities. This allows you to retain existing business logic while improving the front-end experience and leveraging advanced features of XM Cloud over time. Upgrading from an earlier version like 8.x to 10.x is a significant effort and may require incremental updates first.

Below are some key steps for modernizing to XM Cloud:

1. Thorough Assessment and Planning:

Conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current Sitecore XP setup, including inventorying all components, customizations, integrations, and dependencies. Identify the content, media, and data that need to be migrated. Evaluate custom code, modules, and third-party integrations that might require refactoring or replacement. During this phase, also evaluate your personalization needs. XM Cloud offers basic personalization capabilities, but if your organization requires more advanced personalization and experimentation, consider exploring Sitecore Personalize. Develop a detailed migration plan that outlines the process, timelines, milestones, and responsibilities.

2. Training and Skill Development:

Ensure your development team is trained on headless architecture, JAMstack, and Experience Edge. Invest in training for modern JavaScript frameworks like Next.js as well as Sitecore JSS. Even if you hire an agency for this initiative, having 1-2 internal resources to support your digital presence post-launch is advisable.

3. Setting up the XM Cloud Environment:

Provision the XM Cloud environment and configure necessary settings, including integrating and configuring Experience Edge for enhanced content delivery.

4. Content and Data Migration:

Use tools like Sitecore Content Serialization (SCS) to serialize and migrate content and data efficiently. Sitecore PowerShell Extensions can be utilized for any necessary data transformation.

5. Refactoring Custom Code:

Transform backend components and data access methods to fit a headless architecture. Refactor ASP.NET MVC components to a headless architecture using Sitecore JSS or Sitecore Headless Services. Rebuild the front-end using JAMstack principles with frameworks like Next.js for server-side rendering and static site generation. Replace direct database calls and server-side rendering logic with API calls to the XM Cloud services and Experience Edge.

6. Front-End Development:

Build the UI using modern JavaScript frameworks and JAMstack principles, ensuring integration with XM Cloud and optimized content delivery through Experience Edge.

7. Migrating Forms and Personalization Rules:

Evaluate and migrate custom forms to ensure compatibility with the new environment. If your implementation includes complex personalization rules, assess how these can be replicated or enhanced in XM Cloud, potentially using Sitecore Personalize for advanced capabilities.

8. Integration with Other Systems:

Ensure that all existing integrations with other systems (CRM, ERP, marketing automation tools, etc.) are compatible with XM Cloud. This might require developing new API integrations or refactoring existing ones to work with the new architecture.

9. Testing and Validation:

Conduct thorough testing to ensure all migrated components (content, personalization rules, integrations) function correctly in the new environment. This includes functional testing, performance testing, and security testing to validate that the new setup meets all business requirements.

10. Training and Change Management:

Provide adequate training and support for your content editors, marketers, and IT staff to ensure a smooth transition. Implement change management practices to ensure all stakeholders are aligned and the new system is effectively adopted.


Upgrading and modernizing your Sitecore instance is not just a technical necessity but a strategic imperative. Whether you decide to stay on XP, migrate to XM, or embrace XM Cloud, each path offers unique advantages that align with your organization’s goals and technical requirements.

It’s essential to evaluate your current setup comprehensively, considering integration, personalization, and infrastructure needs. By doing so, you can make an informed decision that ensures your digital platform remains robust, scalable, and capable of delivering exceptional customer experiences.

In Part 4 of our series, we will delve deeper into various options, considering factors like Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and long-term strategic goals. We will provide recommendations for specific scenarios, including one where replatforming might make sense. We will also examine the pros and cons of such a move. For further consultation or support, reach out to our team at DXP Catalyst Consulting. We’re here to help you navigate your digital transformation journey.

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