When you think about modular buildings, sexy is probably the last adjective that comes to mind. Jeff Dusing, Senior Manager Digital Marketing at WillScot, the leading modular building provider, understands that, but it’s also up to him to help the many industries that rely on modular discover why WillScot’s offerings are exciting when it comes to their needs.

Jeff was joined by Matt Kloss, VP of Client Services at XCentium, to discuss WillScot’s digital transformation journey in their Wednesday breakout session, “Simplifying Sitecore for mid-sized organizations: How to achieve your digital goals,” at Sitecore Symposium 2019.

The session offered a candid look at both the challenges and successes of a digital transformation as well as lessons learned, which all of us can benefit from. After outlining their journey, I highlight some of the takeaways below.

A challenging start to digital transformation

When WillScot acquired its main competitor, ModSpace, in 2018, they also acquired their half-finished Sitecore deployment. At the time, WillScot’s .NET platform required developer support for simple content changes and integrating any new technology, couldn’t support e-commerce, and had security flaws because it was no longer being supported.

So, when XCentium pitched to WillScot, helping the executive team understand how a new site built on Sitecore could dramatically improve the customer experience and provide solid business results, WillScot hired them to develop the old ModSpace site into a new digital home for WillScot.

While XCentium had been working with ModSpace for a while, ModSpace’s Sitecore platform had originally been implemented by another agency, who didn’t lay a solid foundation. Experience Editor, for example, didn’t work at all. And not having followed Helix best practices, the media library only included one folder — with thousands of files. In addition, WillScot required more functionality than ModSpace had, including new page, component, and other templates.

To complete the project, WillScot brought on a design agency: Brand Extract. In order to create a fluid process, where designers could design while developers develop, they created a workflow between Brand Extract and XCentium.

The first step was updating the site to Sitecore Experience Platform 9.1. This dealt with the tech debt. Following Helix best practices, they set up new templates and ensured Experience Editor was up and running smoothly so content editors could do their job with ease. This was important as they had a ton of new content to create — including various versions in US, Canadian, and Hawaiian English, and Canadian French.

When it was time to enter content into Sitecore, XCentium did a multi-day training for content editors, after which the team was ready to go. But then the executive team delivered a change directive for the site, which would take a month for XCentium to implement. The content team had no choice but to hurry up and wait.

A week before the new site went live WillScot’s old site was hacked. Fortunately, XCentium had already done a load and penetration test for the new site. They were confident the new site was safe.

A new experience — for customers and team members

The new site delivered a retooled navigation, which included hover-over functionality, and an intuitive interface. But the team also used the opportunity to revamp the online customer experience.

While the old site essentially functioned as a glorified online catalogue, the new site begins by asking the customers what they’re trying to accomplish and using that information to guide them to the products they need.

With this new online experience, WillScot is now offering more personalized buildings — based on customers’ needs versus what they could find on the site. The purchase of add-ons, such as desks, lamps, chairs, and more, which are all a significant source of revenue for WillScot, has also increased.

And the new site is not only better for customers, but for the team. The content manager experience is much simpler, empowering the content team to make updates and other changes with ease and without developer support.

The team is also happy they chose Azure. Not only does it allow better scaling, but it also has empowered them to shift infrastructure resources from worrying about hacks to focusing on building new tools and experiences.

Lessons learned

While the team is excited with the results the project delivered, they also realize, in hindsight, that things could have gone smoother. Here are some of the lessons they learned.

Stakeholders buy-in for different reasons

XCentium initially used the long-term promise of e-commerce to sell the site revamp. And while WillScot’s president saw the benefit of an improved customer experience immediately, the CEO needed to hear more about how a meaningful digital experience could increase customer loyalty and operational efficiency, including how it could eliminate an entire sales division.

Different stakeholders have different motivations. Be sure to take the time to understand the motivation of each and speak to these during the initial pitch.

Content entry takes time

The team needs time to learn the new platform, and this might very well take longer than you think. Give yourself a buffer.

It all takes (more) time (than you think)

As the WillScot executive team saw the new site and what was possible with Sitecore, they wanted more functionality, which changed the timeline from 3 months to 5-to-6.

While the WillScot executive team was understanding, it’s worth discussing up front what kind of changes might come and setting expectations around timelines. It’s also worth noting how hard certain deadlines are. One business might need a new site to be up and running by Black Friday — a no-budge deadline. While another might set an arbitrary deadline of July 23 and could care less if the site wasn’t live until August or even September. It’s worth discussing this up front.

Managing two agencies requires thoughtful planning

While they got XCentium and Brand Extract together early on, setting expectations clearly, they could have done a better job with the review process.

The process they landed on was that Brand Extract would hand over designs to WillScot, WillScot would approve (or not), and then hand it off to XCentium. But there were times when XCentium would get something and say, “Sure, we can do that, but it will take 120 hours and add two weeks to the project’s timeframe. Or, we could do this other thing in 20 hours, which provides the same functionality but in a slightly different way.”

In hindsight, XCentium recommends adding a technical feasibility review to the design process. If developers and architects had been brought in earlier, they could have worked with designers to make slight tweaks, saving a lot of time in reviews.

Matt suggests looking at your teams and creating a cyclical review period that streamlines the approval process for everyone involved.

Moving sites is like moving houses — plan accordingly

WillScot was able to simply copy and paste, so to speak, some of ModSpace’s content, but a lot of it had to be redone entirely. Some of the content was just off. Some of it worked and was up to date, but it was in the wrong framework. At the end of the day, the process required reviewing every single word on the site.

Matt and Jeff used the analogy of moving, and as everyone who’s ever moved knows, you’re often surprised by both how much junk you have and the amount of furniture, appliances, extension cords, or other little things you need for the new space. If you’ve budgeted time and money for this, it’s fine. If not, it’s not.

The takeaway: realize the process might be more in-depth than you think and plan accordingly. How many people will be upset if you have leftover time and money at the end of a project? Answer: no one.

WillScot is still working with XCentium with plans to implement personalization and more functionality on the site. I’m glad they shared their experience with us at Symposium 2019, and I hope it offers you some insight into planning your own digital transformation.

At Sitecore, we’ve been on our own digital transformation journey. Click the previous link to learn about the process and some of our results.

Mohan Kasibhatla is Vice President of Product Marketing at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn.