Code & Platforms

A Smart Upgrade Process for Moving to AEM 6.1

14 Aug 2015, Drew Glass

Adobe released Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) 6.1 in May 2015 and packed it with a bunch of new features as they usually do. Many customers were cautious about upgrading to AEM 6.0 last year, and their caution was warranted. There were many issues with the core technologies in AEM, like OAK, that caused a lot of heartache for some customers. Thankfully, Adobe has had a year to stabilize and improve the product as has been shown by 10+ hotfixes for OAK alone. Now may be the right time for AEM customers to upgrade. In this post, HERO provides guidance on the business benefits of updating to AEM 6.1 and a smart, proven path for upgrading AEM.

What’s in AEM 6.1

The number one reason to upgrade is to bring additional value to the business. Adobe has incorporated some new features into AEM 6.1 to help organizations deliver a consistent, contextual experience to consumers. We have examined the new features and highlighted the few we think are going to be big hits now, or in future releases.


Mobile is a critical component with the explosion of apps, and smartphone usage is surpassing desktops and laptops. AEM Apps—powered by Phonegap—and the new responsive Layout in AEM Sites for authoring responsive design make it easier to deliver content for a consistent consumer experience across all devices. AEM Apps has been around since 6.0, and some much-needed features—like push notifications—have finally been introduced in 6.1. The Responsive Layout feature is a neat concept, but it will take a release or two to become a polished feature.

AEM Apps
AEM Apps
AEM Responsive Layout
AEM Responsive Layout

Personalization & Analytics

Consumers want a consistent, contextual experience across all of their devices. The crux of the Adobe Marketing Cloud (AMC) is an integrated platform that is supposed to achieve this. In the past, AMC integrations with AEM haven’t always delivered on Adobe’s vision. With AEM 6.1, Adobe positions AEM as the content hub for digital experience strategy. Marketers can now present content leveraged by Adobe Target, which will choose and deliver the right content at the right time. Additionally, Adobe Analytics is integrated within AEM to better inform marketers about the effectiveness of the various types of content.

Managing Content in AEM that Is Used by Adobe Target
Managing Content in AEM that Is Used by Adobe Target

Digital Media

AEM’s DAM has traditionally lacked features that would be found in a true enterprise DAM. AEM 6.1 Assets includes four major updates that move it one step closer to being a complete solution:

  1. Dynamic media to create “shoppable media” experiences
  2. AEM Assets in the Cloud as SaaS
  3. Deeper integration with the Adobe Creative Cloud for the creative team
  4. New enterprise DAM capabilities

You can read more about these updates on Adobe’s Digital Marketing Blog.

Evaluating the Business Benefits of an AEM 6.1 Upgrade

Every organization needs a process to help them make the decision on whether or not to upgrade AEM. HERO has created a high-level evaluation summary to help you answer those difficult upgrade questions.

What issues does the business have with the current version of AEM; can they be addressed with AEM 6.1?

Identify authoring experience issues: Gather the issues authors deal with in their day-to-day work. These will often fall into different categories, such as integrations or ease-of-use for authoring components.

Identify technical issues: Work with the technical team to identify any issues that may be preventing the business from getting content published faster.

Compare issues against new features: Work with HERO to examine the new features in AEM, and evaluate whether or not they address the issues identified.

Outcome: List of issues are addressed in AEM 6.1, which the business can leverage.

Are there new features in AEM 6.1 the organization does not currently leverage that can make content development and deployment more efficient?

Identify current business needs: Work with your team to determine objectives that deliver a better customer experience.

Identify upgraded and new features in AEM 6.1: Conduct an in-depth investigation of the new features, and compare those against the business needs.

Outcome: List of newly implemented features to deliver a better customer experience.

What impact does an AEM 6.1 upgrade have with regards to the infrastructure, code and content of the current implementation?

This evaluation will help determine the cost of upgrading to AEM 6.1.

Identify infrastructure changes:

  • Determine if there are any new hardware requirements for the upgrade.
  • Determine if there are any new infrastructure configurations needed for the upgrade, including the AEM instances and the dispatchers.

Identify code changes:

  • Determine current AEM code customizations and which customizations need to be updated.
  • Determine if any changes in the current code are required to support changes in the AEM code.
  • Determine if there are any deprecations in the upgrade.

Identify content changes:

  • Determine if there are any content or asset structure changes in the upgrade.
  • Determine if there are any multi-site management changes needed for content.

Identify support challenges:

  • Determine if the AEM version currently implemented is reaching end-of-life support. For example, AEM 5.6.x is reaching end-of-life support in February 2016.

Outcome: List of changes that need to be made to support the upgrade and a general idea of the cost.

Upgrading to a new version of AEM shouldn’t be a painful process. There are some great new features in AEM 6.1 that make the upgrade worth it. We recommend working with HERO, a Business Level Adobe Partner, to get an in-depth demo of the new features in AEM 6.1, so you don’t miss out.


Drew Glass is the Director of Engineering at HERO and a leader in the San Francisco AEM community. Drew has led teams to deliver innovative AEM solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Whether it is AEM components and templates or back-end integrations with eCommerce systems, Drew has extensive experience in the full AEM stack. He has a passion for infrastructure automation and continuous delivery for AEM projects to help business and technology teams deliver features to market faster.