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SharePoint Migration

Providing for a Successful Office 365 SharePoint Migration: An Overview

Most of the articles and discussions I see regarding Office 365 and cloud migrations focus on the nitty-gritty technical elements.  This is the first of a multi-part blog series in which I’ll review the key considerations you need to address to ensure a successful migration.  We will first focus on some of the less technical issues that require a more human approach.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important considerations for your overall SharePoint migration plan. Considerations we’ve gathered by helping a variety of enterprises move their on-premise and hosted SharePoint infrastructures to Office 365. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are certainly some adaptable best practices.

Treat Migration Like a Real Project 

Even if your organization is small, an Office 365 migration is a significant project, and it should be treated as such. I favor the project lifecycle approach, wherein you break down projects into phases, tasks, deliverables and milestones. This approach forces you to think about what you need to get done, to account for those tasks and to plan for dependencies. Ultimately, a detailed plan will save you time and money down the road. 

Keep in mind, however, that migrating a SharePoint environment is not the same as upgrading it. Office 365 is easier to use in some ways, but more difficult to navigate in others. The severity and complexity of each potential problem will depend upon how you’ve set up and used your current applications thus far. 

Understand the “Why” Behind Your Migration 

Do you know what stakeholders in different departments and management levels hope to accomplish through your migration? Their goals will help guide your plan. Take the time to identify the main reasons and objectives for this project, from cost reduction to hosting company shut-down. Then, tailor your plan according to those objectives, and refer back to them when difficult decisions need to be made. You should know what success will look like ahead of time, and you want to be able to show those stakeholders how you’ve accomplished their goals. 

Similarly, talk to the users throughout your organization to understand the pain points and weaknesses that exist in your current infrastructure and feature set. Write these findings down, and include them in your Discovery Phase when you’re gathering the requirements for your migration. The more you know about potential problems before the project begins, the more prepared you’ll be to solve them once it’s complete. 

Understand New Capabilities 

Even if Office 365’s specific features aren’t the reason for your migration, you should learn what the new platform has to offer. The functionality and feature set are beyond the scope of this blog, but the high-level buckets include Azure and related services, mobile device management, Office 365 Groups, business intelligence, search-based data surfacing, Kan Ban-style planning tools, video portal, document storage, digital storytelling, Skype for Business integration, smart phone management, external sharing and robust co-authoring – just to name a few! Plus, don’t forget about the ability to integrate with Project Server Online and Project Lite, which allow you to handle enterprise-level projects and resources with your Office 365 sites. 

The new platform will also provide your organization the opportunity to develop alternative methods for completing daily work. Compared to on-premise SharePoint environments, Office 365 offers greater freedom for users to complete tasks in ways that suit their preferences and styles. Adjusting processes around the new features may seem like a daunting task, but with the right information, your IT team or a third-party consultant will be able to lend a hand. 

Finally, you’ll want to consider how you can consolidate and retire existing third-party applications. You’ve probably purchased and maintained a variety of apps to shore up gaps in your old platform’s functionality, making it difficult to support and monitor the flow of potentially compromising data through your organization. Office 365 offers quite a few features that could fulfill the same roles, and it’s far safer and more efficient to offer as many solutions under the same roof as possible. 

Don’t Leave the Project to IT 

IT doesn’t really “own” most content – don’t leave the migration to them alone! Unlike more straightforward technical efforts, the migration of organizational and collaborative data must involve the providers, owners and consumers of content to a significant degree. At some point in the process, almost every department in your organization will need to get involved. 

However, IT often fails to thoroughly gather requirements from the users who will be affected by the migration. Tech skills and business skills are NOT one and the same, and IT personnel usually have a plethora of other tasks on their plates. Migrations require a great deal of communication and multiple touch points between IT and other departments, and you’ll want to create a cross-functional project team to ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Ultimately, creating buy-in within the operational departments encourages people to pitch in, provide support and make the migration as efficient and successful as possible. 

Learn more about Office 365 SharePoint Migration with this guide!

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