7 Migration Tips When Moving to Office 365

Benjamin Niaulin, SharePoint MVP, adviser and product evangelist for Sharegate, writes here about his best practice tips on migrating from SharePoint to Office 365. Sharegate is also a sponsor of Nintex InspireX  #NINX17 taking place February 13-15, in New Orleans.

Managing a migration from SharePoint to Office 365 can be extremely rewarding when everything falls into place. However, it can also be high pressure and super stressful. Even if you’re an experienced enterprise IT architect with years of experience managing users, platforms and content, moving to Office 365 is very different to migrating content from one on-premises platform to another.

All the same, it can be made easier if you’ve got a plan in place—I’ve written about the different strategies for a migration from SharePoint to Office 365 before.

What I want to look at today are seven standout tips you should think about when doing the actual migration itself. Some of these are technical, while some are more change management-focused. Remember—a migration is both a technical and human activity.

1. Understand the new features and architecture of Office 365 Groups

If you and your users have been using SharePoint—or even just a file share—for a long time, you will be familiar with working in a very structured way.

Whether it’s going from sub-folder to sub-folder or working through site collections, your colleagues will be used to a hierarchical approach for finding information and working together.

In contrast, Office 365 is built around Office 365 Groups, which has created a very flat hierarchy for collaborating on files and information. This will result in a big change to the way employees are used to working.

To get the most out of Office 365, your colleagues will need to be trained to understand how Groups work and how they represent a totally different ‘philosophy’ for using Microsoft tools to collaborate.

2. Got enough bandwidth?

You want your migration to go smoothly and efficiently. However, a lot of organizations forget the importance of bandwidth when they’re uploading large amounts of content to the cloud, and then depending heavily on their internet connection for their daily accessing of Office 365.

If your company’s internet subscription is not fast enough to support the migration and daily usage, you will run into major troubles. So, before you even begin migrating, speak with your internet service provider to get their recommendations on your requirements.

3. Be mindful of the deployment for OneDrive for Business sync

OneDrive for Business is Microsoft’s file sync and share tool. When it works well, it’s great, but it is notorious for running into obstacles if you don’t have clear policies for staff about how they should use it.

First of all, make sure your colleagues are all using the latest version of OneDrive for Business (find out more about it here).

Second, set policies for how people can use it. For instance, if everyone at the company clicks ‘sync’ first thing on Monday morning after you’ve set up Office 365, this will very likely lead to a crash – not the ideal start, so give this a high priority.

4. Ensure you understand software boundaries

Different versions of SharePoint have always had different limits for file sizes, view limits, file name character limits and so on. The same goes for Office 365, but depending on the plan you start with Microsoft, those boundaries will be very different to what you were used to in SharePoint.

Generally speaking, you have a lot more space and flexibility in the cloud. But to get the most out of Office 365, you will want all your users to understand these limits.

You can read more about boundaries here.

5. Plan for phase out of InfoPath and adapt to new tools

As SharePoint evolved, Microsoft has always phased out older technologies in favor of new, more powerful tools and the same goes with Office 365.

Take the popular InfoPath webforms. Microsoft continues to support them, but is gradually phasing them out in favor of PowerApps and Flow.

Also, bear in mind that any workflows built with Visual Studio for earlier iterations of SharePoint won’t work in the cloud, so I’d highly recommend using Nintex because their workflows are easy to migrate, as well as being much more versatile and powerful than custom made alternatives.

6. Redirect your users

If you want the move to Office 365 to be a success, you must have a clear and constantly communicated deadline by which the migration will happen and old tools and content will no longer be available. Make it clear that, if your deadline is the 31st of the month, that you are actually done on the 31st.

You also need to redirect your users and make them aware of the upcoming changes—informing them of Lync redirect, for instance; placing banners on the intranet and putting old content in read-only sites or even a file share.

Good communications are key, and so often an area left to chance.

 7. Change management

Change is hard to do, and you can expect some resistance from colleagues about moving to Office 365. So, don’t treat your migration as a purely technical exercise, but also prepare change management plans.

Communicate the benefits of the change to employees, address their concerns (during face to face meetings, informal drop-in sessions) and then offer constant training and support as employees adapt to the new way of working.

Make Your Migration a Success

Although a migration can be stressful and high pressure, and while there are a number of places a migration can go wrong, you can easily avoid these risks by putting my tips into practice.

Good luck!

Benjamin Niaulin

Benjamin Niaulin is a Product Manager at Sharegate. He loves SharePoint, Office 365, OneDrive and Nintex, and is a frequent blog contributor.