Lessons learnt about SharePoint migrations can simplify your move to Office 365.

With a strong emphasis on digital transformation in the workplace we are seeing a significant increase in the number of organisations migrating to either SharePoint or Office 365 (including SharePoint Online). After spending the last few years on large corporate SharePoint migration projects, involving migrating content into Office 365, I thought I would share some lessons we learnt that can easily be applied to any of our future migration projects.

Migration software vendors will often try to convince you that pointing their tool at a source content and clicking a button will be all you need to worry about when performing a project, but the migration process itself is only a fraction of the effort involved. Below is a simple list of the key steps we undertake with each migration:

  • Migration strategy
  • Migration planning
  • Pre-migration actions
  • Content migration
  • Post-migration actions
  • User acceptance

Obstacles ahead

You will face various challenges when migrating to a newer version of SharePoint.  Multiple customisations, tool limitations, time constraints, complex permission models, broken workflows and many more.

Migrations always take you along a path of thorns and struggles and there is no “easy” option; but with proper governance & planning you stand a good chance of increasing your level of success.

SharePoint to O365 Migration

Migration Strategy

Clearly define the strategies and the road map to follow as part of the migration planning:

  • Analyse the source and target environments extensively
  • Spend time deciding on and finalising the migration approach
  • List all the data or content that cannot be migrated
  • List all the content that might have unforeseen issues (broken links, deprecated site templates etc.)
  • Define the mitigation approach for risky areas like workflows, customisations and permissions
  • Decide the stages where business users should get involved
  • Define a formal governance plan
  • Understand the available migration tools and choose one which suits your needs

Migration Plan – Driving Factors

Bench Marks & Performance

Once you have run initial migration tests using the chosen migration approach, setting users expectations on performance and gaining their input helps in creating the migration plan.

Migration approach

Ensure your migration plan is clear and concise and understood by all relevant stakeholders. Using a phased migration approach, where content is moved in batches rather than all at once, is generally preferable. This approach allows you to correct the mistakes and avoid pitfalls: Lesson can be learnt in early phases, allowing room for adjustments in later phases.

Understand the migration tool’s limitations

Include migration plans for the unforeseen issues/challenges which will not be covered by the migration tool. Plan alternative approaches and resources to cover those limitations. You can write your own manual migration scripts or find another tool that can cover the limitations. The limitations can vary from one tool to another and can be anything related to metadata, permissions, workflows or supported list/sites template types, and more.

Pre-migration Actions

Content inventory – build a clear site map

Build a site inventory before starting any type of migration. This will give you a clear picture of the source in terms of number of sites included, structure of each site and the data usage for each site.

Running pre-migration scripts on the source environments will also provide insight into what exist in the sites in terms of data and content.

User mapping – key for successful permissions migration

Create a user mapping sheet and test thoroughly with a PoC migration prior to the actual implementation. Any mapping errors that occur during the PoC migration can be fixed prior to implementation to reduce the risk of affecting the migration budget and schedule.

No migration tool is bulletproof

There are various tools in the market, but that doesn’t mean that the tool will take care of everything expected in the migration. Each SharePoint migration has different challenges in terms of customizations involved, workflow types used and types of content in each site collection.
Thoroughly analysing the migration tools available to understand their limitations, scope and mapping actions available will ensure you are better prepared for migration.

Tracking migration progress

Reporting on the migration progress and status is an essential part of any migration project. Ensure you have defined the level of reporting required and the resources needed to implement the tracking system. Some tracking systems can also be used when site audits are requested.

Migration infrastructure

The chosen migration tool will need a higher level of permissions for processing and creating the content in the target environment. It will need access to perform checks/tests on the source and the target environments related to the connectivity, permissions, firewalls and any types of web services, APIs or updates to be applied to the target environment.


User Acceptance

With the larger migrations, applying a phased approach to UAT can increase the end user’s confidence in the migration team and the migrated content. This will also provide the migration team with more time to understand the issues raised by end users, rectify them and communicate the resolutions back to the users.

Before bringing the users onboard for site testing, make sure the migration team has performed all the basic tests on the site. You should create a checklist covering the points to be considered before declaring that the site has been successfully migrated, as you may find that lists are missing, or workflows didn’t make it across.

Lastly, keep the management team informed on the status of the migration at every stage of the project and clearly communicate any roadblocks or show stoppers in achieving the planned milestones. At Intelogy, we have found that creating a PowerBI dashboard for enterprise scale migrations is essential for coordinating the business expectations with the migration team’s progress.

So, if you have a non-trivial migration ahead and don’t wish to experience the pain points of a SharePoint migration then why not use our knowledge and expertise in planning your Office 365 migration accordingly.

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Simon Chalfont
I have played a pivotal role in the development of Intelogy, a leading Microsoft Partner specialising in Office 365, SharePoint & .NET Development, since its formation in 1995. I engage with both business stakeholders and technical professionals to ensure successful delivery of high quality software solutions. I love new technology and continue to set new targets for the development of the company.
Published On: October 9th, 2017 Categories: Modern IT, Strategy & Change

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