Microsoft’s Office 365 Suite is an appealing solution for many companies due to the huge reduction in capital expenditure that it offers compared to traditional servers and software licensing. As well as this immediate reduction in costs there are many other benefits to introducing Office 365 into your IT environment including new collaboration features and the ability to leverage Microsoft’s SLA backed uptime and backup services.
Depending on the size of your organization though a migration to Office 365 can be no mean feat. More often than not the systems that need to be migrated will be business critical and so downtime can be extremely detrimental to your business.
There are a few steps that you can take as a business to minimize the impact that a migration will have as well as ensuring a smooth transition for your users. Ultimately the age old adage comes into play here as with any IT task – the more planning that you undertake beforehand the smoother the migration.
Define Business Goals
The first step is to put together a project scope that takes into account goals you wish to achieve. This is the stage where you determine what services are going to be migrated, what the timescale is as well as highlighting any potential problems and new solutions. This is a high level stage and you
should just be looking at the overall landscape of the project. At the end of this stage you should have a good idea of what you are trying to achieve.
Having this project scope in place ensures that everyone knows what is expected from the project – it makes it easy for management to keep a track of how everything is going to look after the migration and it makes it easy for the technical team to ensure that everything is in place to make the migration as smooth as possible.
Audit Existing Systems and Interview Users
Before progressing with system requirements and other technical steps it is important to understand the system that is being migrated. A full system audit will ensure that you have all of the information required to make the migration a success. It will also make the migration itself much more straight forward and reduce the chance of unexpected hiccups.
In addition to auditing the systems themselves, it is critical to interview the users of these systems. Learning how your employees actually use technology will give great insight into how services in the cloud should be configured.
Build Your Migration Plan
Once you have all of the relevant information for your existing system as well as the requirements for Office 365 you can build your migration plan.
Every stage of the migration should be documented before hand – make a note of each application and/or data set that needs to be migrated. You should document the existing data location, the final location as well as any tools or guides required for moving that data to Office 365.
User awareness and training is a key element to any Office 365 migration to insure adaption of the cloud rather than rejection. People typically don’t like change, and they have heard all sorts of myths about cloud technology. Focusing on how these services will make it easier for them to get their job done is a must, along with providing as much training and hands on time as needed.
At this stage you can also categorize each part of the migration in terms of its impact as well as its reliance on the completion of any other tasks. Quite often certain tasks can be carried out ahead of the live migration – the more tasks that can be managed in this way the better as it reduces the risk and impact. Splitting the migration up into logical phases, say by department or use case, will make your migration a breeze.
Test, Analyze, Improve
The final tip for a smooth migration is to test everything before migrating a live environment. Once you have each stage of the migration broken down into modules it will be easy to formulate a testing procedure for that module. This may involve migrating a small amount of data in order test accurately measure timescales, it may also involve trialing applications on Office 365 to ensure that everything functions as expected.
The more components you can test before migrating the less chance there is of anything going wrong or any issues being faced post migration.
You can minimize the impact of a Office 365 migration in your company by evaluating, planning, and testing. But the keyu is to communicatie the benefits to your employees, providing the proper training and support both before and after the big switch.