SharePoint Migrations can be challenging, painful, frustrating, and time consuming. They are also difficult to conceptualize and visualize, so I often use metaphors and analogies to try and ground the nebulous concepts involved with a SharePoint migration into a more familiar scenario. One of my favorite metaphors to leverage is moving to a new house or apartment. Not everyone has experienced a SharePoint Migration, but everyone has experienced moving to a new residence.
Visualize your SharePoint environment as a house, full of different types of items. You need to move all that stuff into a new place, and perhaps the new place has a different number of rooms, closets, room dimensions, etc. How would you go about preparing and planning for that move? Personally, I start by taking an inventory of everything I have, then going through the inventory and figuring out what I don’t use, and what could be donated, recycled, or thrown away. Perhaps some of those items won’t fit in the new place, or will have to be disassembled and moved in pieces, to be reassembled after the move. I also take note of anything important, valuable, or fragile, so I know to take extra care moving those items. Let’s keep this house moving metaphor in our minds as we explore the 5 Keys to Unlocking SharePoint Migration Planning Success!
Define SharePoint Migration Goals
The first step in SharePoint Migration planning, or in any technology migration, is to define the goals and objectives. Simply put, this is defining:
- Why are we migrating?
- What must we have Day 1 on the new platform?
- What do we hope to get out of the new platform?
- What are the hopes/goals six months after launch? A year? 3 years?
These are small questions that can have some big answers. Having defined goals and objectives before deep diving into planning activity will help inform your analysis and decisions. Each stage of the planning process should be viewed through the lens of these goals and objectives. If the “why” of the migration is part of a company-wide cloud initiative, then you know at the outset that the option to leave behind legacy or complex customizations is probably off the table. If the Day 1 objective is a seamless cutover from the user perspective, then you can expect to put more effort into planning and communication around cutover events, and quality assurance efforts to ensure a positive user experience.
Inventory of SharePoint Content
The goal of taking inventory of SharePoint Content is to understand the total volume of content and sites, which will allow you to start understanding the scale of a migration effort. A helpful way to begin the inventory is to list out all the site collections, sites, and subsites present in your current SharePoint environment. From this list, you’ll continue to layer on useful information, such as who are the business owners of content areas, and who performs day-to-day administration of the site collections and sites. You should also gather information on if the sites are still in use, or when it was last modified. With this inventory, you’ll start to develop an idea of how big your “move” is, and identified the people to talk with when questions arise around where or how their “stuff” should be migrated.
Metaphors aren’t perfect, and they always have limits. The variety of customizations which can be built on top of SharePoint don’t exactly fit neatly into our moving metaphor, and probably the closest analog would be either a curio cabinet full of expensive, fragile figurines, or complicated large pieces of furniture which require disassembly and reassembly to move.
The goal of customization inventory is like the inventory of SharePoint content, to build a list of all the customizations in your current SharePoint environment, the scope and nature of their use, who built them, if any source code is available, and the business owners of the customizations. It is very important to perform this activity, as SharePoint customizations present the largest obstacles in a SharePoint migration, in terms of cost, complexity, and effort required to move these to a new SharePoint platform. This is especially true if the migration destination is SharePoint Online. There are many varieties for SharePoint Customizations, including but not limited to:
At this point in the migration planning process, we’ve collected an inventory of all our SharePoint Content and customizations. Now the analysis of that inventory can begin!
For SharePoint content, the goal is to look at each site and determine if it should be Removed, Archived, or Migrated (RAM). By using the RAM mentality, this will allow you to plow head first into the pile of SharePoint content and make it more manageable, so you are only migrating content that is in use and necessary. To help determine this, you’ll want to look at site activity metrics, such as when content was last modified or when new site objects were last built out. The site usage metrics will also help to inform your RAM decisions. Once you’ve collected that usage information, present your recommendations to the business owners of sites/content, and get their buy in on the decisions. If you were unable to identify a business owner during your inventory, this is a pretty good signal that a site is no longer needed!
On the customization side of things, more nuanced analysis is needed. If the destination environment is SharePoint Online, or more than one version ahead of your current on-premise SharePoint environment (for example migrating from SharePoint 2010 to 2016), the general expectation is that customizations will need some level of effort to migrate. This can entail simply updating some references, URLs or styles all the way up to rebuilding the customizations. Migrating customizations to SharePoint Online presents a variety of challenges, as full trust or server-side code is not supported. Using the Customization Inventory as your guide, you’ll want to schedule conversations with the business stakeholders/owners of the customizations. Below is a list of questions which will help guide decisions on the best path forward for each customization:
- How widespread is the use of the customization?
- How critical is the functionality of the customization?
- Can it be kept in the existing environment? For migrations to SharePoint Online, would a small on-premise SharePoint farm to host full trust customizations be acceptable?
- Does any of the functionality map to what’s available out of the box in the new SharePoint environment?
Mine the Past for Insights
Every time I’ve had to move (and I grew up a Navy kid so I’ve moved dozens of times), I’ve learned lessons which I’ve applied to future moves. The same is true for SharePoint migrations! Even if it is your first SharePoint migration, chances are your organization has experience some form of technological change, upgrade, or migration. Ask the below questions within the organization to unearth and leverage insights to help plan and execute your upcoming SharePoint migration.
- What worked well in past technology migrations, changes, or rollouts of new technology? What did not work well?
- What were the issues or challenges when SharePoint was first adopted?
- What flavors of helpdesk activity have you had around SharePoint?
Struggling to put together your inventory? Inherited a legacy SharePoint system and don’t even know where to begin? Looking for expert insight into your SharePoint Migration?
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