Moving homes can be a challenging experience, and can be frustrating at times! Should I move everything from my old home to the new one and try to customize the new home to fit my old furniture and household stuff? Or should I only identify what fits well in the new house?

In many ways, planning a content migration is like moving homes. What should be moved and what should be thrown away is a question that is asked multiple times during the process. It plays a major role toward well-defined/well-governed information architecture. Even if you’re an experienced IT architect, moving to Office 365 is very different than migrating content from one on-premises platform to another.


Want to provide the ultimate Office 365 migration experience to your clients? Download our Ultimate Office 365 Migration Guide for MSPs


Content Cleanup is Essential

Considering that you are moving to the Cloud, it is imperative that you clean up your content before migration to avoid any pitfalls. The risks associated with the content migration are too important to be ignored. The most important risks are security and content access. The security on your network drive may not necessarily apply to your content on Office 365. What you restrict on your legacy storage may be available or revoked because of sharing properties on Office 365 set by you or your administrator.

This is generally followed by storage options. You may be moving from a network drive or third-party tools, but the options on Office 365 are overwhelming. You have OneDrive for Business at the lowest level trending up to SharePoint Team Sites, Videos Portal & Office 365 Groups. In addition to this, another risk that requires mitigation is identifying what “cannot” be migrated and what “shouldn’t” be migrated. There is a tendency for users to migrate everything that they can and leave everything they can’t, which can lead to prolonged migration efforts and a never-ending content creation-migration cycle. Another obstacle is preparing for content . Office 365, unlike your network drives and third-party storage applications, have disparate repositories for content governed by access and information architecture. Not having ‘search ready’ can lead to catastrophic results due to unavailability of the right content to end-users.


Learn how to sell Office365 the right way with our FREE Sales Guide


How to Plan a Migration for Office 365

The risks mentioned above are important and need to be taken into consideration along with overall organization-specific risks. Having a mitigation plan in place before your start migrating content not only helps mitigate these risks but also improves end-user adoption. This is where the content optimization model plays a major role in mitigating risks before actual migration and transition to Office 365.

Having a proven framework acts as a catalyst to make sure organizations are aware of what is being migrated and how to design and customize any gaps that would prevent important content being migrated.

Here are the key elements in a content optimization model:

  1. Engage
  2. Analyze
  3. Migrate
  4. Support

Here’s what goes into each of the elements of that migration plan:


1) Engage

It is during this phase that you engage with content owners and key stakeholders to start capturing content to be migrated, customizations performed for that content, and to conduct a risk analysis to identify the Functional Quotient and Technical Quotient of the content. It is important to tag content with Functional Quotient, a term used to identify the importance of the content to the function/department. It is important then to tag the Technical Quotient to understand the technical complexity of that content. Once the content is tagged with respective FQ/TQ, a detailed inventory of content is the result.


2) Analyze

The content inventory needs to be analyzed for prioritization for migration. Based on the level of technical complexity and functional Quality, the content should fall under one of the following four quadrants:

  1. Migrate: With a higher Functional Quality and lower Technical complexity, it makes total sense to prioritize and migrate the content as is. The content is queued up early for migration and may require little or no change before or after the content is migrated.
  2. Customize: Content with lower Technical Complexities and lower Functional Quality should be customized to improve the Functional Quality before the content is migrated. This will increase the ease of adoption and should be discussed with content owners for customization to improve the Functional Quality.
  3. Rewrite: Content with higher Technical Complexity and higher Functional Quality should be rewritten in accordance with Office 365 guidelines. This can include a complex application with InfoPath and custom workflow that has been tweaked to satisfy end-user requirements. Instead of migrating the content and customization, it may be advisable to rewrite the application on PowerApps and Flow for an easier transition to Office 365. This is an important decision but can save you time and effort to tweak the application in line with Office 365 standards without gaining any productive functionality or increasing technical quality.
  4. Retire: The most complex decision of all is to retire content or at least archive it. An application with a high level of Technical Complexity without any functional importance is dead content. The reason the content never evolved is because it was rarely used. Retiring the application or archiving the content may be in the interest of the function as well as for the IT team managing the content migration.


3) Migrate

This is a multi-step iterative process that includes customization and migration of content once it is analyzed and prioritized. Based on the inventory defined in accordance with their Functional Quotient and technical quality, migration can be done using a tool or alternate method as per your migration plan. This should include detailed steps to validate and verify data integrity, security, and ownership mapping. It is during this phase that you ensure your content is findable by having the right access configured and validated during the data mapping step as well as the Trial & UAT step. Let’s look at key steps toward successful completion of this phase.

  1. Migration Planning – This step is critical to ensure adequate planning has been done regarding infrastructure, communication, and people availability.
  2. Source Data Preparation – Prepare source data for changes as required. This will include a clean- up of data, restructuring of folders, consolidation or demerging of content, as well as changes to the security Many times, content owners tend to remove anonymous and external access until the completion of the migration.
  3. Data Mapping – During this step, the content-mapping is done from source data to target , as well as a content
  4. Migration Development – It is during this step that any custom development is done, which could include tweaking web parts and rewriting workflows and InfoPath forms. You should also consider the configuration of search on your SharePoint Online tenant to ensure content findability is not broken.
  5. Trial & UAT – This is a critical step – a trial migration conducted to assess the tool compatibility and migration speed. Data integrity is validated during the user acceptance test and can be done using third-party tools like Migration Manager from Quest or your existing migration tool. These tools also provide security and access validation to ensure access levels are maintained, and version history has been successfully migrated as desired.

Successful completion of these steps ensures that you present an accurate migration roll-out to your change acceptance board for the final roll-out on migrate date.


4) Support

Content migration doesn’t end here. Support your end-users during the transition by ensuring they know how to fetch their content, have same/similar access as they had previously, and if their application is rewritten, where they can find Wiki for that content. If the end-users do not have these abilities, you are putting your end-user adoption at risk, and your VP would possibly be forced to purchase another enterprise account. Considering the quantum of migration and number of departments you are migrating during each cycle, you need to plan end-user support. This includes:

  1. Train L1/L2 support team.
  2. Identifying L3/On Call support resources during the transition period.
  3. Building Wiki and knowledge-base into your IT service management portal and adjusting your SLAs to address any support request.
  4. Roll back criteria for any content identified post migration and pertaining governance.


Having said that, migration planning is crucial and so is content optimization. Office 365 is an enterprise tool that rolls out new features and workload during every wave. While not everything can be planned upfront before migration, it is imperative that the inventory of content is well-defined and well-mapped with the available features in Office 365.


Read this article to learn how to make reselling Office 365 more profitable.


Discover how Service Providers can Successfully Migrate Customers to Office 365

Written by Sophie Furnival Marketing Communications Manager @ SherWeb

Sophie leads a team of expert marketers in charge of building SherWeb’s brand awareness. Responsible for activities such as email marketing, social media and driving organic web traffic, her role is critical to ensuring SherWeb is recognized and respected by prospects, partners, competitors and other stakeholders. Sophie has extensive experience working in journalism and corporate communications for different industries, including science, technology and the non-profit sector. When she’s not championing SherWeb’s brand, Sophie enjoys diving, cooking and watching The Office.