If you think that talking about SharePoint migration challenges is like a broken record, think again. Not only are their new challenges with each new release of SharePoint, but migration isn’t just a one-time activity. Smart organizations know it’s an ongoing task. But more importantly, with the last release of Office 365, SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013, it’s even more critical to have a good migration strategy. Let me tell you why.

The Sins of Your Past

It's now time to confess. Did your company have a plan or strategy in place on how it would organize its information?

If you answered NO, you are not alone. Many companies don't put enough planning into information organization. Let me guess, employees store information on their desktops or in file server folder structures (which are only sometimes used). Your email accounts are loaded with multiple copies of documents and other information. And for those of you that jumped on the SharePoint bandwagon without a sound implementation strategy ... well, let's just not go there right now.

These are the sins of your past, and in many cases, your present. But they don't have to carry over to your future. It's never too late to plan your SharePoint implementation right. You just need to create a proper information architecture and think about your migration plan.

For now, I'm going to assume you've gone through the difficult task of defining your best IA for SharePoint, so you know how you want the end result to look. If you need help building an IA strategy, check out this article that covers the topic. For now, we will focus on the migration strategy.

Mapping Your Content Structure

Obviously your content mapping document is going to look different if you are migrating from one version of SharePoint (or from an on premises version to a hosted version -- like Office 365), then if you are migrating from a non-SharePoint source.

Let's start with data coming from a non-SharePoint platform. Start with a complete content audit of your existing information source(s):

Note: I've divided the mapping spreadsheet into two sections here simply to work with the space limits. In reality, you will have one big document for the entire mapping process.

Location: ____________ (e.g. File Server G:\Departments\Marketing)

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Once you have your existing content mapped, then you need to map it to your new SharePoint IA:

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Now if you are migrating from an existing SharePoint implementation to a new version, or from on premises to the cloud, your mapping document is going to look a little different:

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Once you have the existing structure mapped, how is the information to be migrated? Here you may have situations where the type of SharePoint site you were using has been deprecated in the newest version of SharePoint.

For example, SharePoint 2013 no longer uses Document and Meeting Workspaces, so you need to identify what the new destination SP Site type will be ahead of time.

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For this article, we've noted in the spreadsheet if this is a document library content item or a list item, but there are other types of SharePoint content you will want to migrate, including calendar entries, image libraries and activity streams (if you are currently using SharePoint 2010). The same spreadsheet can be used, simply add to that column that notes the Library/List.

With documents you'll also want to note how many versions of the document you want to bring over.

There are also non content items that you will want to potentially migrate from an existing SharePoint implementation including web parts, views and other items. You should also create a mapping spreadsheet for these and note what is to be migrated and what can be archived/deleted.

Don't Migrate All Your Ducks At Once

This would be my best advice when you are planning your migration strategy -- don't try to do it all at once. Do it in phases, focusing on a migration roadmap that works best for your company. This is where a good Incremental or Delta migration plan becomes invaluable.

Keep in mind that there are certain things that need to be set up and migrated first for your content migration to go smoothly, including Site Collections, possibly Sites and your new Term Store.

If you have content that is used almost daily and is very important, you need to decide when is the best time to move it to the new SharePoint environment. Some organizations might want to migrate the most used content first while others might focus on less used content to allow the migration team the opportunity to test migration processes and train users at a more consistent level.

However, if there has become a need to share content with people outside the organization that is currently located in a file share or behind a firewall that can't be reached by outside parties, you want to consider moving that content first.

Regardless of what order you choose to migrate, do it in steps, or phases, and plan not only to migrate content, but also to test that everything migrated properly, that permissions have been applied correctly, that users have been properly trained in the new environment and that your support model is in place to help users as they adjust to the new SharePoint environment.

Of course, once the migration is complete, you aren't exactly done. To avoid a recurrence of your past sins, you need to create and follow a governance plan that indicates when and how new Sites are created and how permissions are managed when employees move between departments/positions (or leave the company).

You also need to keep close track of your content and how it's used and shared -- but that's a governance process for another day.

For now, just focus on renewing your commitment to your content by ensuring it's migrated correctly and your users are well-supported.

Editor's Note: This is just the latest in Steve's advice on SharePoint migration. To read more, see Four Reasons to Migrate to Office 365 and SharePoint Online