playing ice hockey outdoors
Organizations that take a disciplined, deliberate approach to an Office 365 move set themselves up for success PHOTO: Braden Barwich

Office 365 is poised to be in place at nearly every large organization by the end of 2018. And not just Exchange, but SharePoint, OneDrive and Office applications as well — basically the full suite of Microsoft Office 365 offerings. 

A move to Office 365 will bring value to organizations beyond the obvious benefits of shedding IT infrastructure. 

Microsoft's aggressive augmentation of the already substantial information and collaboration capabilities in Office 365 means gains in functionality as well. 

But there’s a dark side to Office 365: without a disciplined, deliberate approach to moving to Office 365, organizations run the risk of, at best, replicating their current information management issues in Office 365 and, at worst, increasing them with the move. 

An Office 365 Migration Framework

The good news? There’s a way to avoid these problems when moving to Office 365. Organizations can use the following framework to help ensure that they get Office 365 right:

  • Define a defensible migration playbook
  • Close policy gaps
  • Create compliant standard operating procedures 
  • Purge stale and junk content
  • Define the Office 365 capabilities required (and not required)
  • Change management

Let’s take a high level look at what each of these entail and how you can use them to succeed with Office 365.

Defensible Migration Playbook

The first a step in moving to Office 365 — or in moving any content anywhere — is a defensible migration playbook. This defines the “rules of the road” within which the migration will take place. The goal being that in 10, 15, 20 years’ time, if a lawsuit touches on the migrated content, someone in legal can be deposed about the migration and defend the choices made in a court of law.

Think of this as the requirements that a migration must meet in order to be legally defensible. 

In addition, it would include the controls in place to ensure source-target integrity (i.e., did all the data you meant to move get moved, and did you move it successfully, with all the same metadata and content), as well as the test scripts to verify the accuracy of the migration and the test results to show how accurate the migration was. Finally, it will include a read out that summarizes the results of the migration, i.e., how it went, any issues encountered, how you addressed them, what issues you couldn’t address, etc.

Policy Gaps

Once you've defined your migration playbook, take a hard look at your existing policies to determine whether they support the directives of the playbook. If they don’t, you need to update them to do so. And if you have policy gaps — e.g., for handling orphaned or abandoned data or stale sensitive data — you need to write net new policies to address these areas. 

Standard Operating Procedures

Policies and playbook are great, but without operational procedures to enact them, they’ll be dead letters. 

So after getting your defensible playbook and policies in order, you’ll need to define the SOPs for migrating to Office 365 that, if followed, will ensure that the playbook and policies are followed. These need to be detailed and will depend on your specific circumstances, e.g., the technologies for file analytics and migration, as well as any line of business systems in play that will integrate with Office 365. 

Content Purging

Now that the rules of the road are in place, along with the policies and procedures to support them, turn your focus on removing as much content from the migration as possible. After all, the more content you move, the greater the risk and cost. 

And given that the shared drives at most organizations consist of 30 percent to 70 percent junk or stale data, it makes no sense to migrate without purging first — that's too much irrelevant content to move to Office 365. 

This is a daunting task, but nearly all organizations can address some quick wins to minimize their content volume for an Office 365 migration. 

First, junk content. Using a file analytics tool, like Varonis, FileFacets or Nuix, you can easily identify file types that have no business value, typically by finding the files that do have value, i.e., Office docs, PDFs, xml, HTML. 

The rest usually provide no value, i.e., iTunes libraries, .DLLs, .EXEs, log files, etc. In my experience, this can account for as much as 30 to 60 percent of your shared drive environment. 

Second, stale files. If you have accurate date created, last modified and last accessed metadata, you can analyze usage for your content and exclude stale content from the migration accordingly. Many organizations have conservative legal and records management cultures, so even if you can’t purge these files, you can at least exclude them from migration to Office 365, holding them in a tier three, very cheap archive until you achieve consensus on purging them.

Office 365 Capabilities

Office 365 provides an overwhelming variety of capabilities, both within well known applications such as Word, Excel and Exchange, as well as newer applications like Delve, Flow and Groups. 

An organization can’t simply turn all these capabilities on for all users and expect success. 

Not only would they quickly overwhelm your users, but the change management and IT support would be unmanageable. Start by determining what Office 365 offers in total. Then determine what capabilities your end users need, so that you can enable these (and suppress the ones they don’t). 

And this won’t be a one and done — Microsoft introduces new features and applications on a monthly (if not more regular) basis, so you’ll need to stay on top of them to ensure that you’re only enabling what your users need, and nothing more. 

Change Management

We all know how change management is typically done at organizations: give users a link to training videos and leave it at that. 

Needless to say, this will be a huge fail for Office 365, because it will significantly change people's day to day work. In order for your Office 365 implementation to succeed, you’ll need to allocate huge resources to change management. 

It starts with communication. Tell end users what they can expect, when and what the impact to their day to day jobs will be. It continues through training — give users the skills they need to do their jobs in the Office 365 environment. 

A Starting Place

Moving to Office 365 is a complex undertaking that will require massive resources to be successful. And although approaches will differ according to each organization, hopefully this post gives you an idea of the high level areas you need to address to be successful.