Recent research has shown that a vast number of organizations are looking to upgrade to the latest version of SharePoint -- SharePoint 2010  (newssite). Unfortunately there is often a lack of understanding in how to upgrade the platform to maximize business value whilst ensuring a smooth transition for users and administrators. Upgrading such a critical piece of software such as SharePoint requires much more than simply thinking about the technical issues.

In fact Microsoft has done a great job improving the upgrade path from 2007 to 2010.

However organizations need to realize that to successfully upgrade to SharePoint 2010 you have to look at the upgrade from a holistic fashion and not just consider technical issues. Although I am a huge fan of SharePoint 2010, I am less enthusiastic about how organizations are currently approaching the upgrade process.

Also from Michal: How Social Tools in SharePoint 2010 Encourage Engagement and Innovation

In that light here are my top 5 ways to guarantee that your upgrade experience is a complete disaster.

1. Only Consider the Technical Issues

Upgrading is a fairly simple affair right? Simply follow the steps Microsoft advises, do some testing and then surprise your users with a brand new SharePoint 2010 installation that they can use. Wrong.

When upgrading, you have to consider the upgrade as a part of a holistic upgrade of your SharePoint program. Just as with technical issues where you determine what works, what doesn’t and what should be changed, apply this same approach to the other elements that impact the usage and upkeep of the platform.

Training, governance, compliance, business value planning, adoption and other elements should be a critical part of any upgrade strategy. You need to also interact with the many different stakeholder groups that this will impact to gauge their perspectives.

2. Disregard a Business Case for Upgrading

Everyone would like the latest and greatest version of any software but do you have an adequate business case for your upgrade? Many organization tend not to put upgrades through the same rigorous process that would be applied to new software which I think is unfortunate.

If your organization is upgrading then create a business case that will justify the costs, risks and time for this endeavor. Consider your business value proposition, the impact to users and really determine if you the new features in the platform will be worth the considerable time and effort to perform an upgrade.

Take the same approach to upgrading the platform as would be applied to new software purchases.

3. Don’t Bother Training your Users in the New Version

Many organizations are trying to justify their lack of training for end users when implementing SharePoint 2010 by pointing to the new ribbon interface and thinking that because it looks more like Office 2007/2010 that users already know how to use it.

Unfortunately you will quickly find that users will be confused and your adoption of SharePoint might suffer in the short term as users try to adapt to the new system. The ribbon interface is a much improved feature of SharePoint 2010, but users still need to be adequately trained in its use for basic tasks.

In addition there are so many other great features that you want to make users aware of through training. Metadata driven navigation, search refiners, tagging, ratings, compliance details, in place records management and many others.

Educate your users about these new features so that they gain maximum value. I would also suggest that you include a subset of the user community to help determine what they think would be the most beneficial features to them so that you can tailor the training accordingly.

Editor's Note: Learn more about SharePoint 2010's new features including: SharePoint 2010 - 5 Hot Features to Look Forward To

4. Don’t Plan Feature Transfer

The new platform capabilities within SharePoint 2010 necessitate a review of your existing features to answer the following:

  • What functionality do we intend/not intend to use in SP2010?
  • What functionality has the organization developed on SharePoint 2007 that is now part of the out of the box feature set of SharePoint 2010?
  • What custom functionality will need to be ported from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010?
  • How does the new functionality within SharePoint 2010 affect our future plans with the platform?

With all the new functionality organizations need to make the choice of porting over custom functionality, rework out of the box components in SharePoint 2010 to create a comparable feature set or redevelop custom functionality from scratch using the many new features in SharePoint 2010.

Every feature must be considered -- simply upgrading existing custom functionality because an investment has been made in building it might not provide you with the best value in SharePoint 2010. Carefully consider the technical and business issues associated with the various pieces of functionality that you offer your users.

5. Have No Rollback Plan

Not having a rollback plan in case your upgrade goes completely awry is like jumping out of a plane with only one parachute. Sure most times it will open if you know what you are doing, but when it doesn’t…..

Make sure that you not only take into consideration planning your upgrade but take some time to determine a plan if the worst happens. Call me the eternal pessimist but rest assured you will sleep much better at night if you know that even if things go completely wrong you can always quickly restore your current implementation without disruption to the business.

Although this article is meant as a bit of fun make sure that you take time to plan your upgrade from both the technical and business perspectives. If you are an organization going through this process it is a great opportunity to look at your whole SharePoint ecosystem. SharePoint 2010 is fantastic platform and with some careful planning you can upgrade and receive some very tangible benefits for your organization.

You may also be interested in reading: What is SharePoint 2010? Vision and Reality