Discover ShareGate’s new Microsoft 365 management features: Q&A with Benjamin Niaulin

Q A With Ben New Management Features Featured

We know how IT is struggling these days with the fallout from self-serve and the chaos of rapid change management. To help IT leaders and admins in this challenge, ShareGate provides a tool for quick, efficient clean-up, and best-practices guidance to focus on the right things in building out your management strategy. 

Because ShareGate is always growing and improving, we’re now launching a whole new set of features to help you gain agility in your day-to-day administration and to future-proof your Microsoft 365 management. These features are:

These features make ShareGate an even more robust Microsoft 365 management solution than ever. We want to make sure that IT teams understand how ShareGate can help them switch from reactive to proactive mode.

To help explain these new features, we had a chat with Microsoft MVP and ShareGate’s Head of Product Benjamin Niaulin. Let’s dive in!

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Many users see ShareGate as just one of the top Microsoft 365 migration tools around, but it’s so much more than that. How can ShareGate help users manage Microsoft 365?

Ben: There are many things ShareGate can do, but first of all, it’s important to know that the value you’re purchasing with ShareGate is not just in the migration tool, but in how it helps you manage your environments after migrating.

Let’s say you purchased ShareGate for your migration project, and now you have all these features to copy things, report on your migration, see who has access to the files, and so on. Now you can use these exact same features to restructure your environment, if, for example, your company is reorganized or if two departments merge. With these features, you can bring together all your Teams conversations, documents, and sites, keeping data integrity and manipulating it the way you want.

You can also use ShareGate if you need to incorporate Teams into your intranet structure. For example, if a small project has just one site, but it gets bigger and needs its own Microsoft Teams, like its own conversation and its own people: how are you going to take this site and turn it into a Microsoft team without losing all the data you’ve already created?


So you’re saying ShareGate’s migration features can be used as a restructuring day-to-day copy tool for Microsoft 365 environments. But there’s more to it, right?

Ben: Yes, this administration side is only one aspect of managing Microsoft 365 with ShareGate: the other is adoption. When you purchase Microsoft 365, you want your users to adopt the platform fully, not just using Outlook for emails or using Teams for meetings. You want them to use the full power of Teams, SharePoint, and everything else instead of going to Evernote or Dropbox, creating shadow IT.

Besides, in a digital world, everyone is constantly creating, and everything is available instantly. But if you create 20 different things and share them with a file-sharing tool, you’ll generate clutter, make it harder to find content, and hamper your growth. Or even create security risks if you lose track of where important data is kept and who has access to it.

Essentially, we’re helping you remove the clutter and eliminate this shadow IT by putting your guardrails in place, having automated touchpoints with the product owners so you create a smoother, more secure platform that works well both for you and for them.

For example, when ShareGate detects inactive teams and team owners delete or archive them, you save some money on storage costs. ShareGate’s main value, however, is in usability. When your users go searching after you remove that clutter, they’ll love Office 365 because they’ll always find what they’re looking for, which will ultimately boost adoption.


What else is available in ShareGate for Microsoft 365 management?

Ben: There are more management features, such as automatically detecting orphaned teams so that you can promote new owners for them. There’s reporting, to give you more visibility and security, answering your questions about what’s being created in your environment, what’s being used, or what’s being shared outside, potentially increasing risks. And you can automate these reports on ShareGate and have owners review them periodically, taking the load of driving the workflow off of IT’s shoulders.

And finally, we’re bringing a complete lifecycle management solution to IT by introducing some major features. One being released with this launch is Provisioning, which enables you to build templates so users create teams with the right policies and settings in place. This is combined with a new end-user app, which empowers users to create teams themselves based on those templates, without any need for IT assistance or support tickets.

“What would you want to offload in terms of reports and management actions and give directly to the end users? That’s what the management aspect of ShareGate is.”


What are the main differences between managing Microsoft 365 with ShareGate and with Microsoft’s out-of-the-box tools?

Ben: Well, there are a few. The biggest is the interface and user-friendliness. With Microsoft’s out-of-the-box tools, the main challenge is understanding what you can do. There are so many options across so many places, and if you want to manage your environments, you need to make sure you’ve opened many different things: the Teams Admin Center, the SharePoint admin center, the Exchange admin center, Azure AD, the Reports section, the Compliance Center, the Security Center… the list goes on.

And to get what you want, you need to be doing things in all of them at the same time. Also, you’ll need to pay an exorbitant amount in premium license fees for some of those features. So the goal of ShareGate is to keep IT simple.

You’re still gonna have the power Microsoft 365 provides but without this complex interface. Also, we centralize everything in one location, so you can stay on ShareGate’s Manage page to manage your teams, your sites, your communication sites, your policies, and your automated reports. We want it all in one place to make your life easier.

There are other differences as well. Most of Microsoft 365’s management power lies in the admin centers. However, this power is actually hidden behind PowerShell or the Graph API, which is where the code lives. So on top of ShareGate’s centralized, simpler experience, we do the hard work of figuring out and surfacing whatever valuable out-of-the-box options might be either hidden or unknown to you, making your life even easier.


What risks do users take when they manage Microsoft 365 with its out-of-the-box tools?

Ben: The higher risk is not knowing what you can do with Microsoft 365 tools and not using them right.

You might be actually using all the tools and paying all the extra licenses, but how much time are you investing in managing this? How many PowerShell scripts are you creating and managing? What if someone leaves your company and leaves behind scripts no one understands? You don’t want your organization to depend on custom codes.

Purchasing a product, especially such an affordable one like ShareGate, provides you with a simple tool that offloads the burden of everyday repetitive tasks from your team, guides them through better management, and helps them enforce best practices. And the real value is elevating the role of IT, freeing it up to start addressing real productivity and adoption opportunities with Microsoft 365. In a nutshell, you’ll ask us to go and find the hard answers for you and bring them back through the product. And we will!


Tell me about ShareGate’s new Provisioning feature! How do you think it will help IT teams manage their Microsoft 365 environments?

Ben: One huge value of Microsoft 365 is that it democratizes access to technology inside organizations. IT isn’t just locking all the doors and preventing people from experimenting and using things. With Microsoft 365, people can create teams, sites, and documents and share them, empowering users to collaborate and use the tools they need to get the job done.

But some essential things that were in place when IT controlled the keys—maintaining best practices, managing permissions, mitigating security risks—got a little bit lost along the way. Essentially, IT was and is there to make sure that people use technology properly.

Provisioning is a bridge between the democratization of self-serve and IT being completely in control, while automation, such as for inactive teams and understanding purpose and sensitivity, helps to clean up what is already in play. Provisioning covers future-proofing environments by ensuring assets are created the right way, right from the start. IT can build templates that put the guardrails in place for their users to follow when creating spaces in Microsoft 365.

Provisioning

With ShareGate, you can build as many Teams templates as you want to ensure end users follow your rules and policies when they create their objects through automation.

This way, end users won’t come across a big button on Teams saying “Create a team” not knowing what to do. They won’t be asking, “Am I supposed to create five or six channels? What should they be called? How should I invite people? What documents should I prepare? What should I secure?”

IT will set up the rules by creating templates that match people’s intent and help them get what they want. Then, they’ll actually use Microsoft 365 instead of going towards Trello, Evernote, or something else. Content stays in your organization with all the control and security, with less of that shadow IT going on.

“Provisioning serves your end users by providing them with intent-driven templates. And it serves IT by putting the guardrails so that the right rules and the right policies are in place, keeping the environment secure and organized.”


How is the end-user app going to work? How can it improve things for end users and IT teams?

Ben: Once IT enables the app, end users will find it in Teams and use it to manage the teams and sites they own and work in. So whether it’s to filter them, find them, create favorites and collections, or provision new teams with the templates IT creates, you should be able to navigate your environment as a regular day-to-day end user directly in ShareGate’s end-user app.

End User App

The app’s goal is to deliver the value of ShareGate directly to team and site owners. We want to ensure end users are aware of the power they have. We want to help distribute some work that’s usually placed on IT, especially since owners need to be engaged to fill the gaps anyway, like whether an inactive team should be kept or archived or who should be the owner of an orphaned team.

We want to empower end users to run reports, confirm external sharing and appropriate permissions, create new workspaces, and we want them to do all of that while following the guidelines IT has put in place. Having end users manage it instead of waiting to send a request keeps them on track and moving forward, and it decreases IT time spent responding to repetitive, low-value tasks.

Besides, we want to reduce the friction of finding the teams in your organization. Right now, when you’re using Teams, you get one giant flat list of 100-plus teams that you’re a member of. We want to enable people to find the right place to work, the right content, and the things they’re actually looking for. Putting your end users in charge helps make them responsible for the spaces they create and ensures they’ll follow the guidelines you’ve put in place.


Cloud copy is an interesting new feature. How is it different from migration? How does it help IT managers and admins do their work?

Ben: When we built Cloud copy, the focus was day-to-day administration. It’s less about migration, although it supports some smaller migration scenarios. But the idea is, you’re on the web, you’re already in Microsoft 365, so we’ll help you move things around in your workspace. With Cloud copy, you’ll have full flexibility to move Teams content within and across tenants, whenever and wherever, in an easy, convenient way to ensure your users’ environments reflect the way they work and collaborate.

Sharegate Migration - Team Selection Summary

A huge benefit is not having to reinstall or reopen the migration tool, depending on where you installed it. It also has the benefits of working on the web. For example, if you wanted to schedule something, you’d typically need to open the migration tool, enter your credentials, and refresh. Now, since you’re on the web already, you can run it anytime.

But the real differentiator that we’re about to put in place is the collaboration with end users. We are already working on empowering end-users to move lists, libraries, channels, and conversations to the right place without having to open a support ticket. That’s where Cloud copy becomes really powerful.


Let’s talk a little bit about ShareGate’s new communication site management features. How will they work?

Ben: As I mentioned before, one of ShareGate’s main values is centralization. So, when you run a report, contrary to the complexity of jumping between admin centers, we want to see everything in one place. And now we’re bringing communication sites into this mix.

To enable this, our special expertise is a behind-the-scenes engine we call internally “the crawler.”

If you look at our competitors, they have reporting tools: you input what you’re looking for, it runs a query, and it gives you the information. For ShareGate, we built a crawl database, so we always have all the information available. All you do is choose the filters you need and get just what you want.

The crawler makes our results much more instantaneous, allowing you to do your job a lot faster. And now, with communication sites, we’re adding one more thing for you to filter and query quickly and efficiently from a central location.

And speaking of filters, we’re introducing customizations to our management tiles. Now you’ll be able to save a custom view of your favorite filters for always-on visibility. Also, your data exports will reflect the filters you’ve applied so you get the data exactly as you want to share it with stakeholders.


What short- and long-term outcomes can IT expect in their organizations as a result of managing Microsoft 365 with ShareGate?

Ben: In the short term, IT will have more time to focus on their value-add projects. These days, IT is getting tons of requests regarding employee onboarding—and offboarding too, unfortunately. They also have to deal with a hybrid workplace, making things work at the office as well as online, or implementing some new employee experience project with HR.

So IT doesn’t want to spend their days creating teams, sites, lists, and libraries, or dealing with end users accompanying them on all of these requests. They don’t want to be asked about who has access to what every month. So the more immediate value of ShareGate is freeing up their time to get into other projects because all this work is now automated. Besides that, less clutter will result in a better experience for end users, and upper management will have more transparency and visibility because of scheduled reports.

In the long term, when you start measuring your Microsoft 365 usage, you’ll hope to see more people using these tools. Why? Because if they once used only SharePoint sites, now they may have discovered Teams via the Provisioning templates created by their IT team. Or they may have been stuck in a scenario where they’re using only one team site, but then they realized they could split it into two with Cloud copy. So now users will implement new solutions because they’re able to iterate quickly and stay in Office 365.

Thanks to ShareGate, your organization will become a place where content and knowledge are more relevant and quicker to access while increasing adoption and productivity.

“We’re looking to give time to IT to get back into high-value projects. And for the end users, we want them to do their best work in Microsoft 365 by keeping them on track and empowering them to use all of Microsoft 365 securely.”


Finally, how can users learn more about ShareGate’s management features?

Ben: The best way to learn is to try it out with our free 15-day trial!

You can also watch the recording of our launch event, RISE UP, where I walked through each of our new features in detail and demonstrated how a real customer has used ShareGate to organize and secure their Microsoft 365 environment.

And, of course, you can always talk to consultants, Microsoft MVPs, and especially your friends. Chances are they already tried ShareGate, and they probably love it!

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