The Microsoft 365 migration checklist to start off on the right foot

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Is a cloud migration on your roadmap? Before you start your Microsoft 365 migration journey, follow these steps to ensure zero hiccups come up after the move.

Office 365 Migration Checklist 1

If you’re in the process of migrating, congratulations! Something great awaits you on the other side. However, there are a few important things you should consider before and during your journey to the cloud.

We’ve created this Microsoft 365 migration checklist (previously Office 365, as some people still call it now) based on our years of experience helping organizations complete migrations of all shapes and sizes, to help you save time, avoid errors and get the most out of the tool.


How to run a super smooth migration project

In many cases, data migration to the cloud can be a real headache! The process of migrating to SharePoint Online on Office 365 can be complex. Luckily, there are a few things you can do before to ease the process and sleep soundly.

To make sure everything is taken into consideration, take inspiration from this Office 365 migration checklist and form your own.

To start the process, sit down with your team and stakeholders to ask these important questions:

  • Where and how will the content be moved to the new environment?
  • How will users be given access?
  • How will custom code, workflows, taxonomy, and branding be migrated?

There’s no doubt it’s a complex and unique process for any organization, and ninety percent of the work is in the planning and testing phase. You have to think deeply about a lot of minute details, such as:

  • How to manage user accounts
  • Choosing deployment strategies like hybrid deployment vs. private deployment
  • How you’ll inventory data from your existing environment
  • Choosing between cutover migration vs. staged migration vs. hybrid migration for your migration method

The main lesson we’ve learned from multiple migrations is that there are no shortcuts, and you can’t afford to jump in without thorough preparation.

Let’s look at the things you need to remember when migrating from on-premises SharePoint to SharePoint Online.

Part of a Microsoft 365 migration is ensuring the smooth transfer of OneDrive data between tenants. Learn how to achieve a seamless OneDrive tenant-to-tenant migration with our comprehensive tutorial.


1. Take inventory: Find out which user accounts own which content

Among the first on your to-do list is doing an audit of your current environment. Assess what needs to be migrated, why, and when. But more importantly, your new Office 365 environment is an opportunity to clean up and get rid of data that are taking up unnecessary space.

If everything is inventoried successfully, the reward is a shiny new workspace that’s easy to navigate and more organized than ever before.

What to do

  1. List everything—Start by listing everything within your current environment that should be a part of your Office 365 migration checklist. Ensure no stone is left unturned and no skeletons turn up after your data migration.
  2. Check for duplication—Duplicate content and teams in Office 365 confuse users, take up unnecessary storage space, increase security risks, and complicate compliance management. To ensure this doesn’t happen after you’ve migrated, check for duplicate content and teams, and remove it at the roots.
  3. Archive data—Any data such as teams or channels, files, sites, and so on that don’t need to be migrated over should be archived to free up storage space for more important stuff in the future.

ShareGate’s auditing tool can help you automate and take care of the entire inventorying process if you’re squeezed on time to do a detailed, manual audit. Our migration dashboard helps you keep track of everything.

Also, a well-structured cloud migration plan can help you stay on track during the inventory process ensuring that only the necessary data is migrated.


2. Clean up: Migrating data is the goal, but only keep what you need

Once you’re sure that all content is inventoried, start the clean-up process. The level of cleaning you’ll need to do will depend on how old your existing environment is. If the data stored goes back enough amount of time, it’s wise to go for a big cleanup so that you only keep what you need when you migrate.

What to do

If you’ve done the inventorying part well, this step should be pretty simple and a continuation of what inventorying aims to accomplish: tidy things up.

As such, in this actionable step, make sure you double-check all data, users, and teams that are no longer in use when you’re in the process of cleaning things up. A good strategy would be to involve end users and ask them to help point out anything that counts as unnecessary.

It’s also worth considering how you might change and improve the navigation and general structure of the content to make it more user-focused. Content tends to sit in structures that reflect the organization – look at making the navigation task user-oriented instead.


3. Get your new home ready

Once you’ve packed up and are ready to move to your new environment, it’s time to get your new home ready and ensure everything is all set before pressing the migrate button. This is an important step and a detailed one to take note of.

Multiple aspects of your new environment, like security, governance plan, running a test migration, and so on, need to be performed here. Make sure you spend considerable time planning everything to make your life easier post-migration.

What to do

A couple of things, actually. These include:

  1. Create your new environment’s architecture—Before migrating, apply the builder’s principle of having a solid architecture in place for your new Microsoft 365 environment. This will provide structure to everything and help everyone on the team easily navigate through their new environment.
  2. Set up the necessary cloud security guardrailsSetting up the necessary cloud security guardrails before migration is critical to ensuring that there are no security hiccups post-migration. This is why figuring out how users will be authenticated in their new Microsoft 365 environment is crucial.
  3. Map a plan of your content’s metadata—Metadata is at the heart of efficient searching in Microsoft 365. It provides context to data and makes it easier for users to identify what they’re looking for. This is why mapping out a plan for your content’s metadata is important.
  4. Set SharePoint up to import user profiles from any specific sources—This helps personalize the user experience by automatically updating user profiles with their pictures, department, role, and other related information. It also makes for increased security and easier administration since IT teams can more proactively identify authorized vs. unauthorized users in the new environment.
  5. Configure your new search topology—Creating a search topology from the get-go makes it easier to scale if search traffic increases in the future, as IT teams can more efficiently add additional search servers to the topology. It also increases search performance, as the search workload can more efficiently be distributed among multiple servers.
  6. Run a test migration—Last but not least, run a test migration to practically test and check for any possible errors. If any issue arises, the problem can be fixed at the source before we perform the migration.

4. Prepare your users

Making the decision to migrate is one thing. But preparing end-users and outlining your deployment strategy is another. It’s critical to prepare your end-users for what’s to come. If they aren’t prepared, and a new work environment is thrown onto everyone, it will result in endless support tickets with your IT team racing to respond to everyone.

What to do

A communication plan is an ideal way to prepare end-users for the change that’s about to take place. Ensuring every end user receives the support they need will only happen when you inform them of how the migration will affect them on an individual level.

The plan should include a framework highlighting how end users across the organizational hierarchy will use their new Microsoft products, such as Teams, SharePoint, Planner, and Yammer.


5. Migrate to Microsoft 365

Now that you have your plan for the content, the permissions, and the branding/functionality you need, prepare for the final step: the actual migration. This is far less daunting if you have planned well, and use a trusted third-party Office 365 and SharePoint migration tool like ShareGate, that automates everything and does the heavy lifting for you.

Avvenire user story recap

Avvenire was able to save 15% of their project time by using ShareGate to manage most of the migration process effectively. Their team used ShareGate’s SharePoint migration assessment tool to make sure everything was taken into consideration pre-migration, resulting in more effective planning.

You can read the full story of Avvenire’s experience using ShareGate, which includes an interview with their Application Development Manager.

What to do

To migrate, you have the option to choose Microsoft’s built-in SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT). But, how effective is it compared with third-party tools like ShareGate that have features to make migration more effective?

Our engineers did a ton of research to answer this very question. Here’s a full list of Microsoft’s SharePoint Migration tool vs ShareGate.

Sharepoint Migration Tool Sharegates Teams Migration Tool Compared 2

Informing users when the migration will take place is also key. Let them know that during this time, the content will be read-only to prevent changes not being migrated and that they’ll be able to access and validate their content afterward.

These small but important steps will make them feel they’re part of the project, thus maximizing the chances of success.

Once users have validated their content, they can access it and work normally again. You’ll have completed your project to migrate to Office 365 and gained some kudos from the whole organization for the skilled and valuable work you do.

Now that you know how to tackle a Microsoft 365 migrations, here are 2 ways to ensure a smooth Teams tenant-to-tenant migration.


The best Microsoft 365 migration process starts with being prepared

Office 365 migration checklist

To recap:

  1. Take inventory—Find out which user accounts own which content
  2. Clean up—Migrating data is the goal, but only keep what you need
  3. Get your new home ready—Make sure everything is all set before pressing the migrate button
  4. Prepare your users—A communication plan is an ideal way to prepare end-users for the change that’s about to take place.
  5. Migrate to Office 365—This is far less daunting if you have planned well. Also, use a trusted third-party Office 365 and SharePoint migration tool like ShareGate that does the heavy lifting for you.

Remember that all of these aspects are essential to the transition process, and will ensure an effective migration to the cloud. If executed effectively, most issues that IT teams face post-migration can be avoided.

To ensure no such hiccups come up once you’ve migrated, try out ShareGate’s Microsoft 365 migration tool that rids IT teams of post-migration headaches. Happy migration!

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