10 things to think about when moving to Office 365

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Whether you’re moving to Office 365 or already on it, there are a few things to think about once you’re there. Many of us have become used to managing file shares or an On-Premises environment of SharePoint for the last couple of years, but Office 365 introduces some new challenges. This time, I invited Christian Buckley, a fellow MVP, to discuss what you can do to better manage and report on your Office 365.

1. Check Where Too Many Subsites Are Being Created

The more subsites you create, the harder it becomes to manage SharePoint and the more issues you can encounter. For example, permissions are always managed from the parent by default. Same happens with your Site Columns or Content Types, you may not always want everything to be copied down to subsites.

2. Have a SharePoint Governance Plan

I’ve already provided some guidance on building a Governance Plan for SharePoint, but really it works with any project. You want to put some rules or guidelines in place to help people use the platform the way it is meant to in your organization.

3. Standardize Your Sites, Lists and Libraries

It’s easier to maintain and support something that’s standardized across your organization. If everyone creates sites however they want, as well as the lists and libraries within it, you’ll quickly find it very difficult to make an update, or to help your users.

4. Regularly Audit Your SharePoint to Stay Compliant or Prevent Breaches

Not necessarily saying to start looking at the audit logs every hour, but there are some things you should be looking at. Especially in Office 365, there are now External Users as well as Anonymous Guest Links that can access your content.

Make sure you keep looking at Audit Reports to see who did what recently.

5. Understand Who Does What, including Administrators and Their Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities are one of the first things you should look at when preparing a SharePoint project. With something like SharePoint, even on Office 365, there are a lot of different pieces, often with different people managing it.

To help your team, as well as your users, figure out who takes care of what, and whom to contact.

6. Know Your Support Model and Make Sure Your Users Do To

When a user encounters a problem, it has to be clear to them how to get or ask for help on their issue. You should have a clear support model and, if you can, have a site agreement for Site Owners to sign before they get their site as well.

In most situations, we find that the SharePoint team only has a few people, if not only one, serving sometimes hundreds and thousands of users. You can’t have them all contact you in the SharePoint team.

7. Change Management and Communication

You’re bringing people to the cloud with Office 365 and, for many, changing how they work completely. A good communication plan and applying effective change management will be vital to the success of this project.

Let them know why this is happening, as well as sharing milestones and dates on when they will be impacted.

8. Stay Away from SharePoint Master Pages

Though Master Pages allow you to edit how SharePoint looks by rewriting the layout, it’s actually strongly recommended by Microsoft that you don’t touch it. Since you’re in Office 365, updates will be pushed out and, in many cases, could overwrite your edited Master Page to add a new button or change the way properties are shown.

Try looking at the various patterns and practices offered to get the branding you need without modifying the Master Pages.

9. Have a Plan for External Users and Be Able to Audit Them

Mentioned it a bit earlier with Auditing, but External Users and Anonymous Links need to be managed and a plan must exist to help your users know when it’s ok to use them and how.

You should identify where External Users can be used, and disable it everywhere else to reduce the risk. And if you do decide to enable External Users, then check often to see what they accessed, and if you can provide a report to the person that invited them.

10. Understand the Modalities of Collaboration

Understand, in your organization, the different modes of collaboration, or how people are working. Not everyone within your company will want to use the same tool for the same needs. Some people may work with Planner, others may want to manage tasks in Project, or even with SharePoint lists.

See how you can deliver, beyond just SharePoint, different ways of getting the work done using what you have within the Office 365 suite.

If you’re wondering, then create a new Site Collection instead. Always make sure you have a good reason for creating a subsite.

Video Transcript

Benjamin: All right. Welcome, everyone. I’m Benjamin Niaulin, from Sharegate, and this is Christian.

Christian: Hey, this is Christian Buckley, from Beezy, the chief marketing officer. I’m really happy to be here, Ben. Just hang on just a second.

Benjamin: Perhaps too many monsters. All right, so what did we want to talk about this time?

Christian: Well, you’re not going to leave that as actual introduction, are you?

Benjamin: Oh, yeah, of course.

Christian: All right.

Benjamin: So we wanted to talk about things you got to worry about when you’re moving to Office 365, more on not necessarily the migration itself, but more once you know, you go into Office 365, it’s very different than SharePoint on premises or file shares, right, so you got to think about different…

Christian: Yeah definitely, I think as organizations start thinking about that, I mean, there’s a lot of things that are in transition there that usually it’s coming with this whole idea of moving to the cloud. So it’s not just about SharePoint. There’s all these other components that your organization is probably just now starting to think about.

Or you know what, actually, you could have moved and been thinking about SharePoint, talking about SharePoint as a secondary activity having already moved to Office 365 because of email, which is actually the number one reason why people have adopted in the past Office 365, although of course SharePoint in the cloud is gaining momentum and having a lot of success there and of course…

Benjamin: But historically there’s been an exchange and there’s been the emails of course.

Christian: Which is the key thing to think about. It’s like those differences. You know, things to think about. So we wanted to kind of capture that. You know, what are the things to…I don’t know how to say this.

Benjamin: Things to think about. Things to think about.

Christian: Things to think about.

Benjamin: So we were talking about things to think about going to Office 365, but not moving. So we’re going to do some checklists.

Christian: And mostly SharePoint stuff. I mean, there’s other things to think about. So, I mean, of course. But I think that goes to kind of the point, that because Office 365, it’s not just SharePoint, there are you know, the other workloads.

Now, I just want to be careful that when people who talk about Office 365, they’re often just talking about the individual workloads, but you do need to think about it, you know, as a whole, and there are increasingly capabilities that are being added to the platform that are looking across those workloads, across the various services within Office 365. And so you’ll actually see a lot of the changes that are happening in reporting and dash-boarding are looking across those services.

So while, I don’t want to get into right this second any of those things, but if you think of like DLP. So Data Lost Prevention is just one of those security services, one of those capabilities that while you have DLP capabilities inside of Exchange and then outside of Exchange.

Benjamin: Or SharePoint.

Christian: Same name, they do different things, so they work in different ways. So that’s just the type of thing that you need to think about. Microsoft is thinking more about the end-to-end management experience.

Benjamin: We’re seeing that with if you’re in Office 365 or going to Office 365, you know about groups, right?

Christian: Mm-hmm.

Benjamin: And that’s one example of blurring those lines of you know, people don’t work with just one, necessarily, product, and then the other one, if the marketing team works with the Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, and these other things.

So when you’re talking about DLP and securing your content, you want to be able to look across all of that together, right? You want to be able to run those security reports and see if something’s been accessed, whether it was in whatever planner, in SharePoint team side and so on.

Christian: Think about that too from an auditing perspective, so the auditors and depending on the compliance and the regulatory requirements that your company needs to meet, it doesn’t care that the content is in your Exchange, or in SharePoint, or in OneDrive for Business, or it was shared via a Skype session. It just wants to have insight, wants to see where that happened, where that sensitive information or topic was discussed.

And so, increasingly, and I’ll say that, it’s not all there today. Right now it’s still very workload specific, but increasingly you’re going to be able to see like eDiscovery, and you know, some of these auditing capabilities across all of those workloads.

So thinking of things to think about. I don’t know, we just covered a lot. I don’t know how you encapsulate that into…

Benjamin: I think we should go by…what should we go on by, man. You’re going to Office 365, and there’s you know, some basics that you should know about you know, managing let’s say your SharePoint that’s maybe different when you’re going to Office 365. If we start with the basics, say, you know, you have sites with SharePoint and things that you should be thinking about. Of course, I think some of the basics would be making sure that you don’t have too many sub-sites, right? So this is very, very you know, too many sub-sites, yeah. Essentially you’re creating site collections, right, and you have to know that.

You know, somebody told me a good tip a couple of years ago now. I don’t even remember who it was so sorry, don’t know who to give the credit for. But he said, “Ben if you’re unsure, create a site collection.” If you’re wondering whether you should be creating a sub-site or a new site collection, you might as well create a site collection because you have less to lose in the long run, right? Because if you’re a sub-site, you depend on the features, so you want to be able to see in your organization and maybe as part of your governance plan even to make sure that if there are subsites being created, how many should be in there and are there too many. When is too many, and should they be at the flat, you know, right under the root of the site collection, or should you be able to go under even further than that?

So I think that’s one of the things to think about when moving to Office 365, that it’s okay to have a lot of site collections, but it’s not okay to have a lot of sub-sites. Does that make any sense?

Christian: Yeah.

Benjamin: All right. I guess that would be one thing.

Christian: But that’s one of those things that I think you organically… I think most organizations run into, and you find that there’s constantly clean up. That’s actually a great reason why you should have a lightweight tool to allow you to clean up and move some of those things. I wasn’t trying to do a plug here.

Benjamin: Yeah, I don’t know what you’re…

Christian: I don’t know what we’d use for that, but as far as a cleanup process, it’s just it’s critical because of that. It’s just organically as organizations go and they collaborate. Hey, we have the same thing on the social collaboration side of things where communities are created.

Communities have a life cycle where sometimes it’s relevant. They’re there for long periods of times, other times just like sites. And other sites, it’s very short term, and you want to make sure that you have a process in place but, you know a life cycle for those things.

Benjamin: Of course, that’s where a governance plan comes in, right?

Christian: Correct.

Benjamin: You need to have that, and you know, all of the… Yeah, there you go, have your governance plan. There you go.

The governance plan, a lot of times what I’ve seen is you can go online and you could get the Microsoft governance plan PDF, which I encourage you to not go get. Nothing against Microsoft, but that is the…not the worst, but it’s a bad governance…

Christian: There’s a lot of examples out there though.

Benjamin: It’s a 500 PDF, nobody’s…if you’re not going to read your own governance plan, nobody else will. And that’s what I did, my first governance plan was the Microsoft Template in 2007, and I wasted two weeks and yeah, I didn’t know.

Christian: I think there’s a lot of great examples that are out there. There are plenty of consultancies that have developed much better plans for that guidance around that.

The thing that you need to think about, and actually, my preference is to go and build governance site, not to have a plan.

Benjamin: That’s exactly what I was going to recommend.

Christian: But it is a living, breathing activity.

Benjamin: Yes, it’s ongoing.

Christian: If you think your governance plan is a document that’s in a PDF form, and we send it out and people have signed off on it, you fail because that’s not what it is. As soon as you sign it, as soon as you PDF it it’s already changed, it’s evolved, you know.

Benjamin: Exactly. And the thing we do when we see our customers is we do a Wiki site. Because it’s easy to create pages quickly on the go and the rules go as you learn. So as you start using SharePoint as your Office 365, OneDrive for Business, you start to learn some of the things that are bad, some of the things that are good. For example, your libraries don’t have versioning on, and you need to get back a document version from yesterday. It’s not deleted, it’s still there.

What do you do? You didn’t have versioning turned on. So then you adapt to governance wiki to make sure that all of these rules, all the thing you learn as you go, things that you need to manage your environment, there you gather them in that governance organic wiki, and though it may not be super strong the day of you know go live of their SharePoint or Office 365 in this case, right, and still be useful in the long run.

Christian: And the other thing that I think is useful is understanding for those site designers and it should be part of your governance plan, but is understanding the templates that you have in place, and going and recreating those things. Now this, certainly there’s some things that could be migrated across from your old environment, but that’s just something that you need to specifically go take a look at and say, “Look, if we standardized…” And maybe it’s a time to clean up and standardize the template, so I’d say it’s something to think about.

Benjamin: We should add the well, standardize and well, how would I say this? I guess, standardize lists and libraries, standardize sites as well, right? So if you are going to set up list and libraries, especially document libraries where your content’s going to go, right, what are the rules? When do you have versioning turned on? When do you have versioning turned off? When do you have content approval? When do you set a maximum number of version?

So it’s important to…you don’t have to go and say oh, you created a site. You are in marketing. This is the sub, like you can stay broad, but you got to have some guidance and then check often to make sure that people didn’t go and forget to turn it on or just turned it off because they wanted to.

Christian: Right.

Benjamin: So we got sites, standardized sites, list, and libraries…

Christian: Say that again, what else is critical for Office 365? So one of the other things, I’m going back to again within the governance plan is around compliance and auditing.

So understanding what those auditing standards are. So critical, and I’ll write while we talk about this, but is ensuring that what you have in place on prem is possible online. Some of the standard changes there’s not… and I’ll just, let’s be honest here, there’s not parity 100% in all factors of what’s moved across.

So you just need to make sure that if you’ve built out your compliance and auditing standards and capabilities around what SharePoint can do on prem, that you are able to duplicate that for online. And if it’s different, how you manage that, how you update that, how you run those reports, what reports are available, all of those things. Make sure you understand what is possible out in 365.

Benjamin: Absolutely. The one I was thinking about as well is, who are your administrators in your Office 365, because now you’ve got different workloads, right? You’ve got administrators for your emails, you’ve got them for exchange, you’ve got administrators for SharePoint.

But SharePoint, you’ve got site collection administrators, you’ve got the site owners, and then where I would like to separate is a OneDrive for business as well. The personal space of people if you want. The new My Documents version 3.0, whatever we want to call it.

So who is administrator and dare I say, put yourself or the Office 365 admin and administrator of the OneDrive for Business being created, right?

And I think Jack Froth from Chicago and shout-out to Jack Froth [SP], he has some great blog posts. And one of those tips was that again, is you want to be able to be an admin of the OneDrive for Business sites that are created, because a lot of the things that you want to be able to do for that user when they call.

If they need something changed on their OneDrive for Business or recuperate some file or some sub-site they created for themselves that we don’t encourage that of course, is who are the administrators for your SharePoint sites, and who are the administrators for your OneDrive for Business, and are you able to report and bulk manage them, because people leave organizations. So what are you going to do for that OneDrive for Business…?

Christian: And realistically, and this is something, a change that actually happened this last fall was the ability to go, and the ability in Office 365 to assign workload specific admins.

Benjamin: Yes, sure.

Christian: That’s a newer feature, but it’s specifically to this need is that generally the person who historically has managed email is not your SharePoint admin. A smaller organization it might be the same person, same IT team doing those things.

But in larger organizations you know, that’s not the case. And so treating OneDrive for Business the same way, it may have different policies, different standards in place. It might be your SharePoint person, but you have the ability to go in and set up those roles, set up those admin users. So it is, I think knowing your admins…

Benjamin: Know your admins.

Christian: Who they are.

Benjamin: And what you should administrate if that’s something.

Christian: Yeah, their roles and responsibilities.

Benjamin: All right, exactly. Roles and responsibilities.

At the beginning of my governance plan a lot of the time I’d set up the roles and responsibilities. Sometimes it’s just IT, but sometimes it goes all the way into…and people in the business, right? The power users, what do they take care of?

I’d like to also set, when can you call for support, right, if what is your right?

Christian: I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention to how many times I did it. I just you know, just…

Benjamin: So you definitely want to do that and the support. I think historically from what I’ve seen in our customers, one of the biggest pain-points was when do I call support, who do I call for what support?

So it’s important to have some sort of a…it can be an easy diagram, it could be a complicated diagram. Whatever fits what you need, but if a user is stuck, usually I’m a very, very hard admin. I’m not lenient in that way. I usually have a lot of training that we provide, whether it’s going to be video training and online training so they understand what they have.

My rule is, if you didn’t follow the training, all right, and we make people register and confirm that they do the training, you cannot contact the support with it. You can only see, say a power-user person, or you can actually go and do the training that would actually be helpful. So the training is definitely a big part as well of a…and know your support model, the training in there.

Christian: Yeah, I think it all falls into that.

Benjamin: Absolutely.

Christian: I mean, the one thing, the point that you touched on there and that you know that I’m very big on the topic of is change management as well.

So with all these things and making the transition like this, like what is your process under which all of these things will be discussed that you are on a regular time-frame iterating on?

So what is that change model for all these things? How often are we reviewing it?

Now, I mean, my experience that the governance body was that change management body as well. So it wasn’t just the standard governance, compliance, auditing, security, those topics all rolled under that governance body, it was a change management body because we looked at the policies, we looked at all of these things as well as the support model.

We also looked at are we efficient and effective in the UI itself? Do we need to make changes so that where we’re adding capability? Other integration that we’re doing, all those kinds of things.

Benjamin: I was going to talk to you about branding, you know. It’s interesting, I saw on Facebook somewhere, someone from Microsoft posted something about master pages. So we’re touching branding in Office 365, and just SharePoint in general, and basically make…not making fun. I wouldn’t say making fun. I would more say basically our new rule, do not create master pages.

What are master pages? If you’re not comfortable with that terminology, master pages is when designers, generally… wow, my English is leaving. It must be that poutine.

Christian: This is it. Yes, sorry. This is a post-poutine video here, so…

Benjamin: Video, absolutely. Check it out, Google Images, poutine.

So essentially, in terms of branding, historically with SharePoint 2007, 2010, even 2013, let’s be honest, we create a master page. The master page would say that the navigation goes there, and I made it blue, or images, the logo of the company goes on the top left.

And you kind of do your design, and a lot of people, that’s very important because they have an intranet, they wanted to look at a very different way in SharePoint out of the box.

And for a long time it was fine, and that’s what we did, and now they’re saying, “No, do not do a master page. What you need to do is actually use just client side rendering,” which technical way to just say, “Don’t use a master page, use JavaScript, use everything that we give that’s available on the client side because they’re on the server side.”

If you’re going to Office 365, thing that you should know about, stop using master page and start looking at different ways of branding, so…

Christian: Yep. And of course, I would have to throw in there, coming from a company that provides some additional capabilities on top of this. If you think about some of the social experience, your social collaboration experiences, I mean, there’s other ways besides you know, the master pages is the wrong way to do this, but there are third party solutions that are out there.

So I know it’s not a top 10 list, I’m going to need two more things.

Top eight things, but things to think about. Obviously, it’s not all conclusive. There are many other things.

Benjamin: Oh, I have a ninth.

Christian: Oh, you have a…

Benjamin: I have a ninth.

Christian: Oh, yeah.

Benjamin: External users.

Christian: External users.

Benjamin: External users. So I mean, I’ve told this story a couple of times before, but there’s a big story here at Sharegate happened to us.

Opened up a team site. It’s our own team site. Actually, we’ve been working in there for quite some time and then at some point we were like, “Oh great, now this Office 365 has external users, we’re going to share one document, right, one document. We’re going to share it with two external users, make it easier…” you know, remove the back and forth by email. And you know, which version was that? Was it modified while we sent it? And so it was great and the feature still is great.

External users. What we didn’t realize is that somebody else in this site who had no idea that we had invited these external users to make his or her life easier, went into the members group and added something called everyone. He said everyone isn’t a member, because the thinking, especially when you’re going from SharePoint on premises and there’s no external users, and you’re switching to Office 365, everyone is fine.

Christian: Everybody who should be in the system should be okay because they’re already in active directories, so they’re already in the system.

Benjamin: So what happened obviously is all of a sudden we were running reports that we run with Sharegate, and we saw that there was tons and tons of documents that were shared with external users, those two external users. But we had not realized, we didn’t even know when this happened. It probably was as soon as we added the users into external sharing.

So definitely external users, external sharing something you definitely want to check up. Looks like you’ve got a 10.

Christian: I have, and we have our 10.

Benjamin: We have our 10.

Christian: So understand the modalities…

Benjamin: Keep us in suspense here. Oh that word is beyond my understanding of the English language.

Christian: …and collaboration.

Benjamin: So what does that actually mean?

Christian: So just to wrap things up, and it kind of takes us back to the beginning, and some of the differences.

You need to understand inside your organization the different modes of collaboration.

If you’re thinking about, if you’re at all thinking about, “Hey, we’ve had problems with adoption, the level of engagement, how much people are participating in the system, whether they’re actually sharing and collaborating.” Why is one team so successful and others are just really struggling around that, and it could be because of these different modes or modalities of collaboration that they’re used to.

One team might be very email-centric, and so if you go and force them to use SharePoint…

Benjamin: That’s not going to work.

Christian: …they’re not going to collaborate. They’re going to stick to that.

And so you think of that, the various things that are out there. And I’m very passionate about the social collaboration side, and that’s what my company does. And so we build on top of SharePoint and extend social capabilities beyond what SharePoint and Office 365, even what Yammer can do to build these other capabilities for those organizations that are very social collaboration-minded.

Benjamin: Well, we see it all the time because different people were… I think Microsoft even realized it, because instead of saying, “Here’s SharePoint, here’s the only way you can work in teams.” Now they’re saying, “Look, you create a group of people,” which they call group sometimes, sometimes Groups for Office 365, I’m still figuring it out. You keep this group, you put members in it and it goes and it generates those different spaces. It will create the video portal channel. It will create I don’t know, an Office 365 planner, a few things…

Christian: There’s a lot of it’s new.

Benjamin: Exactly.

Christian: There’s new things that are coming, new capabilities. But again, you have some teams that will be very… that are comfortable with groups and with the Outlook Centric, or even just staying inside of Outlook and not even using groups, but just the way that they’ve always done things.

Others that are very process, or maybe they have their…they’ve got workflows. They’ve have line of business application integrations. They’ve built out and invested a lot of time and are comfortable working inside of SharePoint while others want a very social community-based experience.

And so you need to, that’s that last one, so understand where teams are comfortable in working, not dictate one way of doing things. Because Microsoft, it’s not just right now, historically they’ve always provided a couple of different ways of doing the same thing so that you just have the right tools. I always like to think of it as like I’m learning Karate. I know a hundred ways to kill a man. I only need one.

Benjamin: So let’s recap here. We’ve got things to think about when moving to Office 365, things you got to manage, things you got to check for. Make sure that you don’t have too many sub-sites. A lot of site collections is good, too many sub-sites is not good.

Christian: Have a plan in place, a governance plan and we both recommend, make it a site rather than a document so that you are constantly iterating on that.

Benjamin: What is… quickly, me, when I try to explain governance planning quickly I say more rules and policies, but I like to say more guidelines.

Christian: It is.

Benjamin: And guide people to use it.

Christian: It’s guidelines. Guidelines, best practices, pointing them towards the information that they need, like “Here are the templates that are being used, here’s what’s done elsewhere.”

Benjamin: Standardize sites, lists and libraries, this is more on your space.

Christian: Yeah, this is one of the… I think just like this is that to as much as possible, and coming from an admin background as well, you know, being able to go in and get your arms around what’s happening within your site. If you can again, provide the guidance, the guidelines around that but not dictate that if somebody has a specific need.

Benjamin: Absolutely. Compliance, auditing, changes versus on-prem.

Christian: Yeah, so being able to make that move over and understand the differences between the environments.

Benjamin: Know your admins, the roles, responsibilities… definitely, so talking about.

Christian: That’s the plural.

Benjamin: Oh okay, okay. We’re talking about you have different admins now. You know, in Office 365, you got SharePoint, you’ve got Yammer, you’ve got OneDrive for Business, and different people will take care of it differently, also have very different needs.

Christian: Yep. Knowing the support model, so being able to, and iterate on that, but knowing where to point people to. Where do they go? Where do they go internally? If you have external users, what is that model as well?

So you know where to send people. People as they’re coming on, they know how to self-help themselves. Go get those training modules. Find the videos where you walkthrough, but know when they need to raise an issue with the IT team.

Benjamin: Know your change management and model, is that the right one?

Christian: Yeah. And so similar to that is like what is the…

Benjamin: It ties along in there, yeah.

Christian: Yeah, what is the iteration process that you have as an organization looking at all of these things?

Benjamin: Do not create master pages. I’ll be watching you. I know you’ve seen this video. Do not create master pages. Now I try to see the other ways of branding. There’s tons of information out there. Some of them will tell you to create master pages, that is not the recommended way. Try to see the different ways now, especially search driven stuff. Check out display templates. Love those.

Christian: Your external users.

Benjamin: External users and externally shared content, right?

Christian: Yeah.

Benjamin: You may have one external user that you trust, but what has been shared to external users, you may not know what has been shared like the example I was using earlier.

Christian: And then finally, understand the modalities of collaboration and building so that it fits the need of the teams that are actually using the platform. Don’t dictate. Guide, but let people collaborate in the way that’s most comfortable to them.

Benjamin: And I guess that’s our top 10 things to think about when going to Office 365. There you go.

Christian: Top 10. There you go.

Benjamin: I’m Benjamin Niaulin. We have Christian Buckley.

Christian: I’m Christian Buckley. Thanks a lot for watching.

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