Top 3 Considerations When Migrating to SharePoint Online

Most businesses have now moved to the Microsoft 365  cloud for  their main business services, i.e.  Identity management, Email and more recently, Microsoft Teams. However, there is still a massive overlap in where data is stored and managed.  

It is no surprise that there is some confusion over which tool (Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business) to use for what, but there are still organisations who have not made that move – why? 

Some of the factors holding organisations back may be that they:  

  • Have an old version of SharePoint On-premise that works – if it’s not broken, why fix it? 
  • Have people in the organisation who used an older version of SharePoint and it did not go well 
  • Already have an alternative Document management system in place  
  • Do not know where to start 

So, for those that do not know where to start, why to move or how, I thought I would elaborate on my top 3 considerations when migrating.  

1 – Data Classification & Audience 

Creating an information architecture in SharePoint online is critical – you need to consider how you will govern the environment and how it will scale. But, thinking of SharePoint Online as just sites under the SharePoint tab, rather than how those documents will be accessed is flawed.  

SharePoint Online is the underpinning document structure for Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint. So, it is important that your data classification considerations now include how the audience needs to work on them or use them. 

Understanding how your organisation creates and uses data is a key to understanding your permissions model. However, it is also important to consider that with the shift to a “sharing” culture, we are no longer able to simply rely on a permissions inheritance model across document libraries. 

So, how do you create a permissions structure that does not become an unwieldy mess and administrative nightmare? The best tip here is to use the right location for the data creation in the first place. Let us take a look at a few of the most common examples: 

Highly collaborative documents with regular and known contributors. These really belong in Microsoft Teams – the Team construct allows all team members to contribute, so you are either in or you are not.  

Reference Materials & Self-Service Processes. These are ideal candidates for a SharePoint based Intranet with limited contributors but where everyone else can have read / use access. 

Confidential & high-risk documents. These can be in a restricted Team or SharePoint site. They should be labelled and managed with a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policy at tenant level. It is essential that these sites are not enabled for external Sharing and that the ability to enable that is restricted / governed appropriately. 

Externally shared / collaboration documents. When sharing externally there has always been the OneDrive capability. However, for less ad-hoc sharing and to govern well a defined Team or SharePoint site, this is ideal. SharePoint sites can have restrictions placed around the domain, meaning that external users can be invited, allowing you to mitigate across client or contributor access to confidential data. Again, best practice – plan a DLP policy around this data if needed. 

To enable you to make the decisions needed for setting up your structure you will need to know how to address: 

  • Management of Users – how you add and remove user permissions 
  • Ownership and contribution – who is your contents owners and who needs to contribute 
  • Searchability – making sure that data can be found but is not actively cluttered for daily users 
  • Confidentiality & Risk – DLP policy and restrictions needed relevant to actual commercial risk 
  • Restrictions – where needed, these need to be governed, not just implemented once 

2 – Do not wait until your Information Architecture is perfect 

As with all things change is a constant – by the time you have all agreed a structure it is likely to no longer be relevant.  

Look at the quick wins you can achieve that will help you demonstrate the benefits of data in the Microsoft 365 cloud. The integration of the whole platform is Microsoft 365’s key benefit – if you don’t start using it, you’ll never realise it! 

There will be data you can identify quickly from the types above that your organisation can move and realise the benefits of search and collaboration immediately. Move these first. 

This could be starting with an Intranet, implementing department or project level Teams or SharePoint sites etc. This will be individual to your organisation and so long as it is communicated well, your users will love you not lynch you for fragmenting their data storage. As with all things, the benefits need to outweigh the complexity.  

Keep it simple – but Get Moving.. 

3 – Divorce your team from their File Shares 

I know – users love file shares. They are logical structures and I am sure you’ve always done it that way, plus you have users that are married to the idea that you know where everything is and that any change is bad!  

All progress meets with resistance, so let your teams know what’s coming, why it’s of benefit and how to use the features.  

Migration is NOT an IT ProjectWhile the platform may be governed by IT, the business data belongs to the business itself. It is imperative that the business owns the data and understands the systems you have and how to correctly protect and use data.  

Work with the end users to perform the migration itself. Help the end users own their data migration and understand what is being moved to where and why. Use tools that show the end users / content owners what moved and where it went.  

Do not let your migration projects fail because the tool you picked or the partner you chose did not involve the business owners of the data. Conversely, do not tell IT you need the data moved and expect them to do it without you – this just won’t work.  

Start harnessing the full potential of your Microsoft 365 Cloud and reap the benefits of simple sharing and seamless collaboration throughout your organisation.  

Thanks for listening – don’t forget to leave comments below or get in touch with me directly if you’d like to chat about the content posted here or anything to do with the Power Platform – I’m a Business Applications speaker and evangelist with a clear focus on delivering real business value from technology. I speak at least once a month so please find me at an event and #LetsGetCoffee

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