Migration, Consolidation, and Change Management

Back in 2013, I met with an analyst during a Gartner event and had a discussion about the commoditization of SharePoint migration tools, and how the move toward the cloud would soon make the concept of migration irrelevant. And yet, 9 years later, SharePoint on-premises is still alive, as are the needs for solutions and subject-matter experts on migration.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

For many organizations, consolidating their data can be a roadblock to moving forward with their collaboration strategy. Whether upgrading from an outdated SharePoint system to the latest version of SharePoint Online (SPO), moving content from file shares or from another ECM platform over to Azure, or consolidating your various cloud-based collaboration tools and geographically-dispersed data repositories to a single cloud-based solution, moving data and consolidating technologies can be complex activities. Search the web and you’ll find plenty of official content that seems helpful at first glance, but most of it focuses on the technical aspects of the effort. Backup your hardware. Check. Run the out-of-the-box analyzer scripts. Check. Prepare your users. Check.

What many of these articles fail to provide is any kind of practical, real-world guidance. We know the technical limitations of the platforms we use, and that not every solution or customization we’ve built out on our old systems can be moved (at least not in one clean shot) to our new systems — but how are others managing these migrations? The truth is, migrations are phased, iterative, and error-prone activities — but they are also not your end goal:

  • Migrations are phased. How and what you migrate should not be determined by the technology you use – it’s about matching the needs and timing of your content owners and teams. A migration should be flexible, helping you to move sites and content organically based on those end-user needs, not the limitations of the technology.
  • Migrations are iterative. Your planning should not be limited by the number of migration attempts you make, or by the volume of content being moved. A healthy migration recognizes the need to test the waters, to move sites, content and customizations in waves, allowing users to test and provide feedback, allowing you to refine your strategy and reload, as necessary.
  • Migrations are error-prone. Drag-and-drop migrations do not exist in the real world. Maybe for plain “vanilla” sites without any degree of customization and where the data maps easily from old to new environments, but these sites are few and far between. There is no “easy” button for migration, no matter how pretty the interface of the tool you’re using.
  • Migrations are not the goal, but proper planning and change management policies will help you to be successful with your current and future migrations. The ultimate goal of your move should be to deliver a stable environment to your end users, comprised of relevant metadata, discoverable content, and solutions that are closely aligned with your business needs.

Ultimately, a migration is a subcomponent of a broader change management strategy — an ongoing effort to provide oversight and governance to the movement of content assets between systems. Even with the massive shift to the cloud, the average SharePoint customer maintains two or more SharePoint versions within their production environments. On top of that, the average farm size is well over a terabyte, each growing by 50 to 75% per year. The key to successfully managing your systems is to establish sound change management practices, with the right tools and expertise to help you with the heavy lifting.

As you think about your short-term migration or consolidation plans, also think about how these activities fit into your broader change management framework, and whether you have the right tools in place to manage and automate those activities.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (https://rencore.com/), leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.