How to plan for a successful data migration
Moving isn’t fun. Most who have undertaken a particularly rigorous one will confirm its unpleasantness. Other than the novelty and excitement of having a new place to live, most of the moving process tends to be quite the headache.
When it comes to your data, a migration is — for all intents and purposes — the data equivalent of moving house. It’s a big undertaking and if it’s done improperly, it can make your life (and your users’ lives) difficult for quite some time. The goal of this post is to convey the importance of planning and effective management of your migration.
Too often, businesses gloss over the collaborative planning and data auditing steps of digital transformation initiatives and put most of their focus on implementation. While implementation is important, careful preparation is what makes the implementation sustainable.
The implementation stage is highly visible as it starts to put new tools in the hands of employees and can have drastic impact on the day to day work across the organization. It is also where problems can arise that need to be dealt with swiftly to ensure the pace of business is not interrupted as data moves from legacy systems to the new unified environment.
When the time comes, implementation should be completed in two phases: an initial pilot test followed by broad deployment.
Start small to test the technology
Before trying to transition everything to the new platform, it’s best to start with a small subset of users and data in a pilot phase. This allows an opportunity to test the policies and rules agreed to during the planning phase and identify any speedbumps in the migration process itself.
This is particularly true for transitioning to the cloud from an on-prem solution because cloud services might be structured differently than in-house servers, there may be some extra steps needed to ensure data successfully makes the move.
Even with careful planning, bringing disparate solutions together as a unified system can necessitate changes to the initial approach, whether it be to file structures, governance or user access. Sometimes special coding or additional services might be required to ensure a smooth transition – they’re needs that can be uncovered during the initial pilot phase.
Consider the customer journey
During the pilot phase, it is important to ensure the customer experience is consistent across mobile devices as well as on the desktop. Less than half of businesses are preparing for mobile-first customers (Solis, October 2017). This is problematic as more and more customers are using mobile devices to get work done and expect a unified experience across a variety of channels.
External customers are not the only focus, however. The pilot phase is also an opportunity to invite a small subset of internal users to try the new solution and report on their experience. Users live in the data every day and can therefore provide helpful troubleshooting feedback.
During the pilot phase it is also important to ensure your Office 365 environment is set up and prepared correctly. This is key for you organization to maintain a healthy knowledge ecosystem where it is easy for users to find and contribute relevant content.
Make sure your information architecture is intuitive with a structured taxonomy and standardized workspaces for a positive user experience. It is also important to pre-configure some services for users to enable quick and easy access to IT resources.
Solutions such as AvePoint’s Cloud Management and Policy Enforcer can help you set up your Office 365 environment, and once you have it set up, ensure that its policies are followed.
Managing the migration
Once the pilot phase has been completed, and issues are identified and resolved, the rest of the users and data can be transitioned to the new infrastructure. It might be best to take a phased approach to migrations – instead of moving everything at once – and do it in stages to help users get used to new interfaces or folder structures.
For example, email is commonly the first workload companies move to the cloud with Exchange Online, followed by other productivity tools with Office 365. This can be easier said than done – even with a carefully executed pilot phase – as unexpected issues and challenges can still materialize during migration to the cloud.
Always expect the unexpected and be open to adjustments as flexibility is key to ensure the business is not interrupted. Migration is another phase where an experienced partner is invaluable.
Certified Microsoft Partners have completed many migrations and have seen it all when it comes to moving data to the cloud or implementing a hybrid solution. When unexpected issues occur, partners have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to draw from, and the chances of resolving problems quickly are more likely.
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