Migrating to Office 365 from Google Apps is not a simple task by any measure. If your organization has been invested in Google Apps for a significant amount of time making this move will seem very daunting. However, good preparation for a migration like this can help you smoothly move from one cloud-based set of services to a new one.
The vast majority of organizations will not undertake a migration of this level on their own. Typically, they will decide to move from one office suite to another, then bring a consultant to assist the company in evaluating their current resources in preparation for that migration.
Note: A future article in this series will focus on evaluating those companies that assist organizations planning to migrate to Office 365 from Google Apps. We will bring you a short list of options to explore when making this migration decision yourself.
I spoke with Nick Brattoli, who has 15 years of technical project work experience specializing in implementation, management, and support of SharePoint/Office 365. He is also a Microsoft Certified Trainer, Office Servers/Services MVP, and a Microsoft Silver Partner. He shared some recommendations that companies should consider when looking to make an Apps-to-Office 365 migration.
He says discovery is a very important part of his process when he assists companies with their migrations. If these organizations take a similar approach as they are preparing for such migrations ahead of a third party coming in to assist – then the overall experience should run much smoother.
Start With Discovery
When a company is working towards migrating from one cloud-based service to another, it is important to understand how they use their current providers' resources.
Brattoli says the initial process of interviewing the key players in an organization is critical. Understanding how workers use systems, where the file storage locations are, what standard procedures are in place for managing this data, and where everything is currently located makes the transition much smoother.
He also says it is critical to understand how frontline workers do their job. Management may have a high-level understanding of these processes, but the actual detail-based understanding resides with the individuals doing that work each day. Once all the decision-makers understand the precise breadth and scope of the jobs their frontline workers do, prepared plans will make sure that experience is at least duplicated in the new service or enhanced by additional features with the new provider.
This early user engagement will make all the difference in a relatively smooth transition compared to short notice moves without any preparation.
Now Consider Data Sprawl
When a company is migrating to Office 365 from Google Apps, getting a good handle on where all their data resides can be challenging. This is important at anytime but even more so as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into effect next month.
Any company who does business with customers in Europe must comply with these new regulations or face potentially heavy fines. If data sprawl is a problem for a company, then it is possible such data might be unidentified and subsequently not protected at the right level.
During the interview process, find out from those frontline workers where they access data from and how it is stored.
Data sprawl also impacts a company’s backup processes. If data is sitting in virtual nooks and crannies, thus not being tracked, it is also not being backed up, so it's at risk for loss. By learning where all the data is, a company can better implement back up processes that protects all their data.
One last thing about data sprawl from Brattoli: A company with a thoughtful and -- this is key -- actually enforced data retention policy usually does not have major issues with data sprawl. This is because they are only retaining what data is necessary based on the regulations of their industry. Many of us are digital hoarders because we see it as just digital data. When GDPR goes into effect, why run the risk of losing data that us no longer operationally required or mandated? By cleaning up old data archives before a migration, a company will save money because many third-party consultants charge based on the scope of the job. Less data being migrated means lower costs.
This applies to email inboxes too. Ask employees to go into their accounts and clean out the digital data that is no longer necessary. Of course, they need to know about your industry's retention rules if they are not already implemented on an account/domain level.
Open to the Process
Brattoli also emphasized how important it was for an organization to really embrace the discovery process.
Migrating to Office 365 from Google Apps is already going to be a challenge, as an organization will be handling the move of its email, cloud storage, and internally-hosted sites. Organizations will have to document and prepare each of those major IT systems for that move. Between moving the accounts and data, plus understanding how things will operate differently on SharePoint sites compared to Google Sites, that's a lot of change -- both in the skillsets required to maintain and troubleshoot those systems, and in the skillsets required to support users as they adjust to working within them. Change is challenging on a normal day. Now imagine that ramped up even more as a company doing business goes through the same process.
This is why being open to the process of discovery is so critical. The more your expert knows about your current setup, then the smoother the overall migration will be in the long run.
One final note. Don’t forget about your remote workers throughout this entire process of discovery. They are also an important element of any migration.
Stay tuned to this series of articles as we approach a migration from Office 365 to Google Apps next.