This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide to easing the migration to Office 365

Migrating to Office 365: The good, the bad and the ugly

Moving to Office 365 may not be easy, explains expert Peter O'Kelly. But in the end, users will have a tool they're familiar with and you may save money.

For companies that want to keep pace with the next phase of cloud-based document sharing and collaboration, migrating to Office 365 and similar tools just makes sense.

But moving to the cloud isn't just flipping a switch. Unlike migrating to cloud-based email services, which may often be the first phase, an Office 365 migration also involves moving content and collaboration applications. This requires organizations to retool processes and massage content so it can be migrated.

While that can be more challenging, such tasks are mission-critical for organizations that want to exploit Office 365. They're also key to retiring legacy content and collaboration platforms that are often costly, complex and cumbersome, with interfaces that may not be cloud-ready. So, migrating the content there is important.

With a clear project plan mapped out for which content will move to the cloud, however, migration can be relatively painless for users, developers and system administrators. The following are some factors to consider while setting your organization's strategy for migrating to Office 365.

The good: Office 365 is good for content

Although there have been lots of dashed hopes in the content and collaboration marketplaces during the years, including ambitious knowledge management products that rarely worked out as planned and enterprise social tools that struggled to deliver value, Office 365 represents a step forward for both enterprise content management and collaboration tools. It's simpler, but also more powerful than traditional content and collaboration platforms, and it is consistent with the user experience of consumer tools, including Google, Facebook social networking and Pinterest content sharing.

Migrating to Office 365 also represents an opportunity to consolidate tools for working with content and collaboration; many companies have numerous tools assembled for various aspects of the document sharing and collaboration continuum, creating app fatigue. Many traditional content and collaboration products reflect legacy constraints that no longer apply; Office 365, on the other hand, is more flexible and scalable, because it resides in the public cloud. Office 365 can also consolidate resources that are spread across traditional on-premises platforms, such as SharePoint, Lotus Notes, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive or collaboration apps, like Huddle and Basecamp.

Office 365 also represents a dramatic shift in IT's traditional burden of patching, administering and managing applications. Because Office 365 is hosted on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, users get the benefit of automatic updates to Office 365 software, enabling them to invest more time in addressing business goals, rather than concerns about configuration and other traditional on-premises IT deployment issues.

The bad: Potential Office 365 migration headaches

There's a lot to like about Office 365, and its content and collaboration capabilities -- but there are also a few potential migration migraines to consider.

One challenge is Office 365 includes a wide variety of tools and services, many of which are getting rolled out or are in beta. Another issue is Microsoft's updating schedule, which has sped up exponentially. Users used to expect major updates rolled out over the course of a couple of years; with the cloud, those updates are now happening quarterly, or even monthly.

There's a lot to like about Office 365, and its content and collaboration capabilities.

There's also a good deal of overlap in Office 365 services, which creates confusion about what to migrate where. Microsoft has provided little guidance on what to use for different content and collaboration scenarios, and hasn't clearly addressed obvious overlap areas, such as when to use the new Outlook Groups or Yammer for conversations. Some migration tools can help address this challenge, however, by providing source and target technology recommendations based on automated assessments of deployed content and apps.

Ultimately, if your team can demonstrate that migrating to Office 365 is much simpler than other tools, while highlighting how the user experience is similar to popular consumer tools, migration migraines can often be avoided.

The ugly: Earlier content and collaboration apps

Many enterprises have suffered from the inconvenient truths of SharePoint migration: poorly documented sites, content sprawl and legacy apps or, more recently, shadow IT resources introduced by rogue users -- working with services such as Box, Dropbox and Google Drive. It can be daunting to contemplate a full migration from multiple systems, especially when legacy systems have terabytes or petabytes of content that no employees own or know much about -- sometimes known as a darknet. In the past, this challenge has often led to partial migrations, with legacy systems not fully retired. That, in turn, can lead to considerable ongoing expenses and understandable user resistance to yet another tool to learn and add to their daily routines.

Fortunately, migration tools can now reduce the pain, efficiently generating comprehensive inventories of already deployed resources, along with recommendations. Some tools even use Office 365 to manage the migration process, providing a purposeful example of Office 365-based collaboration for the extended migration team stakeholders.

Your best bet is to get assessment and migration service recommendations from consultants or a Microsoft representative before migrating to Office 365. Depending on the size of your move, Microsoft may be willing to help with partner resources, making it possible to minimize issues and get on a fast track to Office 365.

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