January 29, 2018 // By Ramona Maxwell
In large enterprises, steady growth is expected, and the challenge of scaling information systems to the needs of the business they serve is substantial. Migration projects provide an outstanding opportunity to evaluate the state of the union between the business model and the technology facilitating its success. Managing growth can be particularly challenging when it results from business acquisition, where migration melds disparate IT systems into a cohesive platform. Thus, migrations not only present a plethora of technical challenges, they are frequently performed under severe time pressure to assure the momentum of a merger is not lost.
Migration Scenarios and Special Considerations
- SharePoint Server On-premise Version Upgrade Microsoft has historically not provided in-place upgrade strategies, resulting in scenarios where content must be held aside while the infrastructure is upgraded and then restored to the farm's newly upgraded containers. The most common method for large corpus is a database-attach upgrade. While this method is protective of documents, many farm customizations are typically lost. Therefore the migration solution must be crafted to provide continuity.
- SharePoint Server On-premise Migration Either as part of a version upgrade, or when moving content from other systems into SharePoint, migrations have the potential to disrupt key business systems. Having an adequately sized and well-prepared team is essential to success.
- Migrating to SharePoint Online SharePoint Online farms host multiple 'tenants' that share the farm's overall resources. Information that may be segregated by web application in an on-premise environment will have to be re-architected in consideration of that top-level container no longer being available. Service applications that previously were segregated by web application, will also now be available to all or none within the tenancy. Some limitations inherent in a shared tenancy model, such as queueing for large indexing operations, must be deliberated in advance of a move. Additionally, items such as data presentation, connections to Line-of-Business systems and workflows will have to be re-architected with the new environment in mind. Planning should also include an evaluation of network infrastructure to both support the initial migration and the ongoing usage of the platform under load.
- Greenfield installations of SharePoint on-premise or SharePoint Online While a fabulous opportunity to craft a top-tier web portal exists, successful implementations require a content management schema be implemented prior to uploading documents. Most organizations will want to create a specific organizational structure for sites, as well as apply branding. Multiple options exist for transferring documents, however care should be taken to assure the document corpus is accurately mapped to the content schema prior to executing the actual move.
- Migrations from Other Content Management Systems Migrating from alternate CMS may require passing data through intermediate storage, as the underlying technologies are unlikely to be compatible. Custom solutions will be required to map content schemas from one system to another.
- Site Collection Segmentation This task can be simple or complex, depending upon the source site type. This is a common service request in farms that were not well-architected at implementation. Departmental re-organization is sometimes best approached as a migration, since the original content schema is unlikely to apply.
- Opportunities to Restructure A migration is a fantastic time to look at portal layout in terms of both capacity and usability. Some sites may be overprovisioned for their workload, while others may be discovered to be targets for expansion. Overall, communication between work partners as well as workflow and reporting options should be carefully examined. Today’s portal is not a silo, but exists within a rich ecosystem of both cloud and on-premise data sources and tools. Analysis services and reporting, multi-system workflows and integration with enterprise products for financial or human resources management are just a few options available. Provisioning Firstline workers without PC access to a portal is now easier than ever, and mobile access is assured with native apps available on all major platforms.
- User Polling If the current portal suffers from underuse a migration can be a good time to give users what they want. The goal should never be to bring technology to the forefront, but instead to allow users to accomplish their tasks in the fewest steps possible – contributing to both user satisfaction and the business’ bottom line.
- Cleanse Data Cross-functional teams should be deployed to thoroughly evaluate data to be migrated. Per Microsoft, over 30 billion documents are created each year in the US alone, but of these 85 percent are never referenced and half are duplicates. While deduplication and consolidation are primary objectives, it is also important to make relevant content easy to identify and access. Therefore diverting some of the corpus to cold storage can be a critical success factor in large migrations.
- Content Classification The nomenclature of the business model must be transferred to the portal in order to correctly classify documents and work streams. Ideally, organizational and departmental taxonomies will be crafted prior to building the portal. When taxonomy is implemented correctly it enables much of the functionality associated with SharePoint as an Enterprise Content Management System in including document lifecycle management, automated routing, eDiscovery and automated indexing of search terms.
- Workflow Mapping As important as the content that lives within a collaboration portal are the work streams that data participates in. Workflows should accomplish the tasks of the business with the least effort being leveraged to the greatest impact. Key factors leading to a successful roll-out of a new ECM system could include integration of third-party Line-of-Business systems with the portal, automation of daily processes, surfacing relavent documents in the user's view, and allowing instant collaboration.
- Staged Portal Build and Migration A staged migration may often be a superior approach for smaller organizations. Generally users are allowed to cutover to the new platform during a pre-defined period during which they can assess opportunities for workflow improvement, as well as identify which portions of the document corpus must remain in the active work stream. Sections of the legacy portal are gradually quieced as functionality becomes available on the target system.
- Portal Build with Full Migration Prior to Move This type of move should be thought of as a major project requiring full PMO oversight and multi-disciplinary teams prepared to tackle all of the objectives listed in this document. This type of move is beneficial when its intended users exclusively adopt the new platform, and is often well received when accompanied by contextual training on the new platform.
- Transport Security and Capacity Vital to a successful enterprise content move is assuring document security at all steps of the process from evaluation to consolidation and transport. Secure transport protocols exact a price in terms of capacity, and estimating available bandwidth ties directly to the overall timeline of the project. Even when data transport occurs solely within and environment protected by corporate firewalls, such as when segregating data to cold storage, leakage is possible if proper security is neglected.
- Microsoft Tools Microsoft has recently introduced a data migration tool to assist customers moving their data to SharePoint online, and while free it does not yet equal either their API or third-party commercial tools. At present, for content metadata to be moved along with documents Microsoft’s only options are its client-side APIs.
- Third-Party Options Companies such as ShareGate and AvePoint have a long history providing comprehensive content migration tools for the SharePoint platform. Generally, these tools may not serve companies on very old versions of SharePoint or those using alternate content management systems. Costs also vary widely, and in some cases may point toward a custom solution as a worthwhile approach. Certainly, for straightforward migration scenarios between versions, third-party solutions are an excellent option.
Magenic specializes in building customized intranet and internet facing portals for large enterprises across multiple technology stacks. Adjacent to that, we can also provide assistance to your organization as you migrate onto a new platform. Please contact us today to discuss how we can help.