Monday, April 28, 2014

SharePoint Online migration–Start up is key

This post is part of an on going series covering migration to SharePoint Online. If you haven’t already I suggest you read the previous posts:
The classic SharePoint migration mistake
SharePoint Online migration – Pilers and Filers
In this post I’m going to focus on the area that is most important post-information upload to SharePoint Online.
As way of an analogy take a look at this clip from UK Top Gear. Ensure you watch the section from 2:06 to 3:45 and take note.
What it illustrates is that a high performance track day car like the KTM X-bow and many other such high performance cars don’t have a very ‘standard’ starting procedure. It is all very simple when you know but left to your own devices (like James May in the video) you’ll get nowhere but utterly frustrated.
The same applies to a SharePoint Online migration. Why? Because moving to SharePoint Online is a very different environment from traditional files and folders. Things are different (and better) for a number of reasons but if you don’t know how to at least start using SharePoint Online you are going to get pretty frustrated pretty quickly just like if you’d bought a KTM X-bow and no one had shown you how to start it!
In my initial post in this series I noted how that if you want things to stay the way they are with your files and folders in the cloud then SharePoint Online may not be for you. What I also noted was that I believe this to be a very small minority of businesses since most want to receive the productivity benefits of true collaboration and are willing to invest the time to get the most from SharePoint Online.
However, there is nothing more frustrating that buying something new and then not even being able to use it. Imagine you where lucky enough to afford something like a Ferrari 458 Speciale and then you couldn’t even start it. Even though there is whole lot more to ownership than just starting the car, initially after purchase getting some usage out of what you bought is a huge aspect of the experience you will have with it going forward. Having a good experience (i.e. being able to fire the beast up and drive it immediately) makes things more positive, even if you have a few set backs (say curbing the rims) down the track. However, if you have bad experience immediately at the start (i.e. you can’t work out how to make it go) you’ll remember that far more and have a much greater challenging overcoming that initial negative impression. It is simple human nature really but understanding this is also the key to a successful SharePoint Online migration.
In essence what I am saying is that even after all the data has been copied across and categorized the most important part for the success of the project comes immediately after this – getting the users over the initial usage hurdle as quickly as possible (i.e. a few quick wins go a long way). Most users will be apprehensive about things changing. Most don’t trust technology and believe all machines ‘conspire’ against them constantly. This is the challenge the migrator needs to overcome. In short this means training.
Once the data is over and users are about to be unleashed on SharePoint Online you need to make that transition as smooth and easy as possible. If you don’t, chances are the customer will always have a negative opinion about SharePoint Online and you will be starting from behind. You want to ensure the best possible experience. You want to ensure users get up and running quickly. You MUST ensure they can do their jobs better, quicker and easier than before. As with any new technology, that first hill is the largest but once you are over that it is generally all downhill from there.
Like I have said in previous posts, this means the process of migration is NOT complete after merely copying the data across. The migration process is only complete once everyone is HAPPILY using SharePoint.
This means you need to need to develop processes and material around the critical element of user adoption as much as the technical process of actually copying data. In so many instances I have seen, data gets copied but users then get abandoned to work it out for themselves. The chances of that ending with a good experience are almost zero. However, with a bit of planning and TLC the chances of a positive result are very high. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it a lot.
As you will hear me say over and over again, SharePoint is more than cloud storage and should be treated as so. Like any other Office tool you need to learn how to work it, even the basics, so you can help those you are selling it to. Thus, if you are selling SharePoint migration services then you need to incorporating into that site design and adoption training. For most people selling SharePoint this means extending their skill set.
Don’t just drag and drop and run away. Don’t be afraid of it. Invest a little bit of time to reap the rewards. With so much implementation of SharePoint Online being done currently it leaves a HUGE opportunity for those who do it right. Getting the user started is the key and never overlook the fact that making that as painless and simple as possible sets the stage for adoption of the more advanced features of SharePoint as well the deeper integration into the business and that spells business opportunity for those to take it up. As the Top Gear clip illustrates, having a key doesn’t always mean you can start the car!
p.s. I believe in this adoption process so heavily that I created many publications around exactly that. They are not deep dive, they are not aimed at IT Professionals. They are aimed at end users who want to get on the gas with products as soon as they can. I created these because I saw no others in the market.
You can find these at:
and any purchase supports the work I do and allow me to create more such guides.