Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The classic SharePoint Online migration mistake


I see this so many times that it isn’t funny. People simply upload the contents of their network ‘S:’ drive to a single Document Library in SharePoint Online and then try and synchronize the entire contents of that to every desktop or to a network server and attempt to share it again from there.
This is a really, really bad idea simple because SharePoint Online is designed as a collaboration tool first and foremost rather than simply a storage location. Traditional on premise file systems are arranged in some structure and the argument I see from so many people is that they want all the benefits of the cloud BUT they don’t want to change the way they work to make the most of a tool like SharePoint Online.
You know what? If you are not prepared to change the way that you work with the tools then I would seriously question why you are using those tools at all.
Let me give you an analogy. Imagine you are using a paper based ledge to total up figures. You write values in one column, then the next and then you manually add them up and place the result in the third column. If you need to change any of the values in column one or column two you need to erase it, enter the new number, recalculate the result, erase that column and update it. Hard work.
Now what happens if I show you Excel? If you type the numbers into the first two columns again, manually calculate the total and type it into the third column. What have you achieved by using Excel? Nothing much, now have you? Excel allows you to create a formula that totals the sum of the rows automatically so that it updates if anything changes. How much easier is that? Heaps.
In the process of adopting Excel you have needed to learn more about what the tool can do and learn how to create and input formulas but the end results are well worth it, because now you know that you can apply that to every ledger you create. Small investment up front, small change in the way things are done results in huge productivity gains going forward. That is how technology works.
The same is true with SharePoint Online. Desiring SharePoint Online to work ‘exactly’ the way traditional files and folders works is like driving a high performance car in first gear everywhere. It is a waste of resources. If this is solely what you are looking to achieve with a move to SharePoint Online my advice is to read no further and look elsewhere for a solution. If you do that however, I’ll bet that sooner or later you’ll realize how limiting that decision will turn out to be, since storage is NOT collaboration and provides NO major productivity gains.
As I said initially, SharePoint Online is a collaboration tool, files and folders is just storage. Migration from files and folders to SharePoint Online means you should take the opportunity to look at how you have structured things and whether there is a better way to organize your information because at the end of the day it is all about FINDING your information now isn’t it? Tell me, how much data do you actually have in files and folders today that you use? How of much of it do you have no idea what it was ever for? And how often do you never find what you are looking for in there?
SharePoint is a way of approaching these problems from a different direction. This means that you (and only you) have to make decisions about how to arrange your information. SharePoint can help with the arranging but you need to decide HOW to arrange it. What is the outcome you desire? Simply replicating what you may have in traditional files and folders is simply using SharePoint Online in first gear, that is, a complete waste of time and effort.
So prior to any migration to SharePoint Online for you files and folders, stop and think about how to COLLABORATE with your data not simply store it. Ask how you end users WANT to access the information. Ask them what makes the MOST SENSE to them. In short make their job easier when it comes to working with information and there is no better tool for that than SharePoint. Like Excel, you need to invest a little up front but the rewards are HUGE.
If you are simply going to migrate gigabytes and gigabytes of data to one Document Library in SharePoint Online DON’T! If you are prepared to learn how to take SharePoint Online out of first gear and use it for COLLABORATION not storage then you will reap the benefits.
Stay tuned to this blog for more suggestions on how to migrate to SharePoint Online for collaboration and avoid the common mistakes.