From on-prem and other platforms

Migrations to M365

Granted, this article is not going to be a deep dive into the subject but more of a holistic view, to let you get the full view of most common migrations to Office 365, Microsoft.

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Migrate from

Lotus Notes

Hands down one of the hardest migrations. IBM Lotus Notes dominated the email software space some years ago with innovative solutions that competition could only dream of. Those times are over and current cloud-based online prodictivity solutions like Microsoft 365 left Lotus notes far behind.

Due to the complexity of the Lotus Notes design and architecture with additional custom developed solution suited to the organization needs make the solution a very robust one. For some time there was no way to move fully to the online solution without the need to create new custom built applications or purchasing addtitional 3rd party solutions. This time is also over. With Microsoft Power Platform most of the Lotus Notes applications can be analyzed and moved to the newly developed low-code/no-code solutions that carry similar functionalities in the new, online environment.

Ok, this part is behind us, but what with the actual content migration? Well, there’s lots to take into account and two main ways of moving forward.

First approach is to move data with out-of-the-box possibilities in Exchange Online – IMAP connector migration. This approach is very hands-on and requires prior preparation of NSF files so those can be read by Exchange Online and moved to the new mailbox. There are some limitations to this method, like, manuall move of calendars, internet connectivity issues, file size limitations, amount of time needed to perform all operations, Lotus Notes email encryption issues. In other words, a lot to keep in mind and take care of.

Other approach is, as you might have guessed, the use of a 3rd party tool to do most of the work for you. There are number of tools available on the market, each promissing a smooth and easy migration. Most of the m do the work just fine, having some issues and environment preparation steps to take in order to migrate successfully to the cloud. Which tool to use? This answer can only be answered by experience and personal preference.

InfoPath

If you are still using InfoPath Forms then it is a high time to start thinking about a switch to a more modern solution. Don’t panic, you still have a moment or two to plan for the move and actually do it. As you may know Microsoft announced the end of support for InfoPaths during their Ignite 2014. The date is set, 2026 is the year. Two years later Microsoft introduces Power Apps as a InfoPath successor.

Now, InfoPath being a technology that was introduced in 2003 as a part of SharePoint Server 2003 we may say we had a good almost 20 year run. Unfortunately, this also carries some challenges. Let’s just list a few:

  • There were no smartphones in 2003. I know this may seem trivial but this esstntially means that InfoPath is not suited to our new mobile life and work standards. Forms are not responsive and not supported on mobile platforms.
  • Internet Explorer is the InfoPath browser of choice. IE itself retires after many years of service as a download tool for other browsers and there is a compatibility feature in the new Microsoft Edge, but still, this is not an elegant and user friendly solution.
  • There is no code based InfoPath Forms support in SharePoint Online. This just erases a ton of functinalites and customizations that businesses rely on, leaving you with only a basic Form. And this is not enough in most scenarios.
  • Viewing InfoPath Form is not as easy as you might think. Yes, of course, it is a piece of cake when you have your trusted SharePoint Server, but tryi taking that to the cloud. Is it impossible? No. Is it more frustrating and generates unneccessary problems? You bet. Will I be able to work with those forms in the future? I guess, if you get yourself a nice third party software!
  • Cross-site data access – wait… what is that?! In the moder world you may need to access data spread across your SharePoint environment. Especially, online and with constant changes to organization structure and needs of the business. Another data sources? Sure, you can do it with InfoPath and custom coding, but all this goes away when you move to the cloud!
  • Design haven’t changed much over the years. You can still feel the past decades when working with InfoPath. Those designs have poor UI and UX when compared with modern solutions. Additionally, InfoPath lack scallability. Why settle?
  • Don’t get me started on the maintenance... Oh, the horror. With every change made to the form you need to make respective change to the old ones too. Over time that challenge alone skyrockets the maintenance costs.

And that’s just form the top of my head.

Let’s not dispair, there is a solution, and I come with some tips as well. Ok, so what to do and how to approach the escape from InfoPath?

First, you need to identify:

  • List based InfoPath Forms
  • Library based InfoPath Forms
  • Code based InfoPath Forms

Now, having the forms identified, there are three different approaches to each set.

List based – that is easy – just do the app. I know easier said than done, but with few adjustments a quick and easy form can be created in Power Apps.

Library based InfoPath Forms  – that’s where the problems in modernization truly begin.At first there is a need for XML conversion of files into SharePoint Online lists and list adjustments. Once that is complete the form can be developed. Are there any additonal issues here? Sure! For example repeating tables. For all of those problems you need to design and implement workarounds so the form will keeps it’s functionalities.

Last but not least are the code based forms. In those cases it is hard to judge what is needed.You need to document the processes and business logic behind the InfoPath Form and choose appropriate services and solutions to acheve same functionalities in Power Platform. Once you have a clear view you can start putting things together in Power Apps, Power Automate and in some cases Azure Functions as well.

Google Workspace

Some of you may be wondering why move from Google Workspace to Microsoft 365. I don’t blame you. Google has a solid collaboration solution and is popular worldwide, same as Microsoft. There may be many reasons to migrate to Google Workspace or from it. From experience, I noticed that once the organization grows, so does the needs of different departments. Main drivers for the move are still related to the familiarity of the Office suite, easy integration into existing architecture and costs.

Whatever the reasons are, once you make the decision to move away from Google and hop on the Microsoft 365 train you are up for the migration. Is the process complicated in your scenario? It may. All depends on what you want to move and how.

Basically, Microsoft will provide you with the tools to move your users’ emails, calendars, contacts and drives. Shared drives move is also included there. Those tools are a huge help and the possibility to impersonate users opens many doors to the migration process from Google Workspace, that were not available few years ago.

Ok, but is it easy and straightforward? Not really. The content may be moved but you need to account for all of those features that are not. Take Google Sites or App Scriots as examples. First one requires either manual recreation (by hand or some scripting where possible) or a third party application that takes care of the process for you, while latter needs careful planning and deployment of recreated apps, for the organization not to loose the continuity in business processes.

Either way, you have some work ahead of you…

SharePoint On-Premises

Whatever reason you have for moving from SharePoint on-premises deployment and migrating it to online, whether you have an older version of SharePoint and upgrading it to the newest would make your life hell for some time as there is no direct upgrade path or you simply want to levrage online functionalities you will face some challenges on the way.

Moving to SharePoint Online has its perks. First that come to mind are SharePoint always being up to date and ready for new feature release. You no longer have to worry about updates and integrations with supported software. Just imagine, no more patching. I certainly take this as an advantage and huge responsibility taken of my shoulders. Plus some free time in the evenings or weekends.

Another benefit is the possibility to levrage multiple managed applications from Microsoft 365 suite. Yes, you can integrate SharePoint Server with cloud apps to some extent, but no as effortlessly and in the same extent as they already are Online. Being able to minimize integrations and maintainence is a huge time and effort saver. Not to mention you have another layer to your company intranet with Microsoft Teams and Yammer for collaboration and company communication. Less emails, more time!

Ok, but how to approach the migration? What to do? How to plan?

First of all, this is a great oportunity for a cleanup. Assess your data, nominate change champions and talk to them about the data as well. They know better what they use on daily basis. Usualy, it is not affordable to move all of the content to the cloud, and this excercise will help you reduce the load.

Prepare the governance plan. SharePoint Online is open to cooperation not only within the organization, but also with partner and clients. You can leverage those options but you need to account for the risks related to sharing and ungovern data access. Keep that in mind.

Decide on migration method. There are four main methods: manual migration, built-in migration tools, 3rd party tools or seeking help with an experienced partner.

If you don’t have much data to move you can consider first method, but in general, I would strongly advise against it. Let’s move past this method, as it is not efficient nor worth considering in most cases.

There are multiple options that you can use when migrating with built-in or 3rd party tools. You can use SharePoint Migration Tool or SPMT for short. It is a tool provided by Microsoft, but has many limitations and is rather slow. If there are not too many site collections and data, go for it or at least test if SPMT is right for you.

I don’t want to go into the details and compare other 3rd party tools. There are many and such comparison could be a subject of another publication. Suffice to say, those tools vary in prices and additional functionalities. Remember to always choose the tool that suits your needs first. This decision can have huge impacts on timeline and performance.

Last but not least – find a partner and ask for help. There are many reasons for this course of action. Less responsibility on your side, accumulated experience at the grasp and you wouldn’t have to dedicate your own resources to a time consuming project. If you feel that’s the route you want to take, feel free to chat with us and see if we could help.

What migration is?

Are you new to IT and wonder what is this migration everyone is talking about? Maybe yo are a business oriented manager and want to know more about the subject to understand and know how to lead a project in your organization? Whatever brought you here, you should know, you are in the right place to gain the understanding in the migration subject.

Granted, this article is not going to be a deep dive into the subject but more of a holistic view, to let you get the full view of most common migrations to Office 365, Microsoft.

Ok, before we go further let’s start with the basics – what exactly the migration is?

To put it simply it’s just the process of shifting data or software from one system to another. Sounds complicated? I’m sure that most of us performed some migrations ourselves before. Yes, even if you don’t think so you may have some migrations behind you and those didn’t even require help from the IT department!

Let me share with you some examples and you’ll see what I mean:

  • Upgrading an operating system (OS)
  • Moving data from one database or storage to another
  • Move from on-premise infrastructure to cloud infrastructure
  • Replacing classic, monolythic application with containers services, like Kubernetes
  • Going from old email system to a new one

Remember how you moved from Windows 7 to Windows 10 on your home PC or maybe the latest iOS or Android upgrade on your mobile? This was a migration! How about those files that you moved to an external drive or a pendrive? Yes, this one too.

While this all sounds simple usual IT migration involves moving number of pieces combined with highly specific requirements to suit organization’s needs. This is why a road to success here, leads through careful planning and execution of all tasks, with number of tests for identification and remediation of risks and blockers sprinkled with change management process.

But more on that later.

How to perform migration?

There is no simple way to perform the migration. It all starts with analysis phase and identification of data and systems that are going to be migrated to another system. Knowing the limitations and features of both source and destination are key in to the migration success and better user adoption of the new tools.

Once you identified all of those the quest for the migration metod starts. Are there native mechanisms allowing to move what you want available on the new platform? Can the tool you use for automation do what you need to and move everything? Maybe there are some scripts you can use or create yourself that would suit your needs? Is there a third party solution that would help you achieve your goal? Those are the common questions you should ask yourself and your team to better understand the project and selsct the most viable option available.

With the toolset and path selected now there’s only one thing to do – migrate and keep users informed!

To answer the How? part of the question here is not really possible. Each migration is unique and should be treated as such. There are of course tools that can be used in number of scenarios but it is always best to consult the appropriate documentation if you are doing it for the first time, and take a peak from time to time not to miss any changes introduced to the migration process if you are at it again.

What are the common migration problems?

Many migration focused companies will tell that the technical part is the most problematic. While it is true that it is not a piece of cake and requires careful organization and planning I would not put it at the top – at least not exclusively.

Change management and user communication is key, alongside the technical part, that can make a difference between a successful project and a total disaster. It may seem and sound trivial and obvious but you may be surprised to learn how often is it dismissed as something of less importance.

Appropriate change management drives adoption and minimizes post-implementation administrative effort to get the system fully functional and all users up to speed.

Why and how can Developico help?

Over the years we gained and accumulated experience while working on multiple projects. Some were easy and straightforward, others more complicated. Our team has experience working with Microsoft provided tools, own scripts and most major 3rd party migration software.

We do understand that the migration process is not as simple as just moving the files or functionalities over to the new environment. We can assist you during the process, making sure all risks are addressed and users are prepared for the change. A successful migration with good change management can lead to a better addoption of the new setup and reduce problems users may face in the post-migration period. User preparation and education is crucial.

If you are not sure, don’t hesitate, let’s talk. You’re not commiting to anything yet 😉

Ways we can help

Developico can help you with almost everything related to migrations

Long term support

Developico Support Services which provides access to a dedicated team of migrations specialists.

Projects

We can help you with creating an app or fix the one you already have.

Trainings

Courses. Workshops. Showing useful and simple tricks to improve the work on applications and helping you to better use your applications.

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Michał Guzowski

CEO

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Low-Code Specialist

CEO, Team Leader and Microsoft MVP. Doer. Constantly learning myself and how the world works. I love to tinker with teams and companies efficiency. Whether it’s mine or my customers. Understand to adjust.

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