Webinar Recap | 9 Takeaways from a Migration to SharePoint Online

Thank you for your interest in “9 Takeaways from a Global Organization’s Migration to SharePoint Online.” If you were able to join us for the webinar, we sincerely thank you for being there. We hope you had as much fun learning about practical and applicable tips to make your intranet migration a success as our speaker did sharing his knowledge with you. 

Didn’t get a chance to catch our session live? We’ve got you covered.

This Session:

What does a successful migration to SharePoint Online look like? We recently assisted a multi-national enterprise software company with their migration journey to SharePoint. Along the way, we compiled our nine top tips that any company can use when pursuing a migration of their own. Using our client as a case study to provide illustrative examples, PixelMill President and Co-Founder Eric Overfield walks through the nine high-level tips. You’ll walk away from this webinar with concrete, actionable insights to make your intranet migration a success.

Episode Takeaways:

  • #1: Planning must haves
  • #2: Flexibility
  • #3: Search
  • #4: Navigation
  • #5: Personalization
  • #6: Customization
  • #7: Extensibility
  • #8: Migration path
  • #9: Go live

Show Links:

Key Takeaways

10:32 – #1: Planning must haves

When preparing to launch a SharePoint intranet for your employees, begin by talking to as many users as you can so that you fully understand existing pain points and necessary functions.

“I do not want you to go to users and ask them, ‘what do you want?’ They don’t know either. What I’m looking for you to do is talk to as many of the end users as you can. Of course not all of them. Find out things such as what do they like about the current solution? What do they find to be frustrating about the current solution? That I’m sure you have something that’s able to offer some of these. But what I really also want you to ask about is what is their job like? What is that they need to do? And how do they use digital tools currently in order to facilitate that job? What are their pain points that they’re running into? Ask them to go through exercises of getting into an HR system, give them a challenge or something that your fellow employees need to do, and just ask them, great, how do you go into the HR system because you’d like to request a day off? And just watch what they do, and watch their frustrations, and find out what it is that the pain points are so that you’re able to help provide them a toolset that’s actually going to make things make sense.”

14:35 – Stakeholder and leadership buy-in

Part of the planning process is to communicate with stakeholders and loop them intro the process so that they feel a sense of support and ownership.

“We’ve been saying this for how many years? The prettiest pictures wins the funding, and we know it. So do what you can to keep your project sponsors excited about the solution? Sometimes you might not have the resources to be able to do heavy branding and make it look more pretty, shall we say. But you’d be surprised just what you can do with SharePoint, and please don’t hesitate to do that. Now, if you have the resources and ability to do things, what you can also do is use something like Envision where you’re able to create more clickable prototypes. So you can quickly prototype and mock something up and start to get that leadership buy-in as well as your end user buy-in, so they understand what it is. But they start to get wowed by this is going to be cool. It provides me the tools that I need to get my job done so much better than we have before. The things that I need are at my fingertips with fewer clicks. I can find what I’m looking for. Those are the kinds of things that are really going to help your project move forward.”

16:18 – #2: Flexibility

Throughout the process, be prepared to be flexible and willing to pivot, as it’s likely that both internal company changes and updates to Microsoft will impact your initial vision.

“Assume that your project is going to have to change either halfway through, or even as soon as it got launched. Something’s going to change. There’s going to be pieces around that will change. So promote that within the organization, as well as individually with your team, that we need to be flexible with how things are going. Because if we just get stuck in a rut and say, ‘this is how we’re going to do it,’ you might be missing out on some of the future potential abilities based on where Microsoft 365 is going, or based on what the organization is going to require. So when you do that, one of the keys we found the most helpful here is creating a modular approach to how we built things. Staying within the most successful patterns and practices that have been determined by the community, following Microsoft’s advice as to how you should customize things, watching that roadmap and being flexible to say, we hear the thing is coming.”

24:53 – #3: Search

An important functionality of a SharePoint intranet is the ability to search for company information and resources. Determine if the out-of-the-box search experience will work, or if customizations are needed.

“There’s two primary components around search that you can work with. There’s the ‘out of the box’ search experience, which since this project went live, actually Microsoft search has been getting better. They’ve been providing more feature sets there. But if you’re going to do custom search, like a custom search results experience, there are tools such as the PnP Modern Search, that is a great starting point to build your more custom solution. But it’s more difficult than to pull a lot of the power coming out of Microsoft 365. And I can tell you that with every project we’ve worked on, the answer on search, it’s just different for every client. And I wish I had a magic bullet for you. My general decision tree is though: can search deliver what we want using out of the box search untouched? Just Microsoft provides a solution, will it work for us? Because each of you will have different answers within your organizations. If it is, great. If not, what works and what doesn’t? What’s important, what’s not? Is there something that’s missing?”

29:38 – #4: Navigation

At PixelMill, we’re moving away from custom navigation due to the fact that Microsoft’s app bar will soon be a required feature. Whenever possible, it’s best to use the out-of-the-box options provided.

“Anticipate change on how your navigation is going to work. A lot of the bullet points I have I want you to think about such as that navigation should meet people’s needs. There’s a couple of different ideas on dropdown navigation that Microsoft provides, in particular the global navigation provides you something a little more less complex, a little more scan friendly. But that Mega app provides often more. What organizations are looking for now, since this organization had delivered this particular result, the app bar was launched within SharePoint. And now you can turn it off, but soon you’re going to be forced to have the app bar.

I will admit to you that I’m leaning more towards moving away from custom navigation because of the the global navigation provided by Microsoft, the app bar. The approach that they’re taking a navigation makes me want to use more of the Microsoft solution, which is normal in general. I want to see things done everything out of the box. I want to see you focusing on using the tools that Microsoft provides you and build a solution from there.”

34:54 – #5: Personalization

The purpose of a SharePoint intranet is to supply your employees with the information they need. So why not go the extra step and personalize it with things like time zone information and cafeteria menus to save them valuable time?

“Personalization to me is super key, and you’re hearing this a lot around making portals within SharePoint feel like it’s tailored to me. And I’m just going to keep hammering this to you until personalization is like first and foremost. There’s some easy ones, which is like the personalized news. That’s an out of the box web part that Microsoft provides. Now it does require that you create content, of course, and that it makes sense as content that is tagged in a way that SharePoint is able to actually figure out what should be personalized about it. But there’s other things that – I think they help. It’s hard to show KPIs on this, I readily admit that. But things like messaging where it says ‘welcome user,’ where you have a simple web part that provides local time zones. If you’re an organization that has people in more than a few times zones, being able to have some primary time zones…we used to have things like Today’s Menu, where if you have multiple offices and people are in office, you know what office people are in, there’s cafeterias in those offices.

To be able to have a system that knows where I’m in this office, and this is what’s on the menu today. These are things that people actually want to know. And if they’re going to find this out, they’re going to waste 5-10 minutes figuring it out somehow. If you could give it to them in 30 seconds, you’re saving time to be able to send one more Teams message, to send one more email. To be able to be that extra little productive and you’re unblocking people. And this adds up, it truly does.”

39:05 – #6: Customization

Microsoft provides many options for you to customize your SharePoint experience. From panels to slider and progress bars, make use of these options while ensuring that you are following the best practices as prescribed by the Microsoft community.

“Components should look like they belong within SharePoint. And the way that I see you doing that is using what’s called the PnP Community, the patterns practices community. Google that: SharePoint PnP will get you into the community…Microsoft has released some components that you can use to build panels and form elements and sliders and progress bars, and all kinds of things, people pickers, people face pile kind of things. They’ve built these components that you can use in your customization so that your things that you build look like SharePoint, look like Teams. They look like they belong in Microsoft 365. And that to me is really key to making this stuff work. Besides that, of course, I really want to see you building tools, building your customizations, using the most successful patterns that the community has helped develop that Microsoft is recommending.”

45:54 – #7: Extensibility

Don’t forget to create the necessary documentation and resources to keep your SharePoint intranet going even after original project team members move on to new roles or leave the company.

“We want to build a solution knowing that it can be extended and take the evolutionary steps that are going to occur into account. Potentially maybe without people there, with original implementers there, or original decision makers there, or sponsors there, or even us, the leaders of a project, those would be on the call. You may have moved on to a different role or something happens. So you want to build these solutions to be maintained and extended in the future. Key to this to me is documentation. That you’ve documented what you did, and that it’s stored in a spot that could be retrieved by people so they can understand why the decision points were made.

By being as out of the box as possible, that allows your solution to evolve with Microsoft as easily as possible. And as much as I showed you some fun, cool customizations, trying to make them as light as possible, as light touch as possible…So following what the PnP Community is doing and what they’re leading is definitely going to make you most likely to have a successful long-term solution.”

50:24 – #8: Migration path

Divide and conquer when it comes to SharePoint migration by spreading the responsibility out between impacted departments. Give plenty of heads up, guidance, and support along the way.

“Some of the best migrations I’ve seen is where the migration is split up by the departments that are going to be migrating their particular data. So if you’ve got 10 departments, you really want to help enable those 10 departments to help you with the migration. And you don’t just say, ‘Hey tomorrow, I need your help.’ No. In six months we’re going to be doing a migration, three months we’re doing a migration. Each department’s going to be needing to help with this. And your project sponsors up to the highest level possible is onboard with this. You’ve got to get them on board.

And you’re helping prepare everyone that this is going to happen. You help them call out who those people are going to be that will do the migration. You create documentations and plans for them so that they know how to actually do the migration. And then you support those people as they’re enabled to actually do the migration of the content. Because you’re going to find a lot of these people don’t know what they’re doing, and you’re going to have to help them through this.”

53:02 – #9: Go live

Prepare all employees for the arrival of the new SharePoint intranet so that the final launch is exciting, not frustrating. Consider appointing “champions” throughout your company to act as cheerleaders and a sounding board for issues and suggestions.

“We don’t want your organization to be shocked by this new thing. We’re going to shut things down Friday night, Monday morning, everyone comes in and they can’t find it. They can’t find what they’re looking to do to get their job done. That’s not what we’re looking for. And it causes frustrations and friction that you really don’t need.

Creating a champions program prior to the launch of this, and empowering them maybe through the entire process, definitely into migration and beyond is helpful. And what I mean by that, and another client did this, where every department, every larger group, had to have a Microsoft 365 champion within the organization, within their specific department. I was assigned by each department. And I will admit, some of those people weren’t thrilled to be champions. But it was part of their job, and they did it. So you’ve got these people within your organization in these different departments who can help be your eyes and ears within that department, and can also help convey the messaging that you’re trying to convey.”

Make sure to check out the next episode of the PixelMill Webinar Series on 10/28!

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