How to get the best from your move to Microsoft Office 365

How to get the best from your move to Microsoft Office 365

Dell EMC's Ed Woodrick says understanding optimal migration and integration is key to successful adoption 

Caspar Herzberg |

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of The Record.

Microsoft Office 365 is an important part of workforce transformation, providing a suite of cloud services designed to change the way people work. However, getting the best from the move to this connected ecosystem involves some key considerations for businesses.

Maintaining security and trust is critical for a successful move to a cloud or hybrid environment. It’s important to determine the right level of security for information, plan how to protect sensitive data uploaded to Office 365 and ensure that network security meets any guidelines for protection against unauthorised access. Identity management and single sign-on solutions are key enablers for both on-premises Microsoft applications and Office 365. Determine how to protect data uploaded to Office 365, giving special considerations to data considered private or sensitive such as rich employee profile data/metadata which is typically sourced from Active Directory or your HR system.  Office 365’s Data Loss Protection and encryption features can be leveraged to safeguard sensitive personal data. While Office 365 includes capabilities to address regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation, it’s important to understand what those capabilities are and where any gaps may exist. Before migrating, the business should identify users under the auspices of eDiscovery to maintain chain of custody for their ­on-premises information and preserve litigation and retention holds. In some instances, action may also be needed to align Active Directory implementations with Office 365’s identity requirements, and this may affect other applications.

The move to Office 365 will change network traffic patterns, so it’s imperative to identify and manage risks to ensure that new and existing workloads perform as expected. This requires an understanding of which Office 365 services the business will be using, how the organisation will connect to Office 365, and whether the network can handle the increased traffic. Microsoft recommends a network readiness assessment to reveal weak areas, constraints and bottlenecks. Then the business can plan which network optimisations and best practices it should implement to meet the demands of Office 365 workloads.

Careful planning is essential to understand the optimal migration and integration scenarios based on groupings such as business groups, branch offices, application groups and geographical location. The business needs to know whether third-party tools will be required to migrate apps such as Google Mail or IBM Lotus Notes, for example, and how it will integrate on-premises Active Directory with Azure Active Directory. Migrations for existing messaging, SharePoint instances and files shares will benefit from careful planning and execution based on a repeatable methodology of defined groupings. It’s essential to determine which Office 365 services will need to be integrated with other applications ­on-premises or in the cloud (CRM, Azure apps or SaaS). 

Be prepared to accommodate exceptions. Identify entities that require special handling and understand any restrictions that may limit your ability to migrate. These include regulatory restrictions, Excel add-ons that aren’t supported in newer versions or need updating, and any workstations, devices, applications and operating systems not capable of supporting Office 365. Users with shared resources might need to be migrated together to maintain some functionalities.

Custom applications can be the reason why organisations delay moving to Office 365. Not only is it a big effort to rewrite custom widgets and apps, but many are concerned they won’t be able to customise the experience as much in Office 365 as they can on-premises. Analysis and planning are needed to determine which customisations, if any, are necessary in Office 365 and identify any need for remediation or replacement of third-party tools.

Once it has a cloud-based platform in place, the business may decide to maintain and administer its Office 365 environment or outsource day-to-day management to a Microsoft partner. Whichever choice is made, the support model should include robust self-service and peer-to-peer capabilities.

Adopting Office 365 is a fundamental cultural change requiring a whole new mindset, as the organisation transitions from focusing on infrastructure and platforms to user-centric applications and services. Strategies to manage that change successfully must be based on an understanding of the impact on stakeholders and users, as well as the impact on how they get work done. Communication is essential throughout the process of bringing on new services, and the IT team will need to transition from an infrastructure and software management group, to a product management-like group that engages end users on their needs, communicates new features and drives adoption. A training strategy is essential to ensure users receive the right training at the right time – before and after migration. And as updates and changes are frequent with the cloud operating model, it’s essential for the IT team to adopt an agile methodology for rolling out new feature releases, and plan for ongoing communication and training to ensure user adoption and benefits.

There are many dependencies, migrations and integrations to consider when planning to adopt Office 365, but you don’t have to do it alone. Dell EMC Consulting Services has helped businesses of all sizes to successfully adopt Office 365, leveraging expertise gained across hundreds of projects, to ensure smooth workforce transformation, achieve lower and more predictable IT spending, and enable new levels of productivity and innovation. 

Ed Woodrick is Office 365 solutions architect at Dell EMC Consulting Services. Read the ‘Office 365 Planning Considerations eBook’ in full. 


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