How to start your Microsoft 365 migration

Creating the necessary infrastructure and moving your functionality and content into the M365 ecosystem doesn't need to be daunting.

This article is a brief overview of our free Migration Whitepaper.

Published on April 13th, 2022

3 min read

The big picture

Like many projects, migrating into Microsoft 365 requires a structured approach.

You need to define your goals very clearly before you start configuring tenants, creating sites and moving content. If you don't, you'll end up solving problems which don't exist, with cost and effort you could have applied where it's really needed.

Read on for a summary.

Step 1 - Identify reasons for migrating

When you identify specific reasons for migrating, based on pain points reported by your users, you're setting yourself up to deliver the wins people are eagerly anticipating.

Be specific about these points, so you can be specific when you deliver on them.

When people are used to an on-premises environment, a few examples are:

I can't securely share important files with clients, partners or suppliers

Someone accidentally deleted something from a file share, now IT needs to restore a backup to get it back

Maintaining on-premises servers is costing our IT team time and money better spent elsewhere

We need to get an outside expert in for every little business process we want to automate

Step 2 - Confirm feasibility of cloud costs

Having a firm list of pain points to be addressed enables you to define which of the M365 components/apps you need to implement, and in what order of priority.

Investigate what's needed to implement each component, from the licensing, to the effort to move from your existing systems, to the monthly running costs.

Build a cost/benefit matrix of your intended solutions to enable an interrogation of the true value of each.

In some instances you may find that solutions sound great, but may not make sense immediately because of a combination of factors such as timing, systems integration complexity, and needing to deliver ROI on existing investment. Park these for phase 2.

Step 3 - Create your cloud presence

You can gradually adopt the various Microsoft 365 apps to deliver your planned solutions, but you need at least a tenant with Azure AD as an identity provider before your users can access any of the services.

Broadly speaking, your basics will be:

Create a M365/Azure AD tenant - Get started using Buy Now on the M365 plans page

Connect and sync your existing AD to Azure AD to enable login using existing credentials

Assign licenses to your users

Test access by logging into

Once your basic cloud presence is in place, you can start accessing the myriad of M365 apps available, assess and test functionality, and plan functionality and content migration.

Step 4 - Plan your content migration

In most scenarios, content is migrated in tranches over several weeks or months. You'll need to:

Create an inventory of your existing content to determine what you have, what you'll migrate, and what you'll archive

Evaluate the different containers (SharePoint Online, Teams, OneDrive) available as destinations

Map your migration paths from source to destination

Select a migration tool (we trust ShareGate)

Plan the operational migration processes you'll implement

Step 5 - Pilot

Testing your migration process by running a pilot with a complex portion of content is strongly advisable.

Running a pilot will help you discover issues you'll encounter in your production migration, such as:

Permission snags

List view limitations

Metadata mismatches

Step 6 - Migrate

Use the knowledge you've gained in your pilot phase to create a thorough production migration plan which takes into account:

Running times of large batches of content

Testing of access

Scheduling of cut-overs

Communication with users during downtime

Step 7 - Launch

Your role does not end once users start interacting with content in its shiny, new location.

To ensure that you fully solve the pain points identified in step 1, you need to keep lines of communication open and make the adoption of a new way of working as easy as possible.

Publish readily available simple, to-the-point "This is how you now do XYZ" documentation

Distribute Q&As at launch

Have a very clear channel for capturing and attending to questions or concerns

Appoint migration champions to help field queries and casually check in with their colleagues

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