Congratulations – you've done your research and have decided moving your company’s on-premises content to the cloud is the right solution. So what's next?
Whether you are thinking of going all in on Office 365 or going hybrid, don’t fall into blind action and jump rashly into the migration process. A stress-free Office 365 implementation is no small feat – it takes smart planning, deliberate decisions and time.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to hedge your bets and fine-tune the workflow to get the deployment up and running.
To help you go about it as smooth as possible, we built this Office 365 implementation checklist.
Download our free guide: Office 365 Implementation Checklist for more info.
Don’t overdo it – break up the migration process and take one step at a time.
As you would with any other project, start planning your Office 365 implementation by creating a set of priorities and objectives to get the ball rolling.
Don’t tackle all implementation tasks at once. Rather, break up the migration process into different workstreams with dedicated timeframes that allow you to have a lock on the pace of the deployment, while keeping individual tasks serialized.
Factor in sufficient time to properly plan, prepare, and push the move through. However, don’t necessarily think of the individual migration phases as self-contained stages – tasks you have outlined in the planning and preparation phase may occur simultaneously while preparation tasks and those scheduled in your migration phase will quite likely overlap some of the time.
Phase 1: Plan your Office 365 implementation
Let’s get things moving. Start off your Office 365 implementation project by collecting information about your current IT environment and developing deployment strategies for Office 365.
- Get everyone on board
Schedule a kickoff meeting to launch your Office 365 implementation project and familiarize your deployment team members with the overall goals and scope of the project. Clarify and communicate responsibilities so everyone knows what they’ve signed up for.
- Discover your IT infrastructure
Collect facts and figures about your existing IT environment to capture an up-to-date snapshot of the technology solutions implemented by your company. Take stock and check if your on-premises environment meets the requirements for an Office 365 setup:
- Servers and components
- Network architecture and DNS
- Authentication solutions
- Directory design
- Mail routing
- Hardware and software
- Mail and other client applications
- Mail archiving and compliance
To assist you with the inventory, Microsoft provides Office 365 readiness checks. The automated tool gathers configuration requirements for the services you want to set up and performs readiness checks against your on-premises environment to ensure that requirements are met, informing you of any issues in your environment that might impede the deployment of Office 365.
Another great source of support is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit. Offered as an automated, multi-product planning and assessment tool, it delivers detailed readiness assessment reports, along with comprehensive hardware and software information, and actionable advice to help you speed up your IT infrastructure planning process and collect more information on assets residing within your current on-premises environment.
- Outline an implementation agenda
Come up with a migration agenda to schedule your Office 365 implementation tasks and track the workstream progress.
- Decide on a mailbox migration strategy
Evaluate if you need to purchase any third-party email migration toolsets and check on hardware requirements.
- Assess mailbox size and item counts
Identify the size of mailboxes and number of items in mailboxes that you will migrate to Office 365 (mailbox size and item count, along with available network bandwidth, will impact your migration velocity).
- Identify existing business-related content that needs to be migrated
Decide which files, folders or any other existing business-related content needs to be moved from your on-premises environment to Office 365. In case you plan to migrate Office templates, be aware that upgrading your Office client could possibly lead to file format changes and, as a result, to issues when trying to launch built-in macros in a template.
- Learn about different options for user identity and account provisioning
Office 365 provides several mechanisms to add employees to the service and manage user accounts.
- Define your email coexistence strategy
Email coexistence is a key feature offered by Office 365. For companies with Exchange Server environments, email coexistence allows a connection to be established between the on-premises environment and Exchange Online.
- Test network bandwidth
Test the bandwidth of your company network to calculate migration velocity.
- Choose your mobile platforms
Plan for any changes required to the mobile platforms used by your company with the move to Office 365. Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync allows employees to synchronize their mobile devices with their Exchange Online mailboxes.
- Work up a communications strategy
Schedule notifications for employees to inform them of when they will need to start working with Office 365 and provide clear instructions regarding what they will need to do to switch to the cloud environment smoothly.
Phase 2: Prepare your move to Office 365
You’re almost there. In the second phase of your Office 365 implementation project, focus on cleaning up your on-premises environment to gear up for migration.
- Add and verify your domain name with Office 365
Add your domain to Office 365 through the Microsoft Online Services Portal and create the DNS records to route domain traffic to Office 365.
- Clean up your on-premises Active Directory for directory synchronization
Prepare your on-premises Active Directory (and update, if necessary) for synchronization with Office 365.
- Enable single sign-on
Install and configure identity federation servers on-premises and activate the single sign-on service.
- Install the Directory Synchronization Tool and synchronize
Install and configure Directory synchronization servers on-premises and activate Directory synchronization to provision user accounts for an Exchange hybrid deployment.
Editors note: Read everything you need to know about Azure AD and Passthrough authentication here.
- Configure your email coexistence
Install and configure Exchange hybrid servers on-premises to enable communication between your existing Exchange servers and Exchange Online.
- Configure SharePoint Online
Prepare for deployment of any custom SharePoint solutions and migration of existing SharePoint content.
- Configure Lync Online
Configure domain federation and public IM connectivity settings to boost your network for Lync conferencing.
- Install client applications and Office 365 desktop setup
Install client applications and deploy the Office 365 desktop setup to ensure client applications are properly updated and configured for Office 365.
Phase 3: Take the final steps: Going all in on Office 365
It’s time to move mailboxes and business-related content from your on-premises environment to Office 365. Here’s what to do in a nutshell:
- Assign licenses
If you have not already done so in the preparation phase, assign licenses to employees through the Microsoft Online Services Portal to grant access to Office 365. Enable Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online.
- Inform of the migration
Get the word out to employees on when the migration is going to happen, how long the process will take, and what they need to do on their part to switch to the new platform.
- Migrate mailboxes
Start to migrate mailboxes to Exchange Online (use your selected Exchange migration tools or third-party solutions). To boost migration velocity of mailbox content, you may need to reduce the size of mailboxes.
- Move existing files and folders
Use third-party migration tools to move existing Office documents and templates from your current on-premises environment to Office 365.
- Change DNS records
Once you have completed all migrations, change your DNS records to your domain registrar.
- Configure mobile phones and devices for Office 365
Set up user mobile phones along with any other mobile devices to access emails and Office documents on the go. Alternatively, send out clear instructions to employees on how to connect to Office 365 from their mobile devices.
Talking mobility in the workplace: In order to work with Office templates on mobile devices, you may need to rethink your template management approach, especially if your Office templates contain VBA code (your employees will only be able to use them on a classic Office client on a PC).
- Perform a post-migration service testing
After migrations are completed, perform a full-scale testing of the Office 365 service functionality.
- Check your Office templates
Test your most important Office templates. See if they launch correctly upon the move and examine whether there have been any faulty changes in style and formatting. If some of your Office templates link to other Office files or integrate with CRM or ERP systems, test those connections too (you might experience security warnings that you need to take care of).
And you’re all set! No migration is perfect, but detailed planning is the best way to prepare for your Office 365 implementation.
Have any questions or issues with your Office templates during the migration project? We’re happy to help. Get in touch with our Account Manager Egil Andreu Gräs Clavel with your comments
or download our free guide: Office 365 Implementation Checklist for more info.