The Importance of Being Pro – in Office 365 project management

“Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone”, says Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s satirical play The Importance of Being Earnest. Now, I’m no exotic fruit but, unlike Lady Bracknell, I’m all for education and learning. Just preferably not the hard way – which is often the way many organisations learn about the importance of professional project management when migrating to Microsoft Office 365. Here’s how to avoid the pain and experience a smooth migration to Microsoft Office 365.

In my role in professional services project management, people come to me with all manner of part-deployed Office 365 migrations. And the story is always the same: despair. Can you help us? they ask. Yes, we reply. But as any seasoned migration specialist will tell you: picking up a part-deployed migration is going to hurt.

The Dangers

Choosing Office 365 is a huge step forward for any business and, when managed well, it’s a game-changer. However, you MUST have a clear and precise plan for delivery. If you don’t, you’ll leave your company like Britain in the wake of the Brexit vote: in complete disarray. We’ve said we want to do this, but what next?

The key points of failure

Technology analysts at Bloor Research tell us that a massive 38% of cloud migrations fail. So where does it all go wrong? Here are four reasons that I hear nearly every week:

  1. I didn’t understand the extent of my environment
  2. Communications were poor
  3. My IT partner wasn’t experienced
  4. We had no deployment plan

All of these seriously hamper – and can even stop – migrations. In all cases the result is the same. Business downtime, a disgruntled workforce and an unimpressed client base. All things you could do without.

The Secrets

Know your environment

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Above all, know your environment. Whether you’re tackling the migration yourself or through a partner, you must know what you need to migrate. Few small-medium organisations happen to have an in-house migration specialist leading the project. But be warned: if you don’t have total understanding of your IT environment – users, folders and mailboxes can be left behind during migration.

Communication is king

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” – Winston Churchill

All successful Office 365 migrations have this in common. There are two key channels of communication. Internal and external. Internally, communicate clearly with key stakeholders and your workforce. Time schedules, participation requirements, impact on service and most importantly what to do in the event of an issue. Create a defined action plan and make sure everyone who is affected by the migration is aware.

Externally, communications between partner and project leader should be exceptional. You should finish your migration and want to take them to dinner. Best friends. Always have your finger on the migration pulse. Regular email updates and weekly conference calls with your partner are a bare minimum.

Picking a partner

“Partnerships are good engines for narrative.” – Tommy Lee Jones

At Cloud Direct we strive for a partnership so strong you would happily agree to be a case study for success. That’s what you’re looking to achieve for your Office 365 migration. The best way to do this is to ask your potential Office 365 partner for client references.

You’ll also want a Microsoft accredited partner. In particular, look out for a Microsoft gold direct Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) for small to midsize organisations.

Clarity of deployment strategy

“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is fundamental to success. Straight out of the gate look for Prince2 Project Management and ISO accreditations – ISO 20000 (for world-class service) and ISO 27001:2013 (for world-class information security). You want total clarity at all times. A good project plan has defined stages where you can pause, review and address as appropriate.

With Office 365 this is essential. Users operate right up to the point of cut over so changes are constant. With a clear strategy you can be confident in the work to be completed.

Finally, if you use a migration partner make sure you know what you are entitled to. You don’t want to cut over and experience issues to find that they aren’t covered as part of your migration package.

The Cloud Direct way

At Cloud Direct, migrations are our bread and butter. In fact, the last 10 Office 365 migrations that have come across my desk all agreed to be case studies. So what makes them so keen to share their story?

Good project management plays a key part in that. We have designed our Office 365 migration process in four stages to make sure our customers have the best experience possible. Here’s a brief outline of them:

1. Our engineers will go through a Technical Qualification Form with you to map your environment.

2. We then issue you a Statement of Work defining exactly what is to be completed and when. We will not start work until you sign off to say you are happy.

3. After a successful migration to Office 365 you then enter your ‘cooling off’ period where your engineer will be on hand to assist with any questions you have post migration.

4. Finally, a Completion Statement is issued to be signed by you. This confirms you’re happy with the work completed and are ready to be introduced to your account manager.

Want to know more?

Please feel free to contact me directly – or you can check out our website

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