I just returned from speaking at SharePointFest Chicago, where I presented two sessions dealing with the changes underway in SharePoint as organizations begin transitioning workloads to the cloud. With the push toward Office 365 and SharePoint Online, many organizations are once again considering the state of their enterprise collaboration environments, whether SharePoint or a competing platform, and contemplating their options for improving communication and content sharing across the organization.
I use the word "transition" intentionally, because the move to the cloud for most organization is not an upgrade nor a simple migration, but something that involves a complete re-thinking of how they've architected their environment, how they'll move their solutions and data into the cloud, and how they'll manage their environment while in transition and once in the cloud.
For many, the move to SharePoint 2010 still feels relatively recent (and it may have been very recent). For them, until a strong business case can be made for moving to the latest version, they're focused on getting the most out of their current investments. For many other organizations, they're seeing internal teams and business units pushing toward the latest social and collaboration offerings, urging IT to enable more solutions in the cloud.
For those who may have made the jump to the latest version of SharePoint (2013), whether online or on premises, more than likely the process of moving was less than ideal. Migrations can be messy. Some aspects can be (and should be) driven by the end users, but if your environment contains any degree of complexity, your move was probably more of a centralized effort. Migrations are an iterative process. But migrations are also an opportunity to reorganize, to clean up and restart your governance strategy (or to put a missing strategy in place), and to establish more robust change management practices based on your extensive and seasoned experience with SharePoint.
This time of transition is also an opportunity to re-establish your information architecture, clean up and organize your site topology, your taxonomy, your content types and templates. It is a good time to clean up roles and permissions, and to reaffirm your content retention and compliance policies. And it is a time for improving the user experience, simplifying the interface for some business activities—automating others through workflow, forms, and business process alignments to improve adoption.
In my session, "Baby-Stepping Into the Cloud with Hybrid Workloads" (my slides are available on SlideShare), I made the case that for many organizations, this transition may not mean a wholesale move from your current infrastructure investments, but a hybrid approach that allows you to keep the solutions that are meeting your business requirements today, while transitioning other workloads to the cloud. For some, it makes total sense to get out of the infrastructure business and move to the cloud—and valid reasons for others to stay put on prem. And you don't need to roll out an entirely new platform to clean up, refresh, and realign. For many companies, hybrid deployments will be the standard for the next few years.
As you start thinking about building out your hybrid environment, remember that there may be differences between how content and systems can be managed on prem versus in the cloud. For example, if your plan is to keep SharePoint on prem for your intranet, but utilize SharePoint Online for a customer or partner extranet, activities like permissions management are different between the platforms. Some reports available on prem are not available online, and without a third-party solution to centralize this activity, you will need to maintain them separately—which means more overhead, and more governance oversight. Other areas where you should consider the on prem and online differences include:
- Location / facilities
- Software licenses and support
- Hardware and maintenance
- Onsite support, personnel skills
- Level of customization
- Governance, auditing, security, compliance
- Disaster recovery and business continuity
- Upgrades and migration
Migrations have never been easy in the SharePoint world, but moving to the cloud doesn't necessarily have to be painful. Successful transitions are those that take an iterative path forward, beginning with the easiest workloads and gradually focusing on more difficult or complex workloads.
If you're looking for help, Microsoft has done an excellent job at providing online resources (check out success.office.com) and even funding to help you with your migration, as well as with adoption of the Office 365 platform. And then there is always the huge partner network, with companies like mine—GTconsult, who can help you with everything from planning and prioritization of workloads, to managing your migration and training needs on the Office 365 platform.
Moving to the cloud can come with complexity, but there's more help than ever before in moving your existing SharePoint infrastructure to a more cost-effective and scaleable cloud model.