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End users will make or break an Office 365 migration

When migrating to Office 365, IT admins need to keep the end users in mind. That was the big takeaway from a training session at a Virtual Technology User Group event in Maine.

An Office 365 migration can improve an end user's experience by making it easier to work in a mobile environment while also keeping Office 365 features up to date. But if the migration is done without the end users in mind, it can lead to headaches for IT admins.

At a Virtual Technology User Group (VTUG) event in Westbrook, Maine, about 30 attendees piled into a Westbrook Middle School classroom to hear tips on how to transition to Office 365 smoothly.

Office 365 is Microsoft's subscription-based line of Office applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and Excel. Rather than downloaded onto a PC, Office 365 apps are run in the cloud, enabling users to access their files wherever they are.

"As IT admins, we need to make the digital transformation technology seem easy," said Jay Gilchrist, business development manager for Presidio Inc., a cloud, security and digital infrastructure vendor in York and a managed service provider for Microsoft. Gilchrist and his Presidio colleague, enterprise software delivery architect Michael Cessna, led the session, outlining lessons they've learned from previous Office 365 migrations.

Importance of communication and training

Their lessons included communicating with end users, keeping a tight migration schedule and the importance of training.

"You want to make it clear that you're not just making a change for change's sake," Gilchrist said. "Communicate these changes as early as possible and identify users who may need a little more training."

One practical tip he offered is to reserve the organization's name in Office 365 early to ensure it's available.

You want to make it clear that you're not just making a change for change's sake.
Jay GilchristBusiness development manager, Presidio

Conducting presentations, crafting targeted emails and working to keep the migration transparent can help IT admins keep end users up to date and enthused about the transition.

"End users are not information professionals," Cessna said. "They don't understand what we understand and these changes are a big deal to them."

Cessna and Gilchrist said that if IT admins want end users to adopt apps in Office 365, they'll need to provide the right level of training. IT admins can do that by providing internal training sessions, using external resources such as SharePoint Training Sites, as well as letting users work with the apps in a sandbox environment. Training will help end users get used to how the apps work and address questions end users may have in real time, thereby reducing helpdesk tickets once the Office 365 migration is completed. 

Governance and deployment

Before an Office 365 migration, IT admins need to have a governance of applications and deployment in place.

"Governance built within Microsoft isn't really there," Cessna said. "You can have 2,000 users and still have 4,500 Team sessions and now you have to manage all that data. It's good to take care of governance at the beginning."

Deployment of Office 365 is another aspect that IT admins need to tackle at the start of an Office 365 migration. They need to determine what versions are compatible with the organization's OS and how the organization will use the product.

"It's important to assess the digital environment, the OSes, what versions of Office are out there and ensure the right number of licenses," Cessna said.

Securing and backing up enterprise data

One existing concern for organizations migrating from on-premises to an Office 365 cloud environment is security.

Microsoft provides tools that can help detect threats and secure an organization's data. Microsoft offers Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a cloud-based email filtering service that helps protect against malware, Windows Defender ATP, an enterprise-grade tool to detect and respond to security threats, and Azure ATP, which accesses the on-premises Active Directory to identify threats.

Microsoft has also added emerging security capabilities such as passwordless log in, single-sign-on and multi-factor authentication to ensure data or files don't get compromised or stolen during an Office 365 migration.

Regulated organizations such as financial institutions that need to retain data for up to seven years will need to back up Office 365 data, as Microsoft provides limited data storage capabilities, according to Cessna.

Microsoft backs up data within Office 365 for up to two years in some cases, and only for one month in other cases, leaving the majority of data backup to IT.

"[Microsoft] doesn't give a damn about your data," he said. "Microsoft takes care of the service, but you own the data."

Picking the right license

Once the organization is ready for the migration, it's important to choose the right Office 365 license, according to Gilchrist.

There are several ways for an organization to license an Office 365 subscription. Gilchrist said choosing the right one depends on the size of the organization and the sophistication of the organization's IT department.

The subscription choices for Office 365.
When deciding on which Office 365 subscription to license, it's important to examine the size and scope of your organization and decide which offering works best for you.

Smaller businesses can choose an option of licenses for 300 or less users, as well as options for add-ons like a desktop version of Office and advanced security features. The cost for enterprise licenses differs depending on the scope of the licenses and number of licenses needed, and educational and non-profit discounts on licenses are offered as well.

Other licensing options include Microsoft 365 bundles, which combine Office 365 with a Windows 10 deployment, or organizations could use Microsoft as a Cloud Solution Provider and have the company handle the heavy lifting of the Office 365 migration.

"There are different ways to do it. You just have to be aware of the best way to license for your business," Gilchrist said.

Measuring success and adoption

Once completed, IT still has one more objective, and that's to prove the worth of an Office 365 migration.

"This is critical and these migrations aren't cheap," Cessna said. "You want to show back to the business the ROI and what this world looks like."

To do that, IT admins will have to circle back to their end users. They can use tools such as Microsoft's Standard Office 365 Usage Reports, Power BI Adoption reports or other application measurement software to pin down end user adoption and usage rates. They can provide additional training, if necessary.

"Projects fail because the end users aren't happy," Cessna said. "We don't take them into account enough. Our end users are our customers and we need to make sure they're happy."

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