A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a SharePoint Migration

Article by Gokan Ozcifci – requested by Metalogix.com – thoughts are my own.

With the new era of mobile first-cloud first, many organizations are looking for alternative solutions to replace their legacy environments and platforms. In fact, there are many ways to migrate from an on-premises environments to Office 365 or Azure.

This blog post will highlight how beginners can approach their SharePoint migration and lay out a few tried and tested action plans to help you get started on your big move. It’ll also detail how you can successfully define your roadmap, strategy, and goals for a successful SharePoint migration.

Before we dive into how you can set up your pre-migration strategy, let’s first discuss the four big transitions you’ll have to consider.

The Different Paths to Modern Management

The following image explains the four transitions and migrations that can be executed—successful or not.

Paths to Modern Management

  • Cloud-first

The Cloud-first path is perfect for startups, as there is no need for a migration. Essentially, everything is created in the cloud. Think: Cloud first and only cloud.

  • Big Switch Transition

The Big Switch path is often considered the most risky strategy, as organizations can never verify if the transition (also known as “big bang transition”) will end up as a success or a failure.

  • Group by Group Transition

The Group by Group transition is the most secure migration strategy, as organizations can migrate stack per stack (e.g. cloud hybrid search, hybrid metadata, hybrid OneDrive, etc.) or via user group by user Group (e.g. millennials, gen X, etc.).

  • Iterative (Co-management)

The Iterative transition helps build bridges between “your premises” and “their premises,” which is also known as a hybrid configuration. In many cases, this is the most complex and expensive path.

In a practical real-world scenario, it doesn’t necessarily matter exactly which migration strategy you execute. In any case, you should define a pre-migration and post-migration strategy.

Analyze Your Drawbacks & Design the Technology

Many migrations fail not because of their technology limitations, but because basic concepts are fundamentally unacknowledged. As the SharePoint or Office 365 administrator or architect, you need to fully consider the following skills:

  • Don’t view the migration as an as-is migration and assume that everything will suddenly work without implementing any architectural changes. Check for deprecated or added features, and if necessary, modify your topology.
  • Never ignore custom solutions, as they can be extremely critical to your business owners.
  • Communicate with your champions and organize meetings. Assess what your business owners’ requirements are. Benefit from these meetings to see what the drawbacks of today are and design the technology of tomorrow.
  • Get to know about the culture of the organization. For example, don’t propose a Yammer-based solution if the IT Director of your organization doesn’t like conversations. The business and business requirements should drive the technology, not the other way around.
    • To know about the organization’s culture, collect feedback—use Microsoft Forms.
    • Organize 1-on-1 champion/influencer/stakeholder interviews.
    • See all SharePoint-related ticket history for at least 1 year back.

Select Your Champions & Influencers

Champions and influencers

After those meetings, 1-on-1s, and workshops, it’s up to you to define your strategy and propose it to different stacks, such as IT, C-Level Managers, and Business Owners.

Essentially, your strategy should contain 3 parts: the definition, vision, and goals.

Here is a real world example:


  • Migrate to Office 365 and use Modern Collaboration Apps running anywhere at anytime.


  • Organization X wants to improve their productivity by providing the modern workplace empowered by Office 365.


  • No server, no cry: Serverless in X years.

As you can see, I have a clear definition. I want to use the modern collaboration apps anywhere, and those apps should be my base for my next modern workplace. All of them contain one goal: having a Serverless environment in the coming years.

Whenever you have your strategy defined and validated by the different stacks, it’s time to report. Communicate the following via emails, campaigns, innovative sessions, or meetings to concerned groups:

  • Communicate your vision & goals.
  • Communicate your strategy.
  • Communicate your roadmap.


  • Communicate what you can’t produce.
  • Communicate what’s out of scope.
  • Communicate too fast.

Now that we have our strategy validated by the different stacks, it’s time to begin with our transition. But before we talk about executing the migration, we need to know how our SharePoint environment is looking—hopefully, it’s not overloaded. Many organizations have poorly implemented and integrated SharePoint environments! The following needs to be addressed before issuing any migration tasks.

1. Think about your present needs.

  • How many users do I have? How many Sites and Site Collections?
  • What’s the average size of my database?
  • What are the geographical needs of my organization?
  • Are stand by terms familiar within the organization?
  • How critical are my sites?

2. Think about your future needs.

  • What will the size of my databases be in the future?
  • What is the expected user growth?
  • Is topology scalability a must for my next environment?

3. Are there any customizations that can be replaced by out-of-the-box capabilities?

  • What kinds of customization do you have in the organization? Full Trust Solutions or Provider Hosted Apps?
    • How many do I have? Can they be replaced by OOTB features?
    • Is there integration with other applications or complex workflows?
  • Any Custom Master Pages?

4. Time is money.

  • How many waves do I have? (e.g. Pre-production, Qualify, DR, HA, if you are still on-premises.)
  • How long do I have per wave?
  • Are my wave priorities set depending on goals, vision, strategy, and roadmap?

5. Does my schedule include monitoring, identity federation, network optimizations, etc.?

6. Prepare a test scenario for your newly created environment.

  • Ensure that everything is migrated successfully
  • Run/test all workloads
    • Including solutions – think full trust solutions
    • Worst case scenarios – think disaster recovery environment
    • New capabilities and their integration – think Flow, PowerApps
    • New experiences – think Hybrid Search Service Application
  • Check all user permissions
  • Remove access to the old SharePoint

These responses are not only going to influence your way of work, they will also help you decide if the platform is going to be a fully SaaS or IaaS/PaaS environment.


Migrations aren’t easy. It requires a lot of input from different stacks, business owners, and technology related decisions.

In the end, it’s important to stay aware of the following tips:

  • Migrations are phased, so they should be flexible and not technology-driven.
  • Migrations are iterative, so you need to plan, execute, and release. Your governance strategy should determine if you migrate per site, stack, or content database.
  • Migrations are error-prone, so be prepared for errors, as each environment has his own difficulties.
  • Remember to inventory and define what will be Removed, Transformed, or Modified.
  • Communicate the changes and what’s coming next.


Always remember that each site should be “RTMified.”

  • Remove
    • Legacy files and unused sites.
    • Unnecessary connections to third parties.
  • Transform
    • Get rid of legacy applications and use PowerApps, Flow, Planner, Delve, etc.
    • Use out-of-the-box functionalities and capabilities when possible.
  • Migrate
    • Manually
    • PowerShell
    • Metalogix Expert

Kick Start Your Migration Project with Metalogix

If you’re ready to get started on your migration project, check out Metalogix Expert!

This powerful (and free) tool gives you insight into every part of your SharePoint migration strategy, including how to optimize your storage infrastructure and safeguard against security risks. See how you can develop your pre-migration strategy and get on the fast track to migrating your environment with Metalogix Expert.

I own a company and work a lot with #SharePoint. Entrepreneur. Microsoft Regional Director and @MVPAward for Office Servers and Services.

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