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Why Use a Trusted Partner When Going to Office 365?

Tags: Charlotte , Office 365

Moving to the cloud, and Office 365 in specific, has become a new reachable option for organizations in the last few years as business demands new functionality and IT looks at refresh cycles. Thanks to all the innovation in these spaces there are a myriad of options available that may or may not fit the businesses need, or the company's future requirements. The drawback to all these choices becomes determining which is the best fit for your organization from so many, exacerbated by a landscape that is changing almost every day, and how to implement it once decided upon.
One of the major selling points of the cloud is the "one size fits all" message, and the economies of scale that this is envisioned to bring. That doesn’t mean purchasing licenses blindly and hoping it works as we have to keep business needs in mind by evaluating how much can be moved to the cloud and working with your partner to make sure it's what you really need.
Sorting through all these technologies and choices on your own can feel like competing in a three-legged race without another participant strapped to you (but you are still hobbled!). Companies looking to migrate some or all of their workloads to the cloud should make sure they find an experienced implementation and process partner to help guide them through the migration journey. Investing in expert assistance with requirement gathering, design, deployment, and organizational adoption will help ensure a successful implementation.
BetterCloud, a Cloud management company, has released the latest data from its Trends in Cloud IT survey which shows that most responders state that cloud adoption is better with a partner. Their cloud project data shows that satisfaction increases when working with a partner, with large enterprises 22% more likely to be satisfied, mid-sized organizations are 11% happier, and Small-to-Medium Businesses are happier still with 92% being pleased with the results.
So where to start? Working with your partner, you'll want to make this an achievable goal and break down this journey into 6 major phases: Discover, Plan, Build, Deploy, Support, and Measure. While detailing out these phases may seem obvious at first glance, fleshing out each one will help uncover hidden gotcha’s or blocking unknowns that can derail a project.


Just as in any project, a determination of what will be migrated and who is impacted will be needed by deciding which workloads to migrate first and why they are the best candidates. If needed, this migration can start conservatively and build up your cloud presence over time, consuming more services as the business is ready for them. This analysis includes which Office 365 features will be targeted, licensing types, content that will be moving, applications to be moved, the user base that will use which new features, brand management, and security of this content. The last portion of scope that is usually forgotten is to define what the success criteria will be to measure against when all is said and done. This allows the organization to ensure success is achieved, or to know what items weren't met to address in the future.


In this phase we work through the defined scope items and create a plan to implement them, including detailing out a pilot roll-out versus the primary migration. These plan items will include infrastructure reviews and build-outs, bandwidth/connectivity base-lining, content analysis that may include addressing legal/regulatory issues, ongoing communications, user account mapping, feature roll-out, procurement's, and the migrations themselves.


Now we take our plan and begin implementing those items needing to be addressed before the true migration begins. This includes prerequisites such as infrastructure and licensing, remediation of current systems or content, as well as pre-communications to engage with the users and let them know about the great new features coming to drive interest. The communication part of preparation is just as important as the planning phase for working toward your success measures. When airplanes and cruise ships were initially introduced, they communicated about the user experience in order to make the new technology appealing and gain market share. If they hadn't, we might all still be using trains for traveling.


Once enough of the required preparation tasks have been completed from the plan, the migration can start by activating the pilot group tasks. This allows for battle-testing our plan and addressing any new issues to make the primary migration go smoothly for the user base. Once these issues are re-mediated then the primary user base communications and migration tasks can begin.


While there have been constant communications through the entire process, this phase is to wrap up the migration with the users and to ensure a good human impact by giving them resources for ongoing support and self-help. It also makes them feel involved by giving a sounding board for feedback and looking for future updates.


Finally, the migration needs to be measured and evaluated based on those items defined in the Scope phase. This can be as specific as verifying new bandwidth baselines and adoption numbers, or as amorphous as polling the user base for feedback on features and the process as a whole. Asking them for what features they'd like to use in the future, or their next business problems that need solving can also help measure success or improvements needed.


Improving business results and achieving greater customer objectives should be the primary driver to move towards cloud services, not just reducing costs. Organizations should view the cloud as a business enabler, a competitive advantage, and an avenue for becoming closer to your customers. A trusted partner will feel this with you and make sure that crossing your finish line in the cloud three-legged race is the only important goal.

If you are ready and interested in making that infrastructure/application move to the cloud, you may be eligible for support funds from Microsoft that can be applied to a partner's services. Contact us for more details, we look forward to helping.


About The Author

Business Productivity Managing Consultant
Craig is a Managing Consultant for Cardinal Solutions Charlotte office.  He leads client initiatives on Microsoft platforms to help solve business problems by envisioning and architecting Office 365, SharePoint, .NET, and JavaScript/jQuery solutions. Craig has worked with Microsoft development and server technology's for the last 15 years, including integrating SharePoint since it was a beta product.