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Including Migration in Your Social Collaboration Planning

6/15/15 5:24 AM

Guest blog post by Christian Buckley, Office 365 MVP

When I joined Microsoft back in 2006 on what is now the Office 365 team, the team was focused on finding and on-boarding new customers onto our hosted SharePoint platform. However, my team also had the responsibility of helping many of the internal SharePoint sites migrate to the 2007 platform. After leaving Microsoft in 2009, I spent the next five years helping design, build, and evangelize some of the leading SharePoint migration and administration tools on the market, and as such, am very familiar with the ins and outs of migrations.

Optimistically, once you move your SharePoint data to the cloud -- such as to Office 365, you will not need to perform another migration, because the platform will evolve around your data, always providing you with the latest and greatest features and capabilities. That's a major selling point of the cloud. But realistically, there will always be the need for some kind of migration to or from your SharePoint environment. Why? Your business needs will change over time, and new cloud and hybrid platforms will be integrated or replaced, requiring the movement of data, user profiles, and other collaboration elements. That's just the reality of enterprise systems. However, when selecting technology platforms, what customers really want is to avoid getting "stuck" with or "locked into" a solution that no longer meets their needs.

As an enterprise collaboration platform, SharePoint (whether on prem or online) has, for the most part, always been flexible in allowing third-party solutions to connect and move content (your documents and artifacts) and data (lists, metadata, variables) between hardware and between versions of SharePoint. However, many of these third-party solutions have been less than flexible, and in effect, held customer data as hostage. For the many years that I've been writing and speaking on the topic of social collaboration and SharePoint, companies have expressed their interest in some of the available partner solutions that integrate and extend SharePoint social capabilities, but have expressed their fears of the following:

  • Expensive licensing and exorbitant service fees
  • Social communities that are disconnected from their Intranet and key business processes
  • The administrative overhead of managing two different infrastructures or platforms
  • Years of valuable social content that was created on a legacy social platform, but that is no longer connected to the current solution

Of course, these concerns are not just shared by those organizations interested in social collaboration capabilities, but by SharePoint customers across the board. For example, I frequently hear from customers of their concerns around paying for third-party tools above and beyond what they’ve already paid for SharePoint, and yet few of them have done the math to understand the cost of buying a tool or hiring a solution integrator versus the incremental cost of doing it themselves, or analyzing the opportunity cost of NOT solving the problem. The costs of buying or hiring an expert are often lower than those incremental costs. Likewise, having content and communities that are disconnected from your primary Intranet and key business processes decreases the value of those social collaboration investments. In an effort to save money by doing nothing, companies may actually be losing money through inefficient and ineffective collaboration.

When I started investigating the Beezy solutions in early 2014, I met with the leadership team and shared some thoughts about the concerns of the typical SharePoint customer, and perceptions of social collaboration vendors as not meeting the migration needs of these companies. While Beezy is not a migration tools provider, they did recognize that filling the migration gap would help them solve a critical user experience (UX) pain: moving to a new social collaboration solution without losing legacy social data, communities, and content.

In fact, during the Microsoft Ignite Conference in May, Beezy announced that they are now offering the ability to migrate from any content source, whether Jive, IBM Connections, or Sitrion (formerly NewsGator), and provides integration with Yammer. Beezy gives customers the option of migrating everything across -- or a sub-set of their social data, if the customer wants to leverage the migration for data clean-up and restructuring. Also part of the announcement was support for migrations to either SharePoint on prem or SharePoint Online, which is part of the Office 365 platform.

My first question to the Beezy team was "What is actually moved from these other solutions?" Using the example of an IBM Connections migration to the Beezy solution on Office 365, the company will map and migrate user profiles, communities, the various gamification tools and solutions (badges, ratings, polls, etc.) and all other content. In other words, none of your legacy social content and collaborations will be lost, but moved and accessible on your new Beezy solution, which is built on top of SharePoint.


migration blog post

Another question that comes up often is scalability of the migration tools, and whether they were designed for small to mid-sized deployments or could handle enterprise-class migrations. Beezy is an enterprise-class social collaboration solution, and has been deployed on some of the largest SharePoint deployments in the world. The company shared some stats from a recent migration to help illustrate the scope and scale:

  • 100,000+ user profiles
  • 5,000+ communities
  • 100,000+ metadata tags
  • 10,000+ public blog entries
  • 10,000+ community blog entries
  • 5,000+ Forums
  • 12,500+ Forum Topics
  • 15,000+ wiki pages

While some SharePoint migration vendors attempt to make migrations look as simple as drag-and-drop, they seldom are that easy. They tend to be more of a phased, iterative process requiring plenty of up front planning and careful execution -- and depending on the source system, and the volume and complexity of the legacy content, it may not be a simple project to undertake. However, with every customer engagement, the Beezy team works with the customer to execute a migration proof of concept (PoC), which helps validate the migration and provides a more accurate estimation of the effort. During this process, Beezy migrates a representative community from the source system to the destination, with a full user acceptance test (UAT) phase for validation, ensuring that the data moved and that customer expectations have been met.

Social collaboration solutions are most effective when aligned with business processes and data. Beezy is the first social collaboration solution provider to connect the dots between legacy social platforms and Microsoft's leading enterprise collaboration platform, SharePoint. If you're interested in expanding the social capability of your SharePoint environment, but have legacy social tools in place, I highly recommend that you connect with the Beezy team and start your PoC today.

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