The Best SharePoint Online Site Migration Guide

A SharePoint Online site migration can be complicated for anyone.  SharePoint has so many concepts to it; file management, security, metadata, search and so on.  Moving a file server can even be difficult if you need to keep permissions in place.  Fortunately, we have done countless SharePoint site migrations and we love to share our experiences with everyone.  Let’s get started with the best SharePoint Online site migration guide you’ll ever need.


What’s in Our SharePoint Online Site Migration Guide

This guide contains start-to-end considerations including:

  1. What SharePoint Online migration costs are there
  2. How much does a SharePoint Online site migration cost
  3. How long does a SharePoint Migration take
  4. Know your audience
  5. What are your SharePoint migration goals
  6. SharePoint Site migration risks
  7. Best SharePoint Online migration tools
  8. Mapping Requirements to SharePoint functionality and design
  9. SharePoint Online end user training
  10. What support your need after go live
  11. Tracking your SharePoint Online site migration


The PMP Process Chart for a SharePoint Site Migration

We are a big fan of planning, project management and communication.  All three are paramount to the success of any project.  We always leverage best practices and the PMP Process Chart is a great starting point to ensure you have all bases covered.

There are 10 knowledge areas for the PMP process chart which is illustrated below.  Some of knowledge areas are a subset of other knowledge areas, at least in terms of a SharePoint migration.  We have mapped the above topics into each of the knowledge areas:


Read about the SharePoint Migration PMP Guide


Also, always remember the golden triangle for project management:

Learn About The Golden Project Triangle


Choose two you want; the third you will need to accept:

  • If you need it done fast and cheap, then don’t expect much to get done.
  • If you need it done fast and a lot needs to get done, then it will cost money.
  • If you need it done cheap and a lot needs to get done, then it will take a while.

We always stive to gain a balance between the three main concepts and everyone should be aware of expectations upfront.

All areas and bases are covered; let’s get started!


What SharePoint Online site migration costs are there

There are 3 main costs to consider for a SharePoint migration as well as a few indirect costs.

The Technical Migration

This may be internal resources or external resources, like eSoftware Associates.  Aside from the actual technical migration, there are other technical tasks such as granting access to existing information as well as determining what will happen with the platform that is being replaced by SharePoint Online.

Typically granting access to existing information is handled exclusively by an internal resource.  Managing what happens with the platform that is being replaced can be handled by external resources, if needed.

Additionally, there may be costs involved for a 3rd party migration tool.  Some SharePoint migration tools are free such as Mover.IO.  Other tools have costs to them depending on your needs.  See our article here to determine which tool is best for you.

Business Stakeholders Time

Some SharePoint migrations require input from busines stakeholders.  Topics like landing pages, security, expected functionality and content management are typically discussed with business stakeholders which takes their time.  The more business stakeholders involved, the more it takes away from their main job functions.

Some migrations require minimal business stakeholder involvement.  Companies may collectively realize that what they have now is not efficient and just needs to be replaced.  In those cases, business stakeholder involvement might be minimized and part of training and support at the end of the migration.

SharePoint Online Site Training and Support

Many times end users or administrators who used the existing content management platform will need training or support before and after the SharePoint Online site migration is a success.  This can come in many forms and should be discussed at the beginning of the project.  It can be minimal such as a bulleted Q&A list.  Or it can be more extensive such as multiple in person training sessions and company branded SharePoint training videos.  It is good to get a address the expectations upfront and determine if the budget can match those expectations.

Indirect Savings

There are many indirect savings with a SharePoint migration.  Users may be able to do their jobs faster over time.  You may have mitigated large audit and compliance risks with hefty fines by migrating to SharePoint Online.  Shutting down older platforms and hardware saves money a ton of money.  There are many other examples, but in general migrating to SharePoint Online saves time and money in the long run.


How much does a SharePoint Online site migration cost

There are business and technical costs associated with a SharePoint migration.  There are also indirect business and technical savings.  We cannot predict the savings without speaking to you however we can outline the following things that can help you determine the savings:

  • How many people will be using SharePoint?
  • How much time do you think they will be using SharePoint to do the same tasks they did in the older platform?
  • What is the average hourly rate for your industry and locations?
  • How much are you spending now on your current processes?

You can do a little math and start quickly seeing when your SharePoint return on investment and savings will occur.  We can also offer this service during the planning stages of your project.

The cost of a SharePoint Online migration varies based on complexity.  A SharePoint Online migration can be under $10,000 if you are only moving files and the files are already in a common platform such as a file share, and older version of SharePoint, Dropbox, or Box.

Adding complexity will add costs.  Streamlining security, cleaning up content, migrating workflows, lists and other elements as well as new design are examples of factors that can add costs.  It is so important to do planning to make your project is a success.


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How long does a SharePoint Migration take?

A straightforward SharePoint site migration typically takes 2-3 weeks.  As you would expect, more complex migrations will take more time.  We typically try to have all migrations complete within a year, regardless of size, to keep everyone on track and accountable.  Most importantly, most SharePoint migrations take 1-2 months on average based on our experiences.

Learn About the Typical SharePoint Migration Timeline

Know your audience

A good SharePoint migration has all the right technical stakeholders gathered.  This can include:

  • Current platform administrators
  • Hardware or server administrators
  • Network administrators
  • Security officers
  • Compliance officers
  • Desktop support team

A great SharePoint migration goes a step further and reaches out to the business stakeholders.  Working with the business stakeholders helps to ensure they understand why the SharePoint Online site migration is happening.  Also, it helps identify short and long term goals that may dictate what needs to be accomplished in the migration in order for it to a be business success.


What are your SharePoint migration goals

There are many reasons you may be migrating or upgrading to SharePoint.  It is best practice to determine what those short and long term reasons.  Next, you should document those reasons and communicate them to business and technical stakeholders.

Here the top 10 reasons people migrate to SharePoint:

  1. Promote collaboration
  2. Centralize information
  3. Permit external sharing
  4. Foster enterprise searching
  5. Reduce hardware and technical costs
  6. Enrich information with metadata
  7. Organize information
  8. Grant access from anywhere
  9. Enable offline file capabilities
  10. Adhere to compliance and security standards


Top SharePoint Site Migration Risks

SharePoint migrations have risks like any other software project.  The top risk is data loss.  Always ensure content is being backed up before you attempt any migration.  SharePoint migration tools and scripts need certain security rights to at least read information.  In my instances, this means having global admin rights to that information.  This means it is very easy to delete information by accident.  Alternatively, decisions might be made to clean up information and those efforts might be too over-zealous.

Another larger risk is loss of security.  Content may have strict security requirements.  SharePoint migration tools and scripts need all-access rights.  This can make it seem like there isn’t any security.  Our company always reviews security before any migration.  Ensure everyone understands what it should be.

There are many other risks such as cost overruns, tight deadlines, loss or change in usability, lack of communications and many more.  It is best practice at the start of every SharePoint migration to learn about past efforts, how people do business, what pitfalls may occur.  A mitigation plan is necessary to ensure risks are understood and mitigated.


Best SharePoint Online migration tools

There are many SharePoint migration tools.  The best tool depends on your exact migration requirements.  Check out our full tool analysis here.


Mapping Requirements to SharePoint functionality and design

Migrating from a different platform to SharePoint means there will be different functionality and design.  The same can be said if you are upgrading SharePoint editions.  The best practice is to understand how people currently interact with information.  What are they expecting SharePoint to do?  Sometime this requires Power Apps and Power Automate.  Other times it might be different SharePoint views and fields.  SharePoint has so much functionality.  This is where having a consulting company that is constantly evaluating the platform comes into play.  You need to know the full capabilities of the platform.  This includes what it can do now, what is in the pipeline for new functionality and conversely what is being retired.  This can save countless hours of rework.


SharePoint Online end user training

SharePoint training goes hand in hand with defining the functional and design requirements.  Sometimes the changes are obvious and easy to explain.  Other times you may need dedicated end user training sessions.  The level of training tends to depend on the size of the company.  The larger the company, the longer the training process can take.  More people means more ways people learn.  A company of 10 people will likely talk amongst each other and figure out exactly what is needed. A company of 10,000 people will have every personality type possible.

Typical SharePoint Online end user training methods can include:

  • Live training
  • Recorded video training
  • FAQs
  • Formal documentation
  • Reward-based / interactive


What support your need after go live

SharePoint training can make you feel like you are prepared for any question.  The reality is you might not have every question answered or your training might not have gotten every user.  In a best case scenario, users love your new SharePoint platform and start asking “what else can it do”?  This is why you need a SharePoint Online site support plan for after you go live.

SharePoint support can be done in many different ways.  Some companies have dedicated support platforms.  These can be OK for tracking requests.  We typically recommend a light SharePoint help desk app directly in SharePoint.  If you choose SharePoint support with us, we install this app for free.  We recommend having an app directly in SharePoint as it can double as a FAQ app for people to browse questions that have already been answered about the platform.  Sometime this helps solve a few questions before anyone else gets involved.  Other times it enlightens people to think about what they are asking a little differently.  Overall is adds a bit more value than an agnostic support platform.  Finally, you can tailor your messages and service level agreements to align directly to SharePoint.


Tracking your SharePoint Online site migration

Like other projects, tracking your SharePoint migration is a good idea.  A good starting point is to make a list of everything mentioned in this article and put names and dates on when those items should be done.  We recommend tracking your migration right in SharePoint Online.  The platform is more than capable of tracking these details in a task list or a custom list.  It also helps drive a little bit of adoption and getting people to use the great tools within SharePoint.  Be sure to review the dates assigned frequently.  Finally, cross-reference your list of risks from above to see if anything new arises.


Key Take-Aways

The above is a lot of great information.  The 3 main concepts for a successful SharePoint Online site migration are:

  1. First, start with who is impacted and involved in the migration. This will drive communications and overall complexity
  2. Next, make a list of what needs to be done and who should do it. This sets expectations early.
  3. Finally, ensure you SharePoint planning is exhaustive before moving into execution. Knowing all the intricacies of a SharePoint migration is key to success.


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