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Office 365 to Office 365 Migration: Webinar Transcript

23 Jun 2020 by Finn Searchfield

Multiple people connected to devices accessing the cloud, depicting an Office 365 to Office 365 migration.

This post is a brief transcript of the Office 365 to Office 365 migration webinar that took place earlier this year. Continue reading to learn some of the key takeaways, or watch the full recording here.

Paul Robichaux: So, the key thing to think about, and I’m throwing a little bit of shade at Microsoft, but I think it’s fair to say it’s deserved in this case. Office 365 was never designed for multi-tenant organizations in the way we think of them. Of course, Microsoft has supported multi-tenant for a long time.

It used to be a toolset called the Hosted Exchange toolset. It was originally made to make on-prem Exchange capable of supporting something that looked sort of like Office 365 tenants. But on the service provider side, having multiple tenants is completely different from having multiple tenants on the management side. So, Microsoft has got all these tools and infrastructure that they built Office 365 around, to let them support hundreds of thousands or millions of individual segregated Office 365 tenants.

But they don’t give us the tools to move data between those very effectively. We are only just now getting the basics of moving mailboxes between tenants, but that ignores all the other data and metadata that you probably have in your tenants that you need to keep. You can’t combine things or collapse some. It’s very difficult to identify and set boundaries around data that you want to keep in one tenant, versus data you want moved into another tenant.

And although Microsoft has said they’re working on this, they haven’t said publicly what exactly they’re working on or when they will have it ready for the rest of us to use. And, like I said before, business is not waiting. Everybody on this call has got merger and acquisition, or divestiture requirements that they need to meet. And Microsoft can’t help you meet them at this point in time.

The platform was not built with Office 365 to Office 365 migrations in mind.

Planning your Office 365 to Office 365 migration

So, let’s change the topic abruptly from talking about the space to talking about the practical considerations involved in an Office 365 to Office 365 migration. Mike, I’m going to let you start off by talking to people about how do you decide if you have multiple tenants that need to be consolidated or migrated – whatever size – you’ve got to pick one, how do you pick your favorite child when you’re going through this process?

Mike Weaver: Certainly, picking the favorite is not easy, so I think a good way to start the discussion here is that for those that are following us today that don’t have multiple tenants, a lot of what we’re going to talk about still applies. But certainly, we’re going to talk about how having multiple tenants amplifies this problem. Let’s go ahead and review the single tenant to tenant process that we recommend clients go through when we’re starting to undertake one of these projects.

When we talk about mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures – and really any project – it’s all about planning. Today you’re going to hear a lot of advice and things to look at in your planning process for your tenant migration. When you look at a normal Office 365 to Office 365 migration process, these are the kind of steps that we see everybody go through.

Analyzing and scoping the project. I’m going to kind of skip this for a moment because I’m going to give you everything to look at, but really understanding the problem, understanding the situation, and getting ready for the project is kind of that base step that everyone needs to take for anything.

We’re going to talk about resolving conflicts, so when we’re talking about conflicts it can be all sorts of things from configuration conflicts, from name conflicts to all these things that kind of get in the way of the project.

We can talk about wave planning. We’re going to talk about how breaking people down into user waves or the decision to move into one very large wave. We have a case study where we performed a 15,000-user migration in one weekend.

You know the trends are starting to change to doing these larger and larger migration groups as the technology has gotten better. So, things to keep in mind in the planning phases.

In the execution phase, we’re going to talk about how you migrate and finalize. Certainly, in the grand scheme, particularly with multi-tenant migrations, the actual moving of data is pretty well covered, it’s just everything that goes around it. Hopefully, we will be able to put people at ease today with what we say.

Don’t forget, you need to do decommissioning planning. The decommissioning plan needs to be part of your scoping at the beginning so that you can effectively turn things off. A lot of people may think that’s just simply deleting the tenant, but do keep in mind you’ve got things like legal hold and all these other things that you need to plan for, before you can just simply decommission the tenant.

Planning your Office 365 to Office 365 migration.

But… multi-tenant migrations are different

Well, let’s talk about the major things that get in the way when we’re talking about doing multiple tenant migrations. We’ve got business challenges and we’ve got technology challenges.

On the technology front, we’ve got problems where an organization probably doesn’t have a ton of experts just sitting around with this expertise and have this knowledge. We probably, in larger companies, have a couple of people that have done migration work, but certainly in the tenant to tenant space, although evolving, continues to be new.

When we talk about doing multiple projects, that same person probably can’t stop doing all the things that they’re doing today and dedicate themselves to doing a multi-tenant migration project for however long it takes to get this done. Depending on how many tenants you have.

The other aspect is identity management, Paul’s got a great section that he’s going to go into in a few minutes on that, but that takes a lot of planning and that can have a lot of limiting factors and really dictate what happens here.

There can be multiple types of source systems. Today, we’re talking about Office 365 as the source and target, but we do have situations where the company you’re acquiring may be on G Suite or Lotus Notes or some other technology, and that makes this more complicated.

Internal and external sharing – this is using traditional OneDrive for Business sharing, or just the other challenges around sharing and collaboration. We’re going to talk about internal and external sharing in the same item, where the tenants and the sources are collaborating with each other, so that’s external sharing from the Office 365 perspective, but with a company that we own. How that can make things more difficult.

On the business side, we’ve got to plan around competing busy and slow periods. So, if you’ve got Easter weekend coming up, for example, how can we use that weekend to migrate? Well, for half our business that’s great, and for the other half of our business, that’s really bad. So, how do we move the business as one when we’ve got these competing interests?

The other problem is the integration can be very difficult. So why was this project done in the first place? Why did we have this acquisition? What is the business driver and how is that affecting the integration?

Re-orgs are commonplace. Very rarely do companies buy a firm and keep them over at arm’s length and not integrate. That investment is made for good reason, so re-orgs in the middle of these projects are very common. And then you’ve got other activity that’s going to happen at the same time. So, re-orgs happen, but other acquisitions are going to happen. You’re going to have other segmentations, or you’re going to combine certain divisions. You may spin out certain divisions, but all that can be really challenging.

So, what can we do? At a base level, we want to get as much data as possible, so we can make data-driven decisions. On the outside that sounds very basic, but as we dive into this in the space it gets really, really complicated.

Multi-tenant Office 365 migrations are different.

What should I do?

So, the first thing is we want to talk about is business data. We’re going to talk later about having a good project sponsor, but as much as we can we need to understand what the business is doing and what their drivers are. When we have multiple businesses/multiple tenants, this is really complicated.

All those things that go into the integration team really need to be brought in to understand what the business is doing. And again, understanding business and quiet periods. When we look at technology data, we really need to understand what is going on with volumes of data and the number of users at a very basic level. But using our Nova Office 365 management platform, we scope these tenants.

So whether you’ve got 10, 20, or 30 tenants that you need to scope for an integration project, you need a platform that can help you get this information quickly, but this goes so much more than just volumes of data and number of users.

We need to look at what systems are being used and what applications are being used. Do we have an Office 365 license management mismatch? Are there a couple of E5s out there and E3 is our standard on the target? We can use this to try to find some shadow IT so that we can try to bring everyone into the same platform. Maybe there’s some Slack going on, but we are on Teams and want to integrate that way.

Also, finding how users interact across the systems. That allows us to understand where we’re going to have to put some focus in and group tenants together. If we see a lot of collaboration amongst these three small tenants, well, then it probably makes sense to move those three small tenants together in the same weekend, rather than interrupt users multiple times in the collaboration that they have.

The other thing that I can’t stress enough is doing interviews and engaging power users and administrators in doing these interviews. A great example is when you see something funky in the reporting. So, the example I have here in our analysis, “You own the SharePoint site that has 1,000 people with external access. What are you doing? How are you using this?”. Then, not only do you need to plan the migration for them but is there going to be a different system in the end state.

So, a lot of organizations call it ‘application mapping’ but mapping process and applications across the board. Just because both the source and target are on Office 365, you may still find the mapping different for what they’re using on the source and what they’re going to use on the target.

What should I do in Office 365 tenant migrations?

You need facilitation sessions!

When it comes to planning your multi-tenant schedule, the best way that we have found to do it is to do an in-person facilitation session. That can be really hard in our global world, but particularly as we’ve found, if you’ve got three or four tenants, you might be able to do it in a couple of hours or even remote. But when we’re talking about 10, 15, or 20 tenants, you really need to bring everyone together.

What we do is we create these little cards, literally paper cards that have tenant information, I’ll show you an example in the next slide. It gives all the high-level information on the tenant. We then take our agreed timeline, so if we want to agree that in 2020, we’re going to complete this project, I would probably do month columns and put literally month columns down on the table. And then we define how much we can handle and what our project cadence is going to be, so we can move three large tenants and two small tenants and a medium in this month. Start putting cards into those categories.

What’s extremely important is on the back we take notes of why tenants were placed. It’s really not uncommon to have a delay in this space. We’re going to talk about the cost of delay at the end of this, but we want to know why tenants were placed where they were in the scheduling by the people that are in the session. And that’s so that if we suddenly have to delay the whole project for 60 days, we know we can move all the tenants in 60 days, or were certain tenants placed in certain places because they had to have certain timing?

You need facilitating sessions when planning your O365 to O365 migration.

What is on the cards?

The cards themselves, this is what I’ve used before. So in the upper right-hand corner we’ve got priority in size, priority is usually something you have some sort of mandate from your leadership on, “We really want these pieces of business to go as soon as possible.”

The size is a small large, extra-large, medium, or whatever. It’s just a starting place, so you have a relative indicator of how complex this tenant is. On it, we then have size information and complexity information, allowing you to see things like the size of the Exchange workload and how many distribution lists there are.

What's on the card when planning an Office 365 tenant migration.

A lot of this is Exchange data, because that’s usually a critical path, but OneDrive for Business data, number of SharePoint sites, and you may find there’s other items that you need based on your organization. Maybe you have a lot of Office 365 groups, or there’s a certain technology that they use that you have to track. Whatever it may be, you want to ensure that they’re on these cards.

You want to note, usually on the back, I put all the SMTP domains for that tenant so that sometimes people know the brand of the domain and the session and not necessarily the name of the tenant.

To watch the full webinar, please access the recording here, or if you’d like to talk to an Office 365 to Office 365 migration expert, please contact us today.