When we talk about Office 365 and the move to the cloud with our clients we’re often surprised to hear how disparate their opinions are. They usually know of the business agility and potential cost savings that come with moving to the cloud but they’re unaware of what this type of move will actually entail and how to even begin the process.

One reason for that is there are many unanswered questions and misinformation surrounding the move. How will moving to Office in the cloud affect our business and IT teams? Do I have to move all my applications at once? How do I meet compliance requirements for my organization? How do I handle external users? How do I push this out to my end users? How do I increase adoption? How do I make my content available for staff?

The evolving nature of Office 365 with quarterly updates and feature add-ons or improvements, requires a planned approach for organizations that are looking for a comprehensive solution that will meet their information needs for the foreseeable future. The turn it on and go approach rarely works for long as internal teams often lack the knowledge and time to design a solution covering the infrastructure, applications and integration options that are required in a comprehensive Office 365 solution. The result of the turn it on and go approach is often a frustrated user base that is left wondering how to incorporate these new tools into their roles and as a result most of the options available to them are left unused and information is merely handled in the same manner as the previous system with all of its inherent problems and lack of findable and shareable content.

Every business operates differently and as a result no one Office 365 deployment will be the same as the next. Your Office 365 should depend solely on your needs and your business goals.

In any environment there are a lot moving parts and interdependencies. A major change like this requires a well thought out plan and a detailed understanding of your organizations infrastructure, compliance, regulatory and business goals so you can take advantage of the applications, services and integration points. To make wise deployment decisions you need to understand all of your options. With Microsoft’s flexible approach to Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and Office the possibilities are endless. Each business can get the right mix of cloud and local for its specific needs mixing traditional on-premises deployments with cloud deployments while providing improved information access and governance. For example, you can go with hosted Exchange, Lync and Office but continue to license SharePoint on premise hosting it in your own environment.

For many, this endless list of possibilities and the extensive list of products and services under the Office 365 umbrella quickly becomes overwhelming.

Are we ready to move to the cloud? What do we need infrastructure wise?

What do I do with all my data and documents? How do I ensure all of my documents are searchable? I can’t just dump it into these new tools, can I?

How do I make sure my users are comfortable with these new tools?

Office 365 implementation planning

It’s a big project, we get it. You know where you want to be, you just need a little help getting there. You probably have a strong understanding of what’s required technically, however you need a little help understanding which tools to use when, what products you should keep on premise and where you can streamline your business.

That’s why we’ve developed a Roadmap to Office 365. Our Roadmap to Office 365 program helps businesses develop a customized Office 365 implementation plan. Our team of Office 365 experts and Solution Specialists will sit with your business and help you identify your goals and business needs and how Office 365 can help you achieve them.

Why has this program been so successful? Because we are able to show our clients value before the deployment begins. You can go into the project knowing exactly what resources will be required, what products and services your business should use to meet your goals and ultimately what the end result will look like. But most importantly you will come out of these sessions with an Office 365 implementation plan that is 100% tailored to your business and its needs.

How It Works

The Office 365 implementation plan and roadmap sessions are a presales program designed to provide you with the information you need before you dive into such a large investment.

For every roadmap we begin with an infrastructure meeting where your team and ours can hash out the technical details. We then get to know your business in our kick-off meeting. We’ll bring an infrastructure expert and Office 365 consultant from our team to meet with your team. In this meeting we’ll begin to identify your desired future state. We’ll then hold a series of workshops where we bring together specific business units to identify their issues and their goals. This process will consist of roughly five meetings over a few weeks.

In these meetings we will introduce experts from our team who specialize specifically in what you are looking for. For example one of our most recent clients is a Lotus Notes shop so after that initial meeting we brought in our own Lotus Notes experts to discuss their issues, so they felt comfortable moving forward. Another client had set a high priority on telephony. They wanted to deploy Lync across the organization so we brought in our Lync experts to discuss next steps.

Finally we’ll identify what products and services you should be using to meet your goals. For example if in the kick-off meetings we identify a need for collaboration or communication sites we’ll recommend when to use SharePoint team sites or Office 365 groups and when to use Yammer.

The Roadmap to Office 365

After these meetings every client will receive a detailed document that provides specific phases or projects in the path to your Office 365. We’ll dig a little deeper into what exactly those projects entail, the resources required and the steps involved in that project. For example, if a major concern for your business is migration there will be one section of the document discussing the process involved in migrating your environment. We’ll start by figuring out where you’re migrating from – is it share drives, SharePoint etc., how that migration has to happen and then we’ll break it down into more specific steps. For example start with a file audit, followed by a mapping process and a boundary process (so you’re not migrating things you don’t need). We’ll then define how long that migration phase will take, the amount of effort required and a high-level estimate of the cost. This process ensures you know exactly what will be required to achieve the desired result and what you can expect from us.

At the end of the document we will provide a “menu” featuring everything we talked about. Each item represents a business pain you identified and the Office 365 product or service that will mend that issue. You have a rough estimate of the cost and resources required for each item. From there you can pick and choose what aspects of the roadmap you want to do first and what you think you can hold off on.

This approach makes the entire process far less daunting. You can focus on one piece of the deployment at a time and the order of the deployment is completely up to you. We want you to see value – and to see value you should be the one to decide what is top priority for your business.

Follow Up

After this process, if you chose to go through with the Office 365 implementation plan we’ll help you get started and be there to support you throughout your journey. We’ll get you set up with AD and Office 365 and make sure everything is working and connected. Then we’ll discuss information management and how to structure your information. If you grab all of your existing information and drop it into the new tools you won’t see real value. We will help you structure your data and identify what metadata you need so your information is easier to find and use. With more structured data you can take advantage of tools like Delve and Power BI.

Lastly, we’ll discuss change management. This is arguably the most important part of the process, and the one businesses struggle with most. We’ll bring the expertise and knowledge we’ve gathered from dozens of Office 365 implementations to ensure user adoption. We’ll train your team or train end users directly, depending on your business processes. And help you communicate how your end users can participate in the project and what it means for them.

If you’re considering the move to the cloud or you’ve purchased Office 365 but just don’t know where to start contact us at [email protected]. Our proven process will have you seeing the true value of the cloud with a tailored roadmap to Office 365.