10 Must Answer Questions When Planning a Successful SharePoint Migration

49% of the market is still using an older version of SharePoint.

What’s preventing them from migrating to a newer SharePoint version?


35% of organizations find that planning a SharePoint migration is preventing them from actually migrating.

If that’s one of your fears, what can help you to plan a SharePoint migration successfully?

Here are 10 questions that you’ll need to answer in order to have a successful SharePoint migration. 

Do you really need to migrate? 

“Wait.. What? Do I really need to migrate?” 

“I already know I need to migrate. That’s why I’m reading this!”


Excuse me… I thought I knew I need to migrate to SharePoint already.

Often times, planning a migration will actually reveal that you might not need to migrate in the first place.

So it’s best to ask this question first.

There is a lot of marketing around that will usually encourage a migration.

So be cautious.

Ask yourself:

What is your biggest reason for migrating?

Could you find any alternatives to the features in the newer version?

What will be your most used features?

Every organization is different.

You’ll need to see what is driving your plan for migration.

Often times, the overall cost of support for a newer version of SharePoint is lower.

SharePoint Online allows for offloading the server maintenance of SharePoint.  (Although you will still need a SharePoint administrator to help govern things).

Newer on-premises versions allow for more control as well as scalability.

Make sure to get the input of all the stakeholders as well as the IT department to find out if migrating is necessary.

Do you really know the overall costs?

Hidden costs can be painful.

Make sure you don’t break the bank.

The cost of running SharePoint can be deceiving.

If you’ve already worked with it long enough, you’ve probably already seen this.

Although licensing might seem to be the main cost consideration, there are other factors to note.

Will you need to upgrade your servers?

Newer versions of SharePoint require faster servers. If they aren’t upgraded, you’ll end up with a slower farm than before.

And users will not be happy with that.

What if you don’t have to worry about servers because you’re moving to the cloud with SharePoint Online?

There’s still a lot of other costs to consider.

Costs related to training, migration tools, customization, testing, and implementation to name a few.

Even for SharePoint Online, the cost can be more than expected.

How much are we talking?

It’s estimated that a budget for 500 user a year should be a minimum of $120K a year, excluding licensing.

Although that type of budge is doable for most companies with that user count, it’s definitely something to make sure you know ahead of time.

What about knowing how to migrate SharePoint?

Do you or someone in your organization have the necessary expertise to migrate SharePoint?

SharePoint is a very specific Microsoft technology.

Understanding how to architect a SharePoint environment takes years to know well.

Implementing best practices for your specific organizations usage is crucial to making sure SharePoint is leveraged well.

This would not be a time for amateur hour.

There have been too many inexperienced IT professionals that have thought SharePoint would be a breeze.

The results?

The organization that put faith in this person was shot in the foot down the road.

Oops. Did I do that?

A real SharePoint professional inevitably needs to come in and fix any issues that were created.

So, what if you don’t have the required expertise in-house?

Hire a consulting company. 

Make sure it’s one with experience in migrating large environments.

They can make sure you are set longer term.

They’ll also help you plan your migration even further.

Getting them involved early enough will go a long way to making sure your migration is successful.

Will you have analysts on the project?

A migration isn’t just files and content.

There are questions that need to be answered.

Analysts can gather feedback from various departments to make the best out of the migration.

During a migration is an ideal time to make any improvements to pain-points for users.

How will you know if your migration is a success?

Knowing what success looks like will help with the planning process.

Put yourself into the future for a minute.

Imagine the moment after your migration project is complete.

You’re taking it all in.

At that point, what are you most proud of?

What are the factors that made the project a hit?

Was it that a higher percentage of users are using SharePoint compared to before?

Is it that everything is just running without any performance issues? 

Is it that overall IT costs are down?

Is it that a new feature that an important department has been needing is finally available?

Is it that the user experience is more pleasurable to everyone in the organization?

Think of all the must haves to success for your project.

Now write them down.

Put them on your desk.

Keep them in front of you always so to speak.

Make sure that all the decisions made in planning the migration are in harmony with those goals.

If you do this, you’ll be sure that your project is a success once it’s complete.

What is your Clean-up strategy?

Clean-up strategy?

What’s that?

It’s your plan to remove all the unnecessary content and functionality of your current SharePoint environment.

Why is this important to do?

Because it’ll save time in the long run.

Removing all the things you don’t need now saves you from migrating unnecessary parts of your environment later.

While the migration is happening, you don’t want there to be decisions being made at that time.

Doing that will slow things down tremendously.

You’ll want to make the actual migration as simple as possible, without losing anything you need.

In so many migrations, I’ve seen this step skipped.

Yes, it is possible to just try and move it all over and worry about clean-up later, but two issues arise:

  1. You won’t even have the time to do it later.
  2. You’ll run across issues with moving features and content that are no longer supported in the destination environment.

Both of those issues only delay the inevitable.

I’ve only seen a few migrations that were straight away down as-is, and there was still some minor pruning needed while doing the migration.

The lesson?

Clean-up the content.

Remove or plan for any features that won’t be supported.

Doing so will make the actual migration relatively pain-free.

Do you have technical issues to fix first?

What kind of technical issues are we talking about?

Upgrading to a new SharePoint version doesn’t mean that your issues will just miraculously disappear.

If you have performance problems before, it would be good to note why.

Some of these have to be fixed beforehand, or else they’ll be carried over into the new environment.

Or worse, the issues there could have a bigger impact.

How will you improve your structure?

Just like it’s best to clean-up content that you don’t need, it’s also time to possibly re-think your site structure.

There are many business and technical reasons to change structures.

Here are a few:

  • Changes in the structure of your organization
  • Wanting to navigate based on function instead of departments
  • Wanting to have more flexibility in the long term by breaking everything out into site collections.

Analyze your current structure.

Hopefully, your structure isn’t too confusing.

Is it working for your organization?

What improvements could be made?

Do you have just a few site collections?

Do you have sub-sites with many levels?

Would it be advantageous to break out a sub-site that has grown much larger over time?

Good reasoning is needed here as changing structure too much shouldn’t be taken lightly.

It’s quite a bit of work, but when architected properly, could be worth it.

Microsoft is now encouraging a new structure-less model for SharePoint sites.

Only site collections.

No more sub-sites needed.

These site collections are either a communication site or a collaboration site.

These are tied together by something called a Hub site.

The Hub site can connect multiple site collections together and roll-up news content to the hub site.

The reasoning behind this type of ‘structure-less’ structure is flexibility.

Organizations change over time.

If one department or group is now apart of another, previously it was too difficult to move structure around easily with sub-sites.

You’d basically need to plan a migration.

Now, with Hub Sites, if you have separate site collections, all you need to do is disconnect a site collection from one Hub Site, and connect it to another.

That’s it.

Now you have the navigation you need to reflect the changes in your organization.

Although this method will likely be adopted more and more, most organizations have so many sub-sites that this set-up would be quite a task to get to.

If you’re interested in that type of flexibility, a migration is an ideal time for it.

How will you improve the experience?

What’s the best way to know if you’ll improve the experience?

Talk to your users.

Find out what their pain points are.

Is it the speed of loading pages?

Is it the wait for getting access to sites?

Is it difficult to know exactly where to go sometimes?

Ultimately, if your users don’t find your experience even bearable, productivity will go down.

Now is your chance to work on improving the experience and making sure the migration will be a successful one.

What features will not be supported?

SharePoint has many features.

Not all of them stick.

If a feature is no longer available in a newer version of SharePoint, you’ll need to know ahead of time.

Find out how this will impact your users.

Make sure it isn’t a show stopper or doesn’t get in the way of the success goals you came up with earlier.

How will you phase in users?

Having a plan to bring in your users effectively is important.

If you bring them in all at once, it might be too late to change that first impression.

Most successful migrations utilized a “gradual” or “incremental” launch.

This will allow you to work on the experience without getting overwhelmed by issues from everyone.

Sure, you can still generate excitement with all the departments, perhaps with email communications, or some other means.

However, you’ll need to set expectations that it won’t be available to everyone right away.

Make sure you have a schedule that lists when sites for each department, team or function will be available.

Also, planning a pilot phase is recommended.

Have a small group of users test their area first before it’s released to each group.

This will ensure that permissions, structure, and content are all in place before the sites are available to the whole group.

Hopefully, all users will have improved productivity at this point with the change (or at least the majority of users).

Productivity levels increased!

Who will Migrate Your Content?

The group of persons who will migrate your content is just as important as your migration plan.

These persons will need to understand your plan well, and be able to keep on schedule.

You have three options for who can help you migrate:

Internal Employees Only

This would mean only using people within your organization to plan and execute the migration.

Most organizations don’t have the necessary resources right away to support the existing projects/services and take on a major migration.

If this is the way you’d like to go, and don’t have the necessary resources currently, you would need to hire someone to come in.

This option provides the most control in the process. The downside to this is that you may not need the new employee after the migration is complete.

Consultants Only

This option puts the whole responsibility of the project mainly on outside consultants.

While this may seem to be most time-saving, this can lead to problems with communication and not getting exactly what you’d like.

Internal Employees & Consultants 

This option is most commonly used for SharePoint Migrations.

You have your internal employees working on the project and setting guidance while still having outside manpower and experience you can leverage.

You have the benefit of also ending the engagement with the consultants after the migration is complete.

No full-time employees left with no work.


Planning a successful migration takes some considerable forethought and decision making.

Once this time and thinking is invested, however, you’ll be able to know that your organization will move forward without major complications or regrets.

Make sure to use this article to help you successfully answer the necessary questions in planning your next SharePoint migration.