If your organization is planning a SharePoint 2013 upgrade, this could very well be the first step toward a more efficient and cost-effective information management strategy and system in the near and far future. The latest version of this web application platform offers a host of beneficial new features that are helping organizations all over the world collaborate on projects and share information safely and seamlessly.

There is more than one way to go about upgrading to SharePoint 2013, though, and a successful implementation is based on strategy and planning. Organizations moving to Office 365 have an especially important set of tasks to consider, as this type of SharePoint deployment means that you have to live within the Office 365 model provided by Microsoft. But whether you are building out a new environment on premise or moving to Office 365, it’s essential to develop a set of best practices to ensure a successful upgrade in as little time as possible. The essential SharePoint 2013 best practices for migrations and upgrades are as follows.

The Keys to Successfully Upgrading to SharePoint 2013

There are many different reasons to upgrade to SharePoint 2013, and several different ways to go about it – some more successful than others. Whatever you do, the key is detailed planning. Without a good plan and a method to implement it, even the most useful technology may prove to be more of an inconvenience than anything. A good plan will certainly go a long way in this endeavor. During the SharePoint upgrade planning stage, it is critical that your organization takes the following steps to ensure success:

  • Information Gathering – A specialized team should gather information about the source system and target systems for managing information. Selecting the right leaders to handle this important step is essential to a successful upgrade.
  • Inventory Analysis – The team of information gatherers should also consider what’s going to be migrated, archived or deleted, and develop a solid understanding of the current state of SharePoint sites, including the configuration, customizations and features. This includes a “clean up” activity, so your teams are not migrating old, unused content to the new environment.
  • Mitigation Planning – After analysis the migration team and business team should plan on how to mitigate any issues related to custom web parts or custom code, UI issues, etc. These types of migrations should also be staged in a development environment to test and retest prior to actual migration.
  • Site Migration Scheduling – The scheduling process should emphasize the needs of your business or organization, including any exceptions and particular sensitivities that your people may encounter along the way.
  • Ongoing Monitoring – Any technology upgrade should include a plan for ongoing monitoring to ensure the efficiency, effectiveness and appropriate cost of maintaining the system. This includes strategies for correcting possible inefficiencies down the road.
  • Migration Factory – Whether you are completely migrating to the new Office 365 environment or building out a new environment within your existing system, it will be essential to create a plan for executing the migrations. This includes steps for ensuring the accuracy of information and the correctness of all functions within the system.
  • Communication/User Focus – Last but not least, user focus is an essential component of effective planning for a SharePoint 2013 upgrade. The new system will only be successfully implemented if users know what to expect when using it, when the migration will occur and other pertinent information.

How to Communicate Migration Expectations to SharePoint Site Owners

Communication is key to the upgrade process, both for end users and SharePoint site owners. Even the most carefully planned upgrade to SharePoint 2013 can go awry without comprehensive, open and consistent communication with all relevant parties. This means ensuring that all users are trained on the new system. Many of the most successful SharePoint upgrades have relied on a series of simple, yet comprehensive documents to inform users of the best practices and how-to’s, and on quick reference guides that answer many of the most common questions. Effective communication should also include opportunities to post migration support and hypercare in an easily accessible and understandable format.

If all this sounds complicated to you, you’re not alone. Upgrading to SharePoint 2013 can be a daunting process without the right support from experienced consultants to ensure a successful upgrade. Consulting firms are prepared to guide your organization through every step of the upgrade and migration process, including the planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance. With a structured set of SharePoint 2013 best practices in place, your upgrade should be smooth sailing, so your people can return to doing what they do best as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Once the new system is in place, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to get along without it.

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