The world of work is changing. Employees are demanding more flexible in how and where they work, and companies are hiring a more substantial number of remote and freelance workers. These changes require businesses to look at new ways for their staff to collaborate no matter where they work. For many companies, Microsoft Office 365 is the perfect solution.

Implementing a complete transition to Office 365 is a challenge for even the most tech-savvy business. This quick guide can help your business make the changeover as smooth as possible and avoid excessive downtime and loss of productivity.

 

Proper Preparation is Critical

Like any large project, it is all about the planning stage. The more lead time you allow yourself, the better. One of the first tasks you will want to tackle is coming up with an estimate for how much time the actual deployment of Office 365 will take from start to finish. There are several factors which will have a dramatic effect on this estimation. These factors include:

  • The size and age of your business. Naturally, larger and older companies tend to take longer to make the switch, because these organizations often have the most data and users. At this point, you will want to decide how much of your existing data you plan on transferring. This can be a good time to do a little housekeeping and remove out-of-date or irrelevant data.
  • The current system or systems your company is using. If you already use Microsoft products to handle most of your current workflow, implementing Office 365 will be much shorter. However, on the other hand, if you use other software products, it could take much longer, especially if your software is has been around for a while. You can use the Readiness Toolkit to check for compatibility issues to give you a better idea of the timeframe for migration.
  • The security requirements of your business. Companies in highly regulated industries will need to follow all regulations when migrating data. This can significantly increase the timetable. Don’t forget to leave yourself enough time to deploy and test your cybersecurity before going live.

After establishing a realistic estimate of the time it will take for you to fully make the switch to Office 365, the next step in your planning process is to develop usage policies for different applications included in Office 365. You will especially want to write guidelines for the online data storage depository, Sharepoint, but you may want to create guidelines for Skype, email, and messaging apps as well. Writing policies now will allow you to ensure everyone is trained in acceptable use.

Next, start getting your support documentation and your training programs ready. Even if you currently use desktop versions of Microsoft software, you should plan to retrain employees to use the online versions. Don’t forget to include training for how to log on and off of the service. You will want to provide training to your staff before the switch to limit confusion and loss of productivity.

Finally, create a step-by-step plan for deployment. Know what will happen when, and who will be responsible. It is a good idea to share your timetable with all of your stakeholders and employees. Doing so can help to avoid any surprises and to keep everyone on the same page. Don’t forget to plan for setbacks and always have a backup plan in place.

Migration Day and the Day After

Choose a day when either your business is closed or during your slowest time to avoid disruption. If you have to conduct the migration during business hours, you may want to not transfer all of your employees’ email accounts at the same time, as sometimes it can take before mail delivery returns to normal.

With proper preparation, you should be able to make the switch without too much drama. The key is to go slow and know what you are doing at every step of the way. Have clear expectations of what should happen, so you will know if you made a mistake. Whatever you do, always maintain a backup for all of your information.

Despite any previous training you conducted on using Office 365, you need to plan for lots of confusion, questions and technical issues the day after migration. Make sure to have your IT department fully staffed and your managers thoroughly trained how to use the system so they can help out.

Migrating to Microsoft Office 365 may not be the most straightforward project, but is sure to pay off with increased productivity and employee collaboration.