Search in SharePoint 2013 – Part 2: Five things to consider when migrating to SharePoint
Planning to migrate to SharePoint 2013? In this post, we provide a few ideas on what to take into consideration when you are planning a migration to SharePoint 2013. Note that this is by no means a comprehensive list of what to consider when migrating, but can surely help you get started! If you want more information than is found in this blogpost, please visit our website or contact us.
This post is the second in a series of four articles providing several best practices on how to implement and customise search in SharePoint. In the first post, we provided a brief overview of the differences in terms of search between the on-premise and cloud versions. You’ll find the first article here.
#1 Understand the benefits of migrating to SharePoint 2013
Here are some of the benefits of migrating content to SharePoint:
Metadata: The variety of metadata options in SharePoint are much bigger than the system fields that are applied to files in the File Share, and you can adapt the variety of metadata to fit your organisation.
Control: The workflows that are available in SharePoint can ensure that content follows a specific life-cycle. You can also make sure that metadata is applied in a controlled manner (having mandatory metadata fields for example). It is also easier to ensure correct spelling of titles and keywords if you use a controlled vocabulary in SharePoint’s Term Store.
Collaboration: When the content is migrated to SharePoint every user can benefit from the collaborative functions that are built-in to SharePoint — such as commenting, hashtags, wiki libraries, or discussion boards. On a File Share the content is only stored in files, which can make it difficult for a new employee in the area to guess the logical connection between the files in a folder.
Search: The search functionalities in Explorer are very limited and cannot deliver the same user experience as search in SharePoint can. Just make sure that the users actually use and see these benefits from search in SharePoint, and they will never go back to the primitive search of Explorer!
#2 Start with your content
You probably agree and understand the importance of the quality of content when it comes to findability. If you don’t take care of your content you cannot expect to have good search results. Having a lot of old content and duplicates will make it difficult for users to find the relevant results. Taking care of the content quality however creates a solid foundation for the search (see also this previous post or this one).
While you agree with this now, as you approach the deadline of migrating your content to the new solution and are pressed by time, it is likely that you will become increasingly willing to make compromises. Having an information architecture and migration strategy is very important in these situations in order to make sure that you don’t make too many exceptions on the way and end up with a solution that is far from your initial expectations. Planning in good time what content should be migrated and what should be archived is crucial. Think of this migration task as an opportunity for cleaning up.
A migration project can also be a good opportunity to look at the organisation’s complete information management strategy and a chance to look into where the content is stored in the organisation. As many of you might have experienced, the users can sometimes be very keen on keeping their stuff on File Shares instead of sharing and publishing it on SharePoint. One decision could be to only keep personal content on File Shares and get rid of the department or project folders. Either way, it is important to consider this in the plan if you decide to include content from other sources than the existing SharePoint platform. Moreover, always make sure that the decision is implemented with all employees.
You should always include the following questions in your content analysis and take the necessary measures to achieve better content quality:
- Is the content still relevant, should it be archived, or removed?
- Do you have a workflow for archiving old documents and periodically updating information?
- Do you need to assign an owner to the content. Please note that editor and owner are two different roles that should not be mixed up when it comes to ensuring the quality of content.
- Is the content well organized? Have you been using (customized) content types or are you planning to?
- Is the content tagged with relevant keywords?
- Are you using templates for documents? And if yes, are those well organized (headings, metadata etc)
- Do you have control over which permissions are applied on documents?
- Is the content targeted appropriately? Should it reside in a document library or as a blog post?
- Are the taxonomies up to date?
#3 Understand the technology
The technical solution is often the starting point of a migration project. Understanding the technology, which often means understanding the possibilities within the new version, is crucial to the success of the project, but it should of course not be the only focus point.
Here are some aspects to include when performing an analysis of the technology that you are planning to use:
- Determine the hardware and software requirements for your installation
- Also, the way the search scopes are defined has also changed between versions, so if you are using these be aware to either replicate them correctly or make the transition as easy for the users as possible.
- Check the Microsoft Office list of discontinued or modified features
- Map your requirements to the technical capabilities
- Create a strategy for moving existing content. Will you be using a migration tool or will representatives from the users be responsible for moving the content? How many steps will you plan for and what content will you start and end with?
- When it comes to mapping your requirements to the technical features, it becomes a bit tricky with SharePoint 2013 on finding the features that apply specifically to your SharePoint licensing. There are more than 10 SharePoint licensing plans to choose from. In the previous post we summarised the search features that differ amongst the main licenses, and discussed in particular those that might be missing from SharePoint Online.
Don’t forget to document any customisations that you plan to do. If you don’t plan to do the customisations yourself, ask the provider for appropriate documentation. Such documentation will make it easier for you and providers such as Findwise in future implementations.
#4 Where is home?
One decision that has to be made at some point is how will the users access the new solution, what will they see? While this can be described not only as a technical requirement, it is strongly correlated to the expected user behaviour and depends on the usage scenarios that the new solution is supposed to answer. Remember that SharePoint is also a collaboration tool; through the choice of the start page, you are also communicating to the users the way to work together.
Some alternatives for the starting page in an intranet solution based on SharePoint 2013 would be the following:
The Newsfeed. This is where the latest news relevant to the current user will be shown. It is the place where the users can view posts and updates from followed people, sites and documents, from the entire solution. SharePoint 2013 comes with many new social features and the newsfeed is a good start page choice if you plan to use these features. A link to the user’s Newsfeed is by default available in the global navigation bar, which makes the start page easy accessible.
The search page. Use the search center as the start page to keep users only one click away to the information they are looking for. A good start page choice if you’ve done your job in making the content findable. In addition to the search box, you can think of adding search-driven web parts delivering content that is relevant to the logged-in user. Show latest sales presentations if the logged-in user is working in the Sales department, and show financial spreadsheets if the user is working in the Finance department.
A specific site. Set as the starting point the root site of your intranet for example. Plan to always keep the information on that site’s homepage updated. You can give the users the latest news through a newsfeed web part, but also include a few useful links to other resources (such as external systems). Search-driven web parts can contribute to having the page updated with the latest content and potentially target the content depending on the logged-in user.
#5 Create a communication plan and get your users aboard!
After all the hard work on understanding the content, the technology and requirements, there is one more step that should not be neglected when planning the migration: user adoption. A big impact factor to user adoption is the way that the information will be transmitted to the team and the users.
Here are a few things to take into consideration when creating a communication plan for the migration:
- Define who is part of the migration team, what roles they will play, and when they will become active in the migration rollout (for example, site owners need to create the structure of their site and should be notified when the sites are ready to use)
- Provide training for site owners
- Plan for a test group (gather feedback early in the process and prioritize ideas)
- Potentially find a new name for the solution, with a powerful message
- Communicate clearly the new release, and make it fun (release cake, introductory videos)
- Communicate how users should make use of the new social features (including tagging and Newsfeed)
- Communicate how users and site owners can ask for support
- Share the governance plan with all users (everyone is expected to be a contributor)
After all your careful planning of the migration, it’s time for implementation! In the next post, we will give you a few tips on how to customise search in SharePoint Online.
Do you want more information, have further questions or need help? Stop by our website or contact us!