SharePoint 2013 has been out for several months now, and naturally the question of migration comes up.

What is the process like to migrate from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013? What should people consider when they are migrating? What are the important elements to a migration plan?

Business Implications

The first point to consider when thinking about a SharePoint migration is that it is as much, if not more, a business effort as it is a technical challenge. Moving from one version of an e-mail server to another, for example, is almost purely an IT-driven exercise without much consideration required for how the business operates; as long as e-mail flows and peoples’ data remains intact, the change is not really important to the user base. Not so with collaboration software like SharePoint. SharePoint tends to be so integrated with how business units interact with each other, and if your business has used SharePoint as a platform and built applications and rules on top of the core product, it may play a vital role in the operation of your business—it is not something you can just migrate over a weekend and expect people to work. Careful planning has to be done, and some SharePoint consultants and field experts believe as much as 75% of any SharePoint migration project should be spent just on considering the business impact of the migration. That is a lot of money to spend on top of licensing fees for the new version, any additional hardware and infrastructure investment that needs to be made to run the new version effectively, and so on.

User training requirements

User training is also a big issue in SharePoint migrations. In fact, the user training requirement for SharePoint 2013 is arguably so big that Microsoft has included the ability to use the SharePoint 2010 interface (think of this as the SharePoint 2010 site “skin”) on sites that have already undergone a SharePoint 2013 migration for a period of time up to the administrator. Indeed, the change in interface between SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 is so significant, Microsoft lets your users interact with the system in the old way to make the transition easier. They even let subscribers to SharePoint Online and Office 365 that had SharePoint 2010 sites provisioned before the “version upgrade” that happened earlier this year work this way too! The new SharePoint interface does have a lot of features, but do not be fooled: you will have to retrain your users. Features and functions are not always where they were before. Custom branding and other customizations may have to be edited or, in a few cases, completely thrown out.

Migration timeframe

You should also be aware of the timeframe required to perform a SharePoint migration. SharePoint as a product can be so customized and used in so many different ways that extensive, detailed testing is absolutely essential in ensuring that your migration goes smoothly and does not introduce any kinks. Your testing list should be including different types of sites, site collections, team sites, libraries, workflows, any branding and customizations you have made to the default interface, permissions, navigation tweaks, public facing websites and the controls, forms, and other goodies that go with that, dashboards, and more. You are probably thinking, “wow, that’s quite a list!” And you would be right. But that is what happens when you move a complex product and platform into a new version. Oh, and do not forget a rollback plan; you need to have a way to get back to a known good state in case the actual SharePoint 2013 goes south. And have you tested that rollback plan, too?

Technical requirements

Last on the list not necessarily in terms of importance but just for our discussion purposes is the technical side of the migration. SharePoint 2013 requires more hardware than SharePoint 2010, plain and simple, if you are set on an on-premises deployment rather than subscribing to a hosted service like SharePoint Online or Office 365. How much more is somewhat of an individual concern based on how big your firm is, how you use SharePoint, how many users are actively on the system at any given time, and so on. But the big iron requirement is there. Once you have acquired the hardware, you need to actually move the data, move the systems, remap domains, import new metadata, and so on.

There is a lot of work involved in a typical SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 migration. Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t just a technical challenge—it is a business, planning, and IT challenge.

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