Your Office 365 Implementation Checklist - How to plan the switch

You've decided that moving your company’s on-premises content to the cloud is the right solution. But what's next?  

Office 365 migration is where a company's data and content is securely moved from on-premise services to online services. It's now also possible for data to be migrated from G Suite to Office 365, and both these types of migration require the same consideration. 


You've decided that moving your company’s on-premises content to the cloud is the right solution. But what's next?  

Office 365 migration is where a company's data and content is securely moved from on-premise services to online services. It's now also possible for data to be migrated from G Suite to Office 365, and both these types of migration require the same consideration. 

Whether you are thinking of going all in on Office 365 or going hybrid, make sure you don't jump quickly into the migration process. A stress-free Office 365 implementation is no small feat – it takes smart planning, deliberate decisions and time.  

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to hedge your bets and fine-tune the workflow for the deployment.

This Office 365 implementation checklist will help make your deployment planning and implementation as smooth as possible. 

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Don’t overdo it – break up the migration process and take one step at a time.

As you would with any other project, start planning your Office 365 implementation by creating a set of priorities and objectives to get the ball rolling.   

Don’t tackle all implementation tasks at once. Instead, break up the migration process into different workstreams with dedicated timeframes.

Factor in sufficient time to properly plan, prepare, and push the move through. However, don’t necessarily think of the individual migration phases as self-contained stages – tasks may occur simultaneously or sometimes overlap. 

Determining preferences and requirements in your organization

It’s important to determine which Office 365 applications suit the different target groups in your organization before beginning the implementation process. There are three groups to consider in relation to the application strategy:

1. Individual employees 

Individuals must be offered the applications which are intuitive and help them work efficiently on a daily basis.

2. Teams or departments

Applications for collaboration and communication must be considered depending on various factors, including preferences across teams. 

3. The organization as a whole

Knowledge sharing organization-wide requires applications which can support the organization’s digital workplace. Tools must support an enterprise's needs and integrate seamlessly into existing IT setups. 

Phase 1: Plan your Office 365 implementation 

Begin your implementation project by collecting information about your current IT environment and devloping deployment strategies for Office 365. Not fully understanding the need to migrate, and lacking a strategy for what needs to happen during the migration will hinder success. 

  • Get everyone on board

Schedule a kickoff meeting to familiarize your deployment team members with the overall goals and scope of the project. Use this meeting to clarify and communicate responsibilities. 

  • Discover your IT infrastructure   

Collect facts and figures about your existing IT environment to  understand the technology solutions implemented by your company. Check if your on-premises environment meets the requirements for an Office 365 setup, by considering these areas:

  1. Servers and components  
  2. Network architecture and DNS  
  3. Authentication solutions  
  4. Directory design  
  5. Bandwidth  
  6. Mail routing  
  7. Certificates  
  8. Hardware and software  
  9. Mail and other client applications  
  10. Mail archiving and compliance  

Microsoft provides Office 365 readiness checks to help with this, through an automated tool which performs readiness checks against your on-premises environment to ensure that requirements are met, and informing you of any issues that might impede the deployment of Office 365.  

Another source of support is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit. Offered as an automated, multi-product planning and assessment tool, it delivers detailed readiness assessment reports, along with comprehensive hardware and software information, and actionable advice to help you speed up your IT infrastructure planning process and collect more information on assets residing within your current on-premises environment.  

  • Outline an implementation agenda
    Come up with a migration agenda to schedule your Office 365 implementation tasks and track the workstream progress.  
  • Decide on a mailbox migration strategy
    Evaluate if you need to purchase any third-party email migration toolsets and check on hardware requirements.  
  • Assess mailbox size and item counts
    Identify the size of mailboxes and number of items in mailboxes that you will migrate to Office 365 (consider mailbox size and item count and available network bandwidth,).
  • Identify existing business-related content that needs to be migrated
    Decide which files, folders and other content need to be moved to Office 365. If you plan to migrate Office templates, be aware that upgrading your Office client could possibly lead to file format changes and issues when trying to launch built-in macros in a template. 
  • Learn about different options for user identity and account provisioning  
    Office 365 provides several mechanisms to add employees to the service and manage user accounts.  
  • Define your email coexistence strategy  
    Email coexistence is a key feature offered by Office 365. For companies with Exchange Server environments, email coexistence allows a connection to be established between the on-premises environment and Exchange Online.
  • Test network bandwidth  
    Test the bandwidth of your company network to calculate migration velocity.  
  • Choose your mobile platforms  
    Plan for any changes required to the mobile platforms used by your company. Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync allows employees to synchronize their mobile devices with their Exchange Online mailboxes. 
  • Work up a communications strategy 
    Schedule notifications to inform employees when they need to start working with Office 365 and provide clear instructions showing how they switch to the cloud environment. 

Phase 2: Prepare your move to Office 365 

In the second phase of the Office 365 implementation project, focus on cleaning up your on-premises environment to prepare for migration. This task is often left to IT, but works better if representatives from different departments are involved, to ensure success and understanding throughout the organization. 

  • Add and verify your domain name with Office 365  
    Add your domain to Office 365 through the Microsoft Online Services Portal and create the DNS records to route domain traffic to Office 365.
  • Clean up your on-premises Active Directory for synchronization 
    Prepare your on-premises Active Directory (and update, if necessary) for synchronization with Office 365.
  • Enable single sign-on
    Install and configure identity federation servers on-premises and activate the single sign-on service.
  • Install the Directory Synchronization Tool and synchronize
    Install and configure Directory synchronization servers on-premises and activate Directory synchronization to provision user accounts for an Exchange hybrid deployment.  

Editors note: Read everything you need to know about Azure AD and Passthrough authentication here.

  • Configure your email coexistence  
    Install and configure Exchange hybrid servers on-premises to enable communication between your existing Exchange servers and Exchange Online. 
  • Configure SharePoint Online  
    Prepare for deployment of any custom SharePoint solutions and migration of existing SharePoint content.
  • Configure Online IM services
    Configure domain federation and public IM connectivity settings to boost your network for conferencing.
  • Install client applications and Office 365 desktop setup  
    Ensure client applications are properly updated and configured for Office 365.  

Download our complete Office 365 Implementation Guide.  Download now


Phase 3: Take the final steps: Going all in on Office 365 

It’s time to move mailboxes and business-related content from your on-premises environment to Office 365. It's a common pitfall to lack a content strategy regarding this, which comes from failing to conduct a full audit before beginning the process. Be sure to plan which content needs to be moved, and follow these vital steps:

  • Assign licenses
    If you have not already done so, assign licenses to employees through the Microsoft Online Services Portal to grant access to Office 365. Enable Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Online IM services.
  • Inform
    Get the word out to employees on when the migration is going to happen, how long the process will take, and what they need to do to switch to the new platform.
  • Migrate mailboxes
    Use your selected Exchange migration tools or third-party solutions to migrate to Exchange Online. To boost migration velocity of mailbox content, you may need to reduce the size of mailboxes.
  • Move existing files and folders
    Use third-party migration tools to move existing Office documents and templates from your current on-premises environment to Office 365.
  • Change DNS records  
    Once you have completed all migrations, change your DNS records to your domain registrar. 
  • Configure mobile phones and devices for Office 365  
    Set up user mobile phones along with any other mobile devices to access emails and Office documents on the go. Alternatively, send out clear instructions to employees on how to connect to Office 365 from their mobile devices. Remember: In order to work with Office templates on mobile devices, you may need to rethink your template management approach, especially if your Office templates contain VBA code. 
  • Perform a post-migration service testing
    After migrations are completed, perform a full-scale testing of the Office 365 service functionality. 
  • Check your Office templates
    Test your most important Office templates. See if they launch correctly  and examine whether there have been any changes in style and formatting. If some of your Office templates link to other Office files or integrate with CRM or ERP systems, test those connections too.

And you’re all set! No migration is perfect, but detailed planning is the best way to prepare for your Office 365 implementation.

Finally, it's important to consider plans for post-migration, including training end-users, in order to get the most out of the migration and be sure that adoption is happening across the organization. 

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