As Office 365 continues to get more and more robust, with more and better functionality, its important to recognize that a successful environment starts with a successful deployment. Here are the # steps that must be included for your next Office 365 deployment to be completely successful.
A failure to plan your Office 365 deployment is a sure plan for a failed deployment, to paraphrase Ben Franklin.
Best practices are just as applicable in the cloud as they ever were on-prem, so here’s how to approach leveraging them when deploying Office 365.
More Than You Realize
When most people think about Office 365 they think of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote,Outlook, Exchange, and SharePoint. The list of included apps is now far, far longer, including Bookings, Business Center, Delve, Dynamics 365, Flow, Forms, OneDrive, Planner, PowerApps, StaffHub, Sway, Teams, To-Do, Yammer, and more. More functionality means more planning.
As with most things, Stephen Covey’s second habit, “Begin with the End in Mind” absolutely applies. Best practices tell us to examine both the current state of the existing environment, and then carefully define the desired end state. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you ever map the path to get there?
Define your goals in the context of your organization as a whole, and also in terms of each department and user group that will be using your resources. Failure of users to adopt a new system is the reason for three quarters of deployment project failures. If users don’t find value in the new system, they won’t adopt.
Also, define goals in terms of value to the users, the groups, and the organization, not just features and functions.
Begin by defining the current state in greater detail. Carefully document every user. Then identify and define the groups that users are currently assigned to. List every application and workload each of these groups access, along with complete requirements for each. Perform an analysis to determine if there are any applications currently resident on your servers that literally nobody is using. Don’t be surprised if you find some. Apps are often orphaned along the way.
For each user also inventory all of the client endpoint devices they are using, including complete documentation of configuration, capacities, security measures that are in place, and encryption capability. You may identify some devices that will not be adequately equipped to exist in your Office 365 environment due to security weaknesses.
10-Step Strategic Plan
This is the phase of your project that you’ll want to focus on, and spend the most time and energy on. Get this right, and the rest of the process runs smoothly.
Start by identifying the deployment planning tools of your preference. The best will always provide detailed, step-by-step advice that goes far beyond the scope of this blog post. Consult your instructors and other resource people at New Horizons for advice.
The most important elements of your strategic plan must be:
- Planning for Security in the Office 365 environment
Do not assume that Office 365 itself provides all the security you’ll need. Security must be planned from end-to-end, from each user endpoint device to the network and back.
- Avoiding Operational Disruption during the deployment
Your goal is to have users go home at the end of one day, and come back to completely ready new systems the next with no lapse in regular operations.
- Contingency Roll-Back Plan if you run into unforeseen obstacles
Even the best planning may not take every possible circumstance into account. Be sure you can roll back to the current state at any point in the process should you encounter any surprises.
- Pilot Deployment (if viable)
It’s always preferable to test your deployment with a small group of users who would be minimally impacted should a failure occur. Great opportunity to learn what potential pitfalls may await.
- User Provisioning
Every user will have to have their Office 365 account subscription fully provisioned, fully configured, and ready for use.
- Data Migration
Two little words that could dwarf the entire rest of the process. If you have determined which workloads must be migrated and to where, and identified those that can be archived or discarded, this turns into a great opportunity to clean house.
- Post-Deployment Testing
Before a user ever touches their endpoint, you want to be sure their first experience will be fantastic.
- User Orientation
Ideally, users should be shown their new environment before, but as close to the actual transition as possible. This way, they have less time to forget what they were anxious to try out!
- Day Zero User Support
Assuring the optimum user experience is enhanced by having trained, experienced support personnel on hand to assist on that first day back in the new environment.
- Ongoing Support
Your ongoing support plan should be more than just maintenance and problem resolution. It should be a plan to help every user get the most out of Office 365.
The Proof is in the Putting
Any strategic plan is only as good as its execution, or as General Patton said, “Planning without Execution is Hallucination,” but the more detailed and precise your plan, the higher your likelihood of success.
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