Feb 07 2020

6 Steps to a Successful Migration to a New Workplace Collaboration Tool

As Skype for Business nears its end of life, it’s time for businesses to consider how they can switch smoothly to a new communication platform.

In July 2021, Skype for Business Online will reach its end of life as Skype’s owner, Microsoft, strives to move everyone to Teams instead. But migrating to a new workplace collaboration platform, especially one with features as robust as Teams, isn’t without complications. Whenever a business is planning to move from one collaboration tool to another, careful planning is required. Here are the steps businesses should take for a successful transition.

1. Determine the Stakeholders and Goals of the Project

Like any IT undertaking, migrating to a new collaboration tool should be supported by the key people who have a vested interest in its success. This might include an executive sponsor, IT professionals, project managers and someone who is responsible for managing user adoption.

Once the project stakeholders are established, determine its goals. Is the plan to make a full transition to the new platform? Is it to coexist with the current collaboration product for some time? Or is to only light up certain features and retire others? Also, make sure that there is feature parity between the two platforms. Once the goals are laid out, start defining roles and who is responsible for delivering what.

2. Adopt a Proven Framework

There’s no point starting over if there is a framework that has already been tried and tested. Start by looking at the vendor for the destination platform. For example, for a business that needs to migrate from Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams, Microsoft already has a framework the business can adopt and rely on. A structured framework will also provide the governance required for a successful project and make sure the business and IT goals are aligned.

The framework should also include a risk mitigation plan. Risks can be both technical and connected to user acceptance. In the technical stages of the project, always have a rollback plan or an alternative means to provide critical functionality in case of a failure. Due to the complexity of collaboration tools, the plan should also include mitigations for instances where users don’t accept planned changes.

3. Plan For Both and Upgrade Users in Stages

Some businesses may find it necessary to make a complete transition from one collaboration platform to another, with no overlap. In most cases, though, it is better to upgrade users in small groups to a new platform rather than flipping a switch for the entire organization. It is much easier to manage the risks this way.

There may also be variations on the available coexistence models, each providing different end-user experiences and levels of interoperability. Either way, it’s wise to run a pilot with a broad representation of different users to establish whether there are any gaps in the business’s strategy. The pilot phase is when the organization should decide how it will measure success.

While coexistence for a certain period is usually the best option, it also comes with drawbacks. Technical limitations might mean that there is no interoperability between the two platforms in some coexistence models.

For example, users might be able to receive calls on the existing platform but not in the destination tool until the platform being retired is turned off completely. Complexity for users might also be greater because they may need to use two pieces of software simultaneously.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How small businesses can utilize collaboration tech.

4. Map Out a Schedule And Assign Tasks

Orchestrating a complex migration and completing it on time is always a challenge. Once the project goals have been established, the IT team can start to understand the technical steps that will be required to move to the new platform and how users will be affected.

In addition to coordinating those technical aspects of the migration, it’s important to ensure that users will be ready for any changes when they happen. Communication between technical and business stakeholders is critical to ensure that at each stage of the project, IT and users are aligned and ready to handle changes as they occur.

5. Manage Daily Operations During the Transition

Transitioning to a new collaboration tool means that IT staff will need to know how to support it and manage ­day-to-day operations. Migrating between cloud-based platforms from the same vendor is easier for IT because the platforms are likely to share some core technologies. For instance, Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams can both be managed using PowerShell.

But migrating to a platform from a different vendor will be more technically challenging. IT staff may need training in the new platform and to learn to manage it from the command line. Connected systems, such as security information and event management, will need to be reconfigured to work with the new collaboration platform.

DISCOVER: Watch how new tools drive organizations to adopt new ways to work.

6. Train Users on the New Collaboration Tool

Because of the complexity often involved with collaboration tools, it cannot be assumed that users will accept or be able to intuitively use a different platform. Users may need orientation in the new tool and more in-depth training.

This is one reason many businesses find it helpful to partner with outside experts in the adoption and integration of new technology. Don’t just expect that users will be able to (or are happy to) manage two collaboration platforms concurrently. It will depend on the technical capability and willingness of users to accept change quickly. Before changes are due to happen, make sure they have been clearly communicated to users so users know how they will be affected. 

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