Many SharePoint professionals have a strong information systems background. Sometimes, because we are so concerned with the systems perspective of an upgrade, we lose sight of the main reason why we have a SharePoint platform…to host user content.
In the latest installment of the TriCore SharePoint blog series, we will discuss the importance of enterprise content discovery…the process of ensuring that you account for your user data prior to an upgrade and migration.
Preparation – The Most Important Step in Enterprise Content Discovery
The old saying by the American Patriot Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very true with a SharePoint upgrade and migration. As mentioned earlier, we tend to identify the information systems hardware required to support a SharePoint upgrade. However, history has shown that SharePoint initiatives experience problems when it comes time to upgrade and migrate the content contained within SharePoint.
For those of you who are new to SharePoint, you might be asking, “But wait a minute, when you upgrade your SharePoint environment, doesn’t the content get upgraded automatically?” The answer to that question is a resounding “No”. In SharePoint, as in many other enterprise systems, the content does not automatically upgrade along with the information system resources. The reason that the content is not immediately upgraded is that the actual content may be linked, dependent, and/or associated with certain SharePoint functionality such as workflows, web parts, content types, etc. To add to the complexity, all of the items just mentioned are not just associated with “functionality”, but also “content” as well…these items play a dual role within SharePoint. Essentially, “content” in SharePoint is not static, it is dynamic…you can associate functionality with the content to meet your needs.
Therefore, preparing your users for a content upgrade is critical. Let’s discuss how to proceed in the least painful way possible.
Identifying Your Content – What You See is Truly What You Get
There are many ways to identify the content in your SharePoint enterprise. You can use PowerShell, Central Administration, third-party tools, file explorers, web browsers, home-grown tools, or a combination of these items. In the end, it still requires a human being to identify the content to be upgraded to the new version of SharePoint.
Prior to engaging your user community to validate the content required for migration, it is a good practice to perform a high-level discovery of content from an enterprise perspective starting at the top of your information hierarchy. Using the logical architecture as your starting point, you can then drill-down through each layer of content and create an outline of the major content areas (this could be organizational, functional, or a combination of both). Next, group the outline in such a way that a team of super users can be associated with the content outline…this will be useful when validating the content with the actual end users who own the content (content owners). Once you have completed your outline, you’re ready to engage with the user community to validate their content.
Content Validation with the User Community – It’s Their Content, Not Yours
Here is the most important aspect of validating the content in your SharePoint platform…user community engagement. Keep in mind that you don’t “own” this content. Your role is to upgrade and migrate the content that is owned by different teams. You are probably not an expert in accounting, human resources, legal affairs, and the multitude of other functional roles within your organization. That also means you are not an expert on the content hosted in SharePoint and utilized by the user community who execute these roles and responsibilities on a daily basis.
It is important to meet with your user community, one team at a time, to validate all of the content that the users require for upgrade and migration. Some of the content may no longer be valid and may need to be removed from SharePoint. Other content might need to be archived in a separate system. Yet, some content might need to be moved to another location in SharePoint due to regulatory or corporate reorganization obligations.
The “lift and shift” approach is great from an information systems perspective, but from a content perspective, we must be very careful and vigilant. Quite literally, every “BIT” (binary digit) must be accounted for in our upgrade.
Communicating Progress – Ensuring Stakeholders are “In the Loop”
Once the upgrade and migration actually begin, the user community will need to know the status and progress of the upgrade. Most likely, the user community will want to know when they can begin using the new environment as well as some of the new features and functionality.
Also, you will need to consider training the users on the improved navigation and features which may advance the user experience (examples: drag and drop, upload multiple files, enterprise search).
Communication is key…keep your user community updated regularly.
In a nutshell, there are many activities associated with a SharePoint upgrade and migration. The challenges facing you are not just information systems-related…the most important activities are user-related. Even though the systems challenges are daunting…the user community obligations are far more important.
Remember, without a user community, there would be no reason for a SharePoint enterprise.
If you’d like to talk with Alan about SharePoint, Project Server, and the Microsoft Business Intelligence Stack, feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other SharePoint content from TriCore Solutions:
- SharePoint eBook
- Tailoring Your SharePoint Business Intelligence Experience
- Free SharePoint Assessment