I was recently asked what I would do if I could give someone some 5 step guidance on getting started with Office 365. Since I spend most of my time dealing with SharePoint I am going to put my focus on getting ready for SharePoint online. So here are my “5 Steps for Readiness”.
Step 1: Know What It Is
The first thing is to really understand the features that are available with SharePoint Online. You should definitely take some time to become familiar with the features that are included. The best place for this is really dig into the different service offerings documentation for both Enterprise and Small Business offerings. As you are reading through these it will identify the features that you can utilize (and any limitations). If you are reading through the doc and run across something that you don’t recognize, then you should head over here and do a search to get more detailed information.
This documentation is going to answer all of the common questions for you concerning items like:
- How much Data can I have?
- How many site collections can I have?
- What file types can be uploaded to SharePoint?
- What file types are indexed?
Step 2: Know What It Isn’t
Once you know what it is, then you should also have a good idea of what it isn’t. Some great examples of this include the restrictions around Custom Development and Business Connectivity Services. There are so many great features in SharePoint Online but there are also still some great features that are only available when you are using SharePoint On-Premise (or hosted where you have full server control). The time to know what features are available is before you get started. You don’t want to have expectations that you can achieve things that aren’t currently supported. Instead you want to be sure to address any items that you don’t have access to and build a plan to deal with them with requests come up. It is definitely better to have a plan before you even get started.
Step 3: Know what you Want
As soon as you know all of the features available then you should build a plan for what you would like to deploy. SharePoint is a huge platform so you need to understand how you want to be using it internally. Some of the most common things I have worked with include:
- Corporate Intranet
- Public Website
- Internal Collaboration Sites
- Corporate FAQ & Knowledge Base
- Document Approval Process
- Project Sites
- Collaboration with Partners and Vendors
- Corporate Blogs & Message Boards
By taking the time to really identify how you want to utilize SharePoint within the organization you will be able to build a long term vision. I like to tell people to “Think Big, Start Small and Keep Growing”. This part of the process is the “Think Big” step. Where you look at SharePoint as a tool and identify the specific ways you want to utilize it within the organization.
Step 4: Know what is Realistic
Once you have worked out the overall vision it is important to start small. You need to identify what projects can be completed realistically given the timeline, resources and culture. SharePoint is a great tool, but it requires that users adopt it and really use it. In order to get this adoption it is important to build a plan that allows you to work at a pace that matches the organization. Typically this means that you work on implementing items in phases. Maybe we start with a corporate intranet and then once we complete that we start looking at building team site for collaboration. Or maybe we start by just implementing one process with workflows into SharePoint. We really have a lot of options!
Step 5: Start Moving
Then once we get started we just need to keep moving! Is it likely that you will get it all right the first time, no! But the beauty of it is that you can adjust your approach with the next project. We can start small and get people used to working with SharePoint and then really start to take advantage of the other features available. Implementing a tool like SharePoint is a process. So we would want to create small steps that allow us to keep conquering the small wins and getting at the low hanging fruit.
So that is my 5 point checklist to look at when you are considering moving to Office 365. The beauty of SharePoint is that it can be many different things to many different people. So to get started you really need to take some time to figure out what it will be for you. Once you do that you can build a small measurable plan and then get started with the process. This approach has worked in many different environments I have been in, so I definitely encourage you to give it a try!