Best practices are rarely one-size-fits-all and must be adapted to the nuances of your business – however, there is much that can be learned from the shared experiences of the community. While there are many paths to the cloud, there are a number of things your organization can do to better prepare for the transition to a hybrid SharePoint environment:
- Make the user experience your top priority. Most organizations initially consider moving to the cloud, whether in whole or in part, because of business drivers – such as to reduce infrastructure costs. However, making the move as transparent and painless to your end users can be the key to a smooth transition. For example, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether the content they need to access is on-prem or in the cloud – they should simply be able to access the content they need quickly and easily. The location of the data should be seamless, and the assumption is that all security and compliance measures are being met.
“What is the biggest problem with the SharePoint UX? For customers, it is very simple: how much time does a user need to spend in SharePoint? Unless you are enticing users to SharePoint with viral cat videos or by making them hunt down content they need, a user’s additional time spent on SharePoint will be the best measure of increased user adoption and productivity.”
– Bradley Gendelnhuys, CEO of GTconsult
As you develop your hybrid environment and determine which workloads can be moved to the cloud, give your end users a voice in the process. Maintaining two SharePoint platforms can be a governance nightmare if you don’t have good feedback mechanisms in place with the people who are using both platforms.
- Think in terms of mobility. Mobility is not only about moving to a responsive web design and expecting end users to access their workloads through smart phones, but it about re-thinking the mobile experience from top to bottom, and developing apps, tools, and branding that supports mobile scenarios. Consider Microsoft’s plans around NextGen Portals as an example of thinking through the entire end user experience:
If well thought out, support for mobility options can actually help meet the needs of the hybrid transition, both for end users and management teams, by blurring the lines between on-premises and the cloud.
- Monitor and measure your success. At a high level, you cannot claim success if you cannot measure that success. One of the primary keys to effectively navigating the hybrid transition is to monitor and measure what is happening within your environment, using those metrics to identify patterns in both end user and system behaviors. Historically, most organizations are unaware of the usage patterns within SharePoint – they don’t know why some teams are successful while others fail to make effective use of the platform.
SharePoint includes a number of out-of-the-box health analyzers and diagnostic reports to help administrators analyze and resolve problems, however few of these reports are consistent between on-prem and online, and none of them provide a federated (or blended) view across a hybrid environment. Many of the detailed event viewers, timer jobs, and even PowerShell capabilities available in SharePoint on-premises are simply unavailable in Office 365, requiring you to think carefully about the reports and metrics that you need to capture across a hybrid environment.
- Continually refine your governance strategy. Governance begins with clearly defining the business requirements (what your end users expect and need to get their work done), identifying your system constraints (legal and regulatory requirements, thresholds and performance limitations of the platform), and mapping the differences between the two. Governance is then the process of managing those gaps, and monitoring changes to your business requirements so that new risks can be quickly identified and mitigated.
- Make your change management methodology transparent. You have made your end users your priority, and are re-thinking key workloads in terms of how your teams are using mobile devices. You have made monitoring and measurement a key component of your governance strategy, meeting regularly to adjust your baseline of policies and procedures against the reality of how your teams are using the platform. The last step is to have a visible – and transparent – process for taking action on what you learn about your system.
The trend of collaboration and content management systems is undeniably moving toward the cloud; however, most organizations still need to make the most of existing infrastructure investments. Hybrid SharePoint will be around for a few years yet – at least until Microsoft can create a compelling story for the cloud, and offer complete parity with on-premises functionality but at a lower cost. Until that time, organizations need to understand the best practices for successfully deploying and managing these hybrid platforms, taking advantage of the latest cloud features and scalability while maintaining their existing infrastructure investments. By following these few suggestions, organizations will be better prepared for a hybrid world.
For more on the topic, click to read Christian’s SharePoint to Office 365 Transition white paper.
Guest author Christian Buckley is Office 365 MVP and Managing Director, Americas, at GT Consult. He can be reached at: