How to Create a SharePoint Migration Project Plan

Do you have a migration project on your agenda? Migration is a necessary and common task for companies all over the world that are trying to keep up with the dynamic market demands. 

It usually starts with old systems that cannot produce desired results, slowing down the actual process. Because of that, most firms aim to replace their on-premises infrastructures and systems with cloud-based alternatives. One of the permanent options they can choose is a SharePoint migration. However, with so many variables and options involved in this procedure, success depends on careful planning.

For this reason, this article will discuss how to approach your SharePoint migration planning and introduce a few tried-and-true procedures to get you started on your big transfer. It will also explain how to develop your strategy, plan, and goals for a successful migration to SharePoint online.

Four ways to approach cloud migration

Four approaches to cloud migration include cloud-only, big bang transition, group by group, and co-management (iterative) transition. Let's take a closer look at all of them and discover which one is the best for your SharePoint migration.


Imagine only using the cloud and nothing else. This option is excellent for startups, as migration is not required. Basically, you use Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 to create everything in the cloud. In other words, all your practices and workflows that you used on-premises exclusively are abandoned for digital alternatives. 

Big Bang

This approach to transition is usually the riskiest. However, it is also the most aggressive and can be completed fairly quickly. That said, there's often not enough time to fix content migration issues as they appear during the transition process. 


The group-by-group migration plan is the most organized, and it is perfect for SharePoint users. This way, migration is done by workload. In other words, you have to sort your data and content into smaller groups, which will then be transferred to the new platform one by one. 


The iterative transition, sometimes referred to as a hybrid setup, aids in bridging on-premises and internet environments. Oftentimes this is the most expensive and complex approach to take because it requires the coexistence and management of these two environments.

In conclusion, as you start working on your SharePoint online migration project plan, keep in mind that group-by-group transition is the best option. Moving your content and workflow in waves rather than all at once helps you keep better track of your data during the transfer. Moreover, it makes it easier to stay organized in the first days on the new platform and detect if something is missing or has been misplaced in the process.

How to plan a SharePoint migration project

Migrations rarely fail because of technical limitations. Instead, it happens because some of the basic concepts get fundamentally ignored. For this reason, it is crucial that you go over some of the most important steps in creating a SharePoint migration project plan before starting the process.

1. Define your company's pain points

Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online offer features that can fix some issues your company is struggling with. So, if you and your team have already decided to migrate, it is imperative that you determine what issues a migration could address. That is the first step in learning how switching to SharePoint could enhance your business activities. 

Small and mid-sized companies usually transfer to SharePoint because they are struggling with these or similar issues: 

  • Insufficient data protection and security;
  • Lack of reliable support and assistance;
  • The current system doesn't provide customizable features;
  • Lack of storage;
  • Desire to remain competitive and keep up with industry trends;

A good SharePoint transfer strategy can fix all these and many other problems. But to do that, you must devise a plan that follows your company's goals and objectives. 

2. Revise your business strategy

Before transferring to SharePoint, it is vital to fully understand your entire business strategy and current operations. In other words, you should consider all the possible changes that project management platforms, workflow automation, and project management plan will bring to your workflow and processes. 

Here are a couple of important questions you and your team should go over:

  • What database size are you planning for the future?
  • How much scalability will your environment require?
  • What is the anticipated user growth?

In cases like these, it's critical to be proactive and discuss these questions with team members to understand your company's environment better. That way, you'll be able to design the best custom solution for your company as you migrate to SharePoint online.

Appoint a team in charge of migration

Hiring a migration manager or a specialist to supervise the migration process can help you save money and time because an expert will make sure everything goes over smoothly. However, each migration team member will be crucial in planning and executing the move. A perfect team typically has the following members:

  • Migration lead. This individual leads the SharePoint migration project and is in charge of the migration of teams. That said, teams are required to report to the executive board as well;
  • Project manager. The manager oversees all the team members involved in the process, their responsibilities, and the project plan;
  • Information architect. This team member organizes all intended activities. That means the information architect must work closely with the solution architect and be a part of the team responsible for intranet modernization;
  • Solution architect. They are in charge of migrating business solutions. At the same time, they collaborate with the information architect and take part in intranet modernization;
  • Migration specialist/manager. Migration specialists have a key role in carrying out the SharePoint migration. They are knowledgeable about the specific migration tools and have access to teams involved in the migration process;
  • Site owners. These are the professionals who keep sites up-to-date and in accordance with the migration plan. They also carry out the whole process;
  • Communication expert. This individual is responsible for all migration-related news, announcements, and communication activities;
  • Technical expert. The technical specialist provides knowledge and training to all the team members who are ready to migrate;

All in all, your migration team should be able to create a strategy, conduct the system auditing, do architecture redesign, test, and deal with documentation. 

4. Develop a communication plan

Before execution, you must include a communication strategy in your migration plan. Each team member should know their position in the transfer and be familiar with the pre-migration and post-migration procedures. Moreover, every department should have defined deadlines in order to boost efficiency.

5. Examine your current data environment

It would be best if you first handled the inventory in your current environment before planning for migration. Is it on-premise? A file share? Box? SharePoint Online or an older version of SharePoint? You need to understand what's going on under the hood because this evaluation allows you to make better decisions about what to transfer and how long it will take to update your end users to their modern workspace.

For this reason, you should make a migration project template that provides you with a deeper view of your present environment. Try to include the following information in the template:

  • Sites and site collections;
  • Libraries and lists;
  • Pages;
  • Branding;
  • Retention policies;
  • Custom solutions;
  • File share and UI personalizations;
  • Groups, users, and permissions;
  • Site columns and content types;

After examining the inventory, you will have a clearer notion of what is essential in your new environment. Then, you can eliminate redundant, outdated, or unused data or workflows and focus solely on what ought to be migrated. As a result, you'll get a stable, efficient SharePoint environment.

Finally, in order to guarantee that the transfer is both simple and efficient, you can export your SharePoint data using PowerShell. Additionally, you can export lists to an excel spreadsheet to get an overview of what you're trying to accomplish.

6. Reorganize your current information architecture

It’s best to assume that you will need to make some architectural modifications during the migration process. SharePoint 2010 workflows, for example, will not run on SharePoint Online. Therefore, examine the target platform for deprecated or newly introduced features and prepare to change your topology accordingly.

After reviewing your inventory, it might come to your attention that some sectors are extremely chaotic. Cleaning up your environment might help make the transition simple and smooth. You will probably have to restructure web elements, templates, content types, and SharePoint topology at this point. That may include:

  • Organizing libraries and lists;
  • Reorganizing large site collections;
  • Modifying permissions;

Furthermore, don't forget to examine your customized solutions. Custom solutions can be critical to business owners, but they may not be supported in their current form on the target platform. Discuss these concerns with the proprietors of the custom solutions.

7. Start preparing the destination environment

Now that you've completed the source side of the migration, it's time to check the destination environment. The end UX is extremely important. Creating a good destination setting will generate an excellent team experience. So, spend some time developing and structuring your company's information architecture. You can even get it customized!

The process of becoming ready for your new environment covers the following:

  • Configuring web applications;
  • Improving server performance;
  • Restore testing;
  • Creating a metadata plan for content;
  • Making backups;
  • Performing a test move;

8. Train your users

End-user education and communication are critical to encouraging successful adoption. Hence, to get the greatest potential outcome, make sure users understand the benefits of the shift ahead of time. Determine what you will provide in terms of training and assistance to help your team succeed in the long run.

9. Create a change management strategy 

Fear of change is a natural and common occurrence during any deployment process. In such a situation, you might notice your employees becoming distressed, insecure, or even resisting the change. That's why you need to include change managers in migration plans. By appointing change leaders in every team or a central change management team, you will help your employees be better prepared for the impending changes in their current data environment. 

Changes in the environment you need to discuss can include:

  • Migration process duration;
  • Alterations to document references and bookmarks;
  • Unplanned downtime or slowdowns;
  • URL modifications;

10. Execute migration in stages

When creating content maps, it might be good to migrate in stages so that the entire team is aware of how the material is changed as it transitions from your legacy system to a modern platform. At this point, group-by-group migration will not only make the process more manageable but will also lessen the overwhelming magnitude of the entire procedure.

When starting the process, there are several SharePoint migration steps to consider. Following those steps lead to a successful migration plan.

  • Ending the workflows before the migration begins;
  • Converting your old database to a read-only mode;
  • Creating a backup of your content prior to transitioning to SharePoint Online;
  • Doing a database attach-upgrade if moving from SharePoint 2013;
  • Utilizing the Microsoft SharePoint migration tool to import, upload, scan, and package your files;

Furthermore, always try to stay on top of the SharePoint migration process because it is vital to document and handle any issues that appear during the upgrade. That said, it's easier when you have the necessary tools to ensure your move goes smoothly. 

11. Testing and backup after migration

Testing is the final step in the migration process. Basically, it makes sure that everything is working smoothly. Often it requires a testing strategy as well as professionals to oversee it. The aim is to check if all features are working effectively, including modifications and third-party programs. With testing plans, you can:

  • Ascertain that everything has been moved correctly and thoroughly;
  • Reconfirm workflows and permissions;
  • Check search results; verify the time it takes for each search;
  • Examine query performance;
  • Test user experience and UI;
  • Perform a full crawl;
  • Back up your new system;

Final Thoughts

A SharePoint migration is a time-consuming and complex procedure. It requires knowledge of both legacy and modern technology, as well as extensive planning and communication with stakeholders. 

In the end, it's important to have a few key points in mind as you go through the transfer. So, here is a short SharePoint online migration checklist:

  • Organize migrations in stages and be flexible; 
  • Plan for iterative strategies, execution, and release;
  • Make an inventory of what will be eliminated, transformed, or altered;
  • Be prepared for mistakes due to variances in the source and target platform; 
  • Avoid issues by communicating the adjustments early and often;

Small and mid-sized companies can easily create a SharePoint migration project plan with the assistance of Info Tank's IT services in Atlanta. Our experts can support you every step of the way, whether you want to transition to the Microsoft cloud, a newer version of SharePoint, another tenant, or just reorganize your content.