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What is a Migration Plan, and How to Prepare

March 23, 2022
7.5 min read
What is a Migration Plan, and How to Prepare
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When migrating to Microsoft 365 and SharePoint online, the approach taken will often be very similar across organizations in that there are phases full of tactical activities for any migration from assessment to post-migration. This is also true for most SharePoint Server migrations.

Often, the upgrade supported process is not used to avoid paying for additional hardware configuration and setup to hop from older versions of SharePoint Server to newer ones (as each supports an upgrade from the last).

As an example, what follows is a simple diagram depicting the typical flow of most SharePoint Online migrations.


As you can see, the entire migration process goes beyond simply transferring files and spaces. In order to ensure a smooth and effective migration it is imperative to have the right plan in place. This blog will help you ensure you effectively plan and prepare for your migration.

However, if you are looking for a greater understanding of an upgrade or migration plan, its components, and its importance, we highly recommend you watch the free on-demand webinar (50+ Pages with Everything You Need to Know About SharePoint Migrations) with our incredible partner AvePoint.

If you are also interested in avoiding and solving top Microsoft 365 management mistakes (The Biggest Microsoft 365 Management Mistakes (and how to solve them), register for our upcoming webinar with AvePoint on the biggest mistakes made and how to solve them.

What is a migration plan?

While our whitepaper or recent webinar dive deep into the topic, a migration plan is essentially used to define the path and strategy to migrate important documents, spaces (sites and groups), and other buckets of information to your new environment.


However, before planning, you’re going to need to assess the situation appropriately. While this blog is not about the assessment phase of the process, it is an essential step.

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For more information on this step, download our free whitepaper (50+ Pages with Everything You Need to Know About SharePoint Migrations).

Prepare and plan for your migration

After assessing the content and environment you will be moving to, it is critical to prepare for what content will be migrated where, how, and when. This is made easier by cleaning up, reducing the total targeted content, or clearly defining what content should change. In some situations, like when moving to SharePoint Online, you may be better served by pre-creating the target structure before the migration as well.

Site Structure Preparation

The sites need to be created in the new environment based on the site structure assessment outcome. If the new structure differs from the existing structure, the new structure needs to be built based on the mapping table as explained in the associated section. If a new site structure is used, the new site structure is likely following Microsoft’s recommendation regarding Site Collections in SharePoint. To be able to implement a logical structure, specific sites need to be turned into Hub Sites, and related sites need to be associated with their hub sites.

Before a new site structure is implemented, the new structure needs to be reviewed. This review should be performed by members of different (if not all) departments or corporate entities.

Content preparation

Based on the outcome of the content assessment, a clean-up process needs to be initiated. Clean-up means that the list of identified documents is reviewed to find documents that should not be migrated to the new environment – these can be temporary documents, outdated documents, or documents that are not relevant anymore. As most documents belong to a specific corporate entity (like a department), the content owners or members of the associated corporate entity should be tasked with cleaning up their documents.

If documents from a file-share should be migrated to SharePoint, it is likely, that multiple versions of a document are existing. As a file-share is not providing any support for document versions, editors usually append the version number to the title of documents. These “title-versioned” documents need to be identified before they are migrated to SharePoint because SharePoint document libraries can handle multiple versions of a document. The identified “title-versioned” documents need to be transferred into the versioning mechanism of SharePoint document libraries.

If the new environment’s site structure is different from the old environment’s site structure, documents will likely be saved to a different location as well. If there is a site mapping table, the list of documents needs to be updated to reflect the new site for each document. It makes sense to update the list of documents after the clean-up


This mapping should also consider the desired future state if you intend to modernize during the migration process. This isn’t unique to just SharePoint migrations but is also relevant for file share migrations.

Workflow preparation

Based on the workflow assessment outcome, a migration path needs to be created for each identified workflow. The type of workflow is pivotal for deciding on the migration path. The first decision to be made is whether the workflow should be updated/modernized functionality-wise. If a workflow is being updated or modernized, it is likely, that the workflow needs to be rebuilt using modern technology (like Power Automate).

If you would like to start with creating a migration path, the following bullet-point list might be helpful:

  • OOTB workflows: usually, these workflows can be migrated without issues.
  • SharePoint Designer workflows: usually, these workflows can be migrated without issues, but some workflows might need some manual tweaks or adjustments.
  • Custom workflows: usually, these are coded workflows based on server-side code, which means that they can’t be migrated to SharePoint Online. A migration to a newer version of SharePoint on-premises might be possible.
  • 3rd party workflows: in most cases, these are Nintex or K2 workflows, and it is likely, that the manufacturer provides an upgrade path or an upgrade procedure.

Based on the evaluated upgrade path, estimates and timelines need to be created for all workflows, which can’t be migrated as-is. For each affected workflow, the efforts needed to prepare it for the migration (including recreating/recoding) need to be evaluated. A corresponding timeline shows how long the overall process of preparing the new environment’s workflows will take. There should be a detailed list with all workflows, migration efforts, and timelines with durations for each workflow at the end of the workflow preparation phase.

Custom Solution Preparation

Very similar to the workflow preparation phase, the custom solution preparation phase is all about preparing custom solutions for migration. The type of custom solution is pivotal for deciding on the migration path. As with workflows, the first decision is whether a custom solution should be updated/modernized in terms of functionality and/or user experience. If a custom solution is being updated or modernized, it is likely, that the custom solution needs to be rebuilt using modern technologies or modern platforms (like Microsoft Azure).

As mentioned before, the migration path for custom solutions depends on how the custom solution has been created. The following bullet-point list might be helpful:

  • Server-side code: there is a chance that this type of solution can be migrated to SharePoint on-premises with reasonable efforts. If the target platform is Microsoft 365, solutions build based on server-side code need to be recreated as custom server-side code can’t be used.
  • Client-side code: there is an excellent chance to migrate this type of custom solution to SharePoint Online or SharePoint on-premises, but some updating might be required.
  • 3rd party solutions: the best option is to contact the vendor to check if there is a dedicated migration path.

Migration plan

Like most plans, this phase of the migration process consists of a stage where you define and then evaluate the steps needed before finalizing.

With so many things to consider and plan for, a detailed migration plan needs to be created and the following is what you should include.

  • The selected migration approach and the reasons why a specific method has been chosen.
  • A list of all sites and site collections that need to be migrated and a mapping table if the new structure differs from the old structure
  • A list of all documents that need to be migrated, their location in the old environment and in the new environment
  • A list of all workflows (existing, recreated, new) needs to exist in the new environment and their locations. If additional steps are required (like reconnecting workflows to data sources), these steps need to be added as well
  • A list of all custom solutions (existing, recreated, new) needs to exist in the new environment and their locations. If additional steps are required (like reconnecting solutions to data sources or specific installation instructions), these steps need to be added as well
  • Any additional activities that need to be performed during a migration and the dependencies
  • A detailed timeline with a responsible person for each step of the migration

Do you want to make sure the approach and structure for your SharePoint migration is strong, watch our video below.

What’s next?

If you are looking for help with migration, watch our webinar with AvePoint on-demand. In the webinar, our CTO and Microsoft MVP, Richard Harbridge, will discuss what important considerations should be understood and planned before an upgrade/migration, what approaches have successfully worked for other companies, and practical guidance on how best to succeed with your modernization or migration project.

Watch Now
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