The right way to migrate from file shares to SharePoint

Improved collaboration, access, findability, and information governance are often goals of moving to SharePoint.

Just giving people a team site is not the solution. Successful team site adoption and roll out happens when:

  • you look at the big picture approach to information in your organization, and
  • develop a plan for when and how to introduce people to this new way of working.

“Let’s move off file shares and onto SharePoint”

If your organization is planning on executing the migration department by department, you are not alone. I can't blame anyone for using that approach. First, it is familiar. It is how file shares are traditionally set up. And from a change perspective, you only engage with, and get buy-in from a smaller subset of the organization. So, it seems like a much easier approach and way forward.

Don’t recreate your file share problems in SharePoint

My concern with this department-by-department approach is that some of the larger business problems you are trying to solve by moving from file shares to SharePoint will just be perpetuated.

Oranges and Apples — don’t try to treat everything the same

The first stumbling block comes when a department tries to fit all that they do into a single team site.

What belongs on your team site

Some of the work that a department does is collaborative: to build on and improve the work of the team. This includes team meetings, research, and internal project work. This type of work fits nicely in a departmental team site. Try creating some simple templates that you can use to get these departmental collaboration sites started quickly and include items such as a meetings structure, a document collaboration space and a space for keeping resources the entire team may use.

Additional discovery and information design is a good practice to accommodate some of the transactional work that the department does – and is what makes each department site unique.

What might not belong on your team site

Where you need to stop, and consider fit is in the following two scenarios:

  • When a department is providing an internal service to others within the organization.
  • When the collaboration is embedded in a bigger organizational business process or bridges across audiences from different departments.

Some common examples of activities that often go beyond a team site include:

  • Contracts management, purchasing, or bidding processes
  • People management hiring, performance evaluations, training etc.
  • Organizational reporting such as a KPI program, annual reports
  • Managing projects multi-discipline or phased
  • Governing documents creation, maintenance, and publication of policies and procedures

Incorporating this type of work into a department team site might make sense when you only evaluate the work that is being done from a single department's perspective. But, if you look at the content experience of the entire organization, it becomes problematic to look at it through that singular view.

Build business process-centric sites or solutions

Business processes that require interdisciplinary collaboration should have specific sites designed to support them. Without them, you risk content either getting buried in departmental sites or duplicate copies of content showing up in multiple places in your portal as people file the same content in their own team sites. Creating project team sites for cross disciplinary projects ensures that all the documentation for that project can be managed and collaborated on together in one location. Project sites can also be easily managed and archived as projects close.

Make sure governance documents are easily accessible

Governing documents in their final form should exist on an easily accessible publishing environment such as an intranet or a safety management portal. This way, the people using your documentation have ready access to the latest, approved policy or procedure. For the creation and approval process, collaboration environments might make sense but may benefit from enhanced workflows to facilitate and capture the lifecycle of those key business records.

Start with the big picture

If not department by department – how do you get started? Start with a holistic overview of the type of content your organization produces and are planning on incorporating into your new sites. This is not a comprehensive content audit.

Identify the big business processes in your organization and the content that is created and collaborated on within those processes. Then identify content that will need the most attention from a risk and compliance standpoint. 

You can then create a thoughtful, prioritized plan that outlines when you might start to rollout out sites and for what purpose, allows for coordination with other important business cycles, and ultimately allows you to manage your most important business asset.

When you look at the big picture and plan accordingly, you can get the business value you seek from migrating from file shares to SharePoint.

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