Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

There's More To Moving to Office 365 Than Just The Technology

There's More To Moving to Office 365 Than Just The Technology

By Dennis D. McDonald

Sonia Cheng and Alain Pelluch in Information Governance Considerations with Office 365 provide a good overview of important storage and retention issues raised by moving to a cloud based collaboration platform like Microsoft's Office 365. They pay special attention to both security and email retention. They also recommend initial baseline assessments to help understand the organization's starting point. Without such assessments it would be difficult to develop appropriate metrics to track progress in such a move.

The "elephant in the room" associated with such a move also needs to be given more attention. That is, how do you plan and manage such a transformation in a large organization where a mix of locally managed email systems and file management resources are currently employed?

Having experienced such "transformations" firsthand I've witnesses how management can make or break the success regardless of the technologies involved.

Success starts with the involvement of both the business and I.T. sides of the organization. The more profound process changes may be required from the business, not just from I.T.  

The requirements -- and in some cases unanticipated side effects -- for behavioral and process change generated by shifting to cloud-based email, information sharing, and collaboration can take months if not years to work through. During that time the organization will continue to change. All parties will need to adjust, not just I.T.

Another valuable point made by the authors is that managing a shift to something like Office 365 isn't just about physical email networks and security. It also concerns how email is used in many cases as an organization’s default document distribution, management, and storage platform.

This raises the issue not only of how to manage “official” document creation, archiving, and record retention, but also how to manage the organization’s data and metadata resources. Collaboration platforms such as Office 365 make it easier -- in theory at least -- to share information regardless of organizational or physical boundaries. When that happens it makes sense for those who are doing the sharing to use the same language to describe the organization and its operations.

I.T. can’t manage all this on its own, even when it provides tools and services to support search as well as data and metadata standardization. Also, additional requirements for security, privacy, and storage may vary from country to country. For multinational firms, making employees aware of such considerations may require significant ongoing training, not just technology support.

In summary, moving an organization’s collaboration infrastructure to “the cloud” involves more than a technology or email move. It’s a change that can profoundly impact how people do their work. It should be planned and managed with the ongoing cooperation of all.

Copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald

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