Office 365

The Essential Office 365 Onboarding Checklist

As of July, 2021, there are more than a million companies worldwide using Microsoft's Office 365. Microsoft reports ...


As of July, 2021, there are more than a million companies worldwide using Microsoft's Office 365. Microsoft reports that the number of Office 365 commercial seats grew 15% in fiscal year 2020. These numbers reflect the fact that many large enterprises are migrating from on-premises solutions to Office 365's cloud-based platform.

What does Office 365 onboarding entail – and how do you accomplish it effectively and efficiently? To make sure that your company implements all the necessary steps to successfully onboard Office 365, you need to create an Office 365 onboarding checklist. Following this checklist is essential to a fast and error-free migration.

What is Office 365 Onboarding?

Onboarding Office 365 involves a wide range of activities to prepare for and execute the migration of your data and services to the Office 365 platform. It's not just about installing Office 365 apps on all enterprise devices; it's about moving legacy on-premises data and services to a completely different cloud environment and learning how to best use those resources. 

There are two basic approaches to onboarding Office 365:

  • Cutover, where the transition is scheduled to take place all at once
  • Staged, where data and accounts are migrated in batches over a period of time

Many enterprises believe a staged approach is best and safest, allowing staff to get used to changes sequentially instead of having to deal with everything new at one time. It's also easier to implement, in that you can onboard individual Office 365services one at a time.

What is an Office 365 Onboarding Checklist?

The Essential Office 365 Onboarding ChecklistOnboarding Office 365 is a complex process. It involves assessing your current situation, preparing the new environment, migrating data and accounts, and managing the entire process.

To execute a successful Office 365 onboarding you must develop an onboarding framework. This framework details where you currently are, where you're going with Office 365, and how you're going to get there. It's a roadmap to onboarding Office 365 successfully.

This framework will help you create your own specific Office 365 onboarding checklist. Work through the essential elements of a successful onboarding and break them down into smaller, more manageable components that can be assigned to individual departments and staff. When the checklisted tasks are finalized, your Office 365 onboarding process should be finished.

What Are the Essential Elements of a Successful Office 365 Onboard?

All organizations migrating to Office 365 need to follow similar steps to ensure a successful onboarding. While the onboarding process is specific to each company's needs and workflow, there are eight essential elements that must be included for a successful Office 365 onboarding experience.

Checklist Item 1: Enable

The first item on your Office 365 onboarding checklist is to purchase, install, and enable the necessary licenses for your user base. This should take place well before you begin the actual data migration so that everything is in place for the onboarding process.

Checklist Item 2: Assess

Before you begin the Office 365 onboarding and migration process it's important to assess your current situation. It's important to know:

  • What data you currently possess
  • Where that data is stored and how it is structured
  • Who has access to that data
  • What operating systems, apps, and services are currently being used
  • What versions of those OSs, apps, and services are in use and whether they need updating
  • Who in your organization is using which apps and services
  • What custom software is currently in use
  • Current status of all software licenses
  • Network bandwidth available
  • Status of network infrastructure
  • Cybersecurity status

To gather this information you need to conduct a thorough audit of your organization's technology infrastructure and services. You want to identify any weaknesses or holes in your infrastructure that need to be strengthened before onboarding Office 365.

This technology assessment needs to thoroughly evaluate the data you intend to migrate to Office 365. Not all data needs to be migrated. Identify any old or unused data that should not be included in the plan. Prioritize the data you do intend to migrate in order of importance to the organization and assign owners to the most valuable assets.

You also need to compare this assessment with the requirements of the Office 365 installation. For example, do you have enough bandwidth for the cloud-based O365 apps and services? What is the state of your network security? Do you have the right equipment in place to facilitate online collaboration and video meetings? Do you need to make any changes to your infrastructure before initiating the Office 365 onboarding process?

After completing this assessment you'll have a better understanding of the scope of the data migration and what needs to be done before the Office 365 onboarding begins.

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Checklist Item 3: Plan

With the scope of the undertaking understood, it's time to start planning the Office 365 onboarding. Use the information you've gathered to:

  • Determine which sites should be migrated
  • Identify large site collections and break them up into multiple smaller collections
  • Identify large individual sites and promote them into site collections
  • Determine whether to migrate empty lists and libraries
  • Determine what template, content, column, and user mappings are necessary
  • Determine if branding needs to be redesigned
  • Identify any customizations that must be retained

At this stage you need to determine which migration approach to use. You also need to decide whether you will attempt the migration solely with internal staff or whether you will retain a third-party firm, such as Cloudficient, to assist with the migration.

Checklist Item 4: Communicate

It's essential that your Office 365 onboarding plans be communicated to all parties involved, both inside and outside the enterprise. All employees who use the affected apps and access the migrating data need to be aware of the onboarding timeline. All customers or vendors who interface using affected apps or services also need to be aware of the changes being made. It's also important that all major stakeholders know about, approve of, and are supportive of your plans.

Here is the information you need to communicate:

  • Why you're making the change
  • Benefits of the change
  • What apps, services, and data will be affected
  • When the migration is slated to start
  • Estimated timeline for the operation
  • Any anticipated downtime
  • How operations will be different with Office 365

Checklist Item 5: Prepare

The next Office 365 onboarding checklist item is to prepare for the migration. You need to prepare both the data being migrated and the destination environment. In particular, you need to:

  • Configure the User Profile Service
  • Synchronize user profiles
  • Configure the Search Service
  • Configure all web applications
  • Optimize the performance of SharePoint service
  • Back up all data, applications, and services
  • Rebuild any necessary customizations

Checklist Item 6: Initiate

When all planning and preparation is complete you can initiate the Office 365 onboarding process. There are several steps to this process, including the following:

  • Activate O365 tenant
  • Add domain to the tenant and verify ownership
  • Provision all services
  • Transition pilot users
  • Integrate tenant with your on-premises systems

You will need to onboard each of the Office 365 services individually. This could include Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, Power BI, Yammer, and Office 365 Email. You will also need to transition all of the Office 365 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

Checklist Item 7: Migrate

The Office 365 onboarding process includes migrating all on-premises data into Office 365's relevant collaboration tools. This part of the process typically starts with a pilot migration and validating that all test content has been successfully moved over to the environment. In particular, you should validate the following items for each piece of data transitioned:

  • Sites
  • Lists
  • Folders
  • Metadata
  • Users
  • Permission

You should also use the pilot migration to test if all your customizations work in the new environment.

Pending a successful pilot migration you can now begin the full migration. When the migration is complete you should further validate the data and compare item counts. This is also the time to set new data access privileges.

Checklist Item 8: Manage

Post-migration you need to ensure that the destination environment is functioning as expected and that data integrity is preserved. There are several other activities you should undertake as part of the Office 365 onboarding management:

  • Train appropriate staff on the new services and procedures
  • Create a backup of the new environment
  • Enable full access to the new environment
  • Remove access to the old environment
  • Automatically redirect users to the new environment when old URLs are accessed

At this point you can begin the employee onboarding to Office 365. Notify staff of the completed transition and begin training sessions.

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Can You Onboard Office 365 On Your Own?

You can opt to migrate your data, accounts, and services manually or to employ a third party to help you with the Office 365 onboarding process. For large enterprises with thousands of users, enlisting outside help is the most prudent approach. Companies like Cloudficient have the manpower and tools to assist with large data migrations and ensure faster Office 365 onboarding with fewer errors.

At Cloudficient we offer a full range of services for onboarding Office 365. Our focus is on migrating email from Microsoft Exchange Server on-premise to Office 365 Email, but we also migrate data from archive systems such as Enterprise Vault, Quest Archive Manager, and Metalogix Archive Manager. These platforms often have very large archives (10-100 Terabytes or more) that make manual migration challenging.

Our Onboarding Office 365 Complete service enables enterprises to easily move large quantities of data, including mailboxes, home drives, file shares, and other personal or group repositories. It manages the onboarding process from start to finish and automates formerly labor-intensive activities. We also provide the technical resources necessary to monitor and support all the steps of the Office 365 onboarding process and guide your users into the cloud.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast, and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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