How to Move to the Microsoft Cloud – One Step at a Time (for SMBs)

We get it. Change is hard. Especially when you know that the change will permanently alter the way you conduct your business. Many small to medium-sized businesses have realized the benefits of moving to the cloud but have not yet made the change because they are either unfamiliar or intimidated by the process. In this article, I will explain why Microsoft 365 is the best cloud solution today, describe the four significant steps for a Microsoft 365 implementation, and provide a few suggestions to help you along the way.

Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based productivity solution that offers its subscribers access to all the classic Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It also provides access to Premium Office apps such as Planner, Forms, and Lists. But wait, that’s not all! The list continues; it also includes powerful cloud service apps, including Microsoft Teams, Exchange email, and the OneDrive and SharePoint file management apps!

 

Wow. That’s a lot!

 

We still aren’t done yet. With Microsoft 365, your data is backed by Microsoft’s leading security service, keeping you safe from malicious actors. Compared to its competitors, Microsoft 365 continues to be the most valuable, innovative, and secure productivity solution on the market, making your choice to use the platform a no-brainer.  

Now comes the hard part…

Implementing a new cloud solution is rarely as simple as turning it on and training your users. For example, Microsoft 365 can completely alter the way you store, manage, and access your company files. Deciding to change these necessary procedures without gathering input from your colleagues, strategically planning together, and taking the time to test the new system, will likely lead to frustration and failure of adoption.

      Here are the THREE main steps for you to successfully migrate to the Microsoft 365 cloud.

      1. Develop a Plan 

       Before you begin your Microsoft 365 implementation, it is crucial to develop a general plan or road map. After familiarizing yourself and your leadership members with the capabilities of Microsoft 365, gather for a meeting to discuss the specifics. Some good question to ask include,   

       

      • Where are we going as an organization?  
      • What are we hoping to accomplish with Microsoft 365? 
      • What are the specific needs of each of our departments for communication, collaboration, and file management? 
      • What is our timeline to complete the implementation? 
      • How will we know if we have succeeded?  

       

      Make sure that you get everyone’s opinion. The more data you have while you plan, the more successful you will be. 

       

      It is also a good idea to get an experienced Microsoft partner involved early on. They can help guide you into considering the many possibilities of Microsoft 365 and assist you in your environment’s configuration.  

      2. Test on a Pilot Group

      The next step is to deploy Microsoft 365 on a pilot group. Give your pilot group a few weeks to test out their use of the Microsoft 365 applications. Of course, you will want to have them check out the Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Outlook apps, but you may also find interest in some of the other Microsoft 365 applications, like Planner and Forms. Have your pilot group meet regularly to share their reviews and discuss their ideas for how Microsoft 365 can be used by your organization. Then, test those ideas out! Your goal is to develop the most optimal plan for how the rest of your organization will use the applications before you begin deploying them to everyone else.

      You will find that another benefit of testing your deployment is that it can help prepare you to train the rest of your employees to use the new applications. Your pilot group member’s experiences with testing the applications will prepare them to become your organization’s Microsoft 365 trainers and be able to offer insight as to how you should train your other users.

       3. Deploy to Everyone Else 

      Finally, once your pilot group feels that they have developed an optimized plan for how your organization will use Microsoft 365, you are ready to begin deploying to the rest of your users.  

       

      Be sure to notify your staff in advance that the change is coming. Sharing introductory videos, like Microsoft’s “Welcome to Teams” video, and holding company training classes will help drive your staff’s excitement and aid in the transition. You will find that some users will immediately embrace the change. In contrast, others will take some time to warm up to the new applications, so have some patience and be prepared to offer additional support to those you anticipate will have a more challenging time with the change.  

        

      Here are a few other tips to help you along in your journey:

        

      • Work with a Microsoft Partner to make any modifications to your tenant. Seemingly small changes to the Admin Center can have significant ramifications, so it is best first to get an expert’s advice.  
      • Include your leadership team members in the pilot group. The leaders of an organization tend to be the biggest drivers of adoption. If they are not using the new tools or are openly frustrated by them, your front-line staff will be less likely to embrace the change themselves. 
      • It’s also a good idea to include a few trusted front-line workers in your pilot group. I’m talking about those A-level workers who have been around your company for a while. These staff members are the closest to the day-to-day activities and will be your best sources when reality checking your plans to use the new applications.  

      Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Breaking up your Microsoft 365 cloud migration into these three steps will help make the experience less daunting and more manageable for your team.

      In closing, everything that you think you know about Teams may not be wrong, but we strongly encourage you to consider Microsoft Teams® as more than a single feature solution alternative.


      Microsoft Teams® can be a transformative tool not only to your Communications and Collaboration infrastructure, but it can also be a force-multiplier to your overall Microsoft Cloud Solution Strategy.

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