16 ways you can integrate Microsoft 365 functionality into your intranet

Updated for 2021

Many businesses have moved to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), but still think of their intranet as something separate that sits alongside it. However, the Microsoft 365 apps can be cleverly integrated and embedded into your intranet (and your LiveTiles intranet), giving you the following benefits:

  • Drive adoption of Microsoft 365 apps and the intranet at the same time
  • Improve efficiency and usability
  • Continually add value as Microsoft rolls out new features and changes

So, how specifically can you integrate Microsoft 365s many apps and capabilities in your intranet?

 

1. Use Delve and Microsoft Graph to give employees a list of their recently accessed documents

List of recent documents with Microsoft graph

Microsoft Graph is the technology that tracks everything you do in Microsoft 365. You might find that scary, but its really useful. It enables Delve to highlight relevant content to you, and if you go to portal.office.com you will see a list of the documents that you recently accessed.

Its pretty easy to then add this feed to your intranet homepage, making it more useful and personally relevant to all your employees. Weve added this as an additional feature in LiveTiles.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

2. Use Yammer for questions and answers (Q&A)

use yammer as a questions and answers feature on your intranet

Yammer is great for conversations around all sorts of topics within a business, but it seems quite separate from SharePoint and the intranet. However, it doesnt have to be this way. Its completely possible to use the powerful Yammer functionality to house discussions within your intranet including asking questions.

When someone posts a question, anyone can answer but the person posing the question or an administrator can then choose the best answer. This means that people looking for the same information in the future can more easily find it.

This is a much better way to answer common questions from your internal customers than a traditional email, because you avoid answering the same question multiple times.

 

3. Add interactive PowerBI dashboards and bring data to life

build power bi dashboards into your sharepoint intranet

PowerBI is a fantastic app that allows you to build dashboards and custom reports which are fed from lots of different data sources financial systems, CRMs, inventory management or Excel spreadsheets. You can build and view the reports within the PowerBI app, but why stop there? There’s a PowerBI webpart for SharePoint Online, allowing you to easily publish reports into your intranet pages. The only catch is that people must have a PowerBI pro licence to view the reports.

 

4. Create a learning & development area using Stream

using microsoft stream as a learning platform

For years and years, video platforms for intranets were really lacking. But, things have changed and I talked about a new hope for intranet video at IntraTeam in Copenhagen.

Its now completely possible to deliver high quality video content to your employees via laptop, tablet or mobile. With Stream (Microsoft 365s video platform) you can do this quickly and easily. The app converts and optimises your videos for you and allows you to arrange them into searchable channels.

But did you know that you can also embed the videos into your intranet pages? Meaning you can embed them within guidelines or policies. You could even create a dedicated training or learning and development site with chaptered video content.

We created an Office 365 learning centre for Johnson Matthey on their intranet all powered by Stream.

Recently Microsoft rolled out new features including the ability to lightly edit videos, and to create videos by recoding your screen. See this page for the latest Stream info including upcoming features.

5. Create a blogging platform using Communication sites

blogging in communication sites in microsoft 365

Unfortunately, Microsoft retired the blogging feature within Delve, but there is still a way to blog in Microsoft 365. You can use a Communication site to build a blog portal where, rather than posting news articles, you use the same features to publish blog posts.

This benefits from 365s modern UI for content publishing which is much easier and more satisfying to use than the traditional SharePoint publishing tools. If you want to take things further, you can even create a blog network using multiple communication sites connected to a hub site.

How to set up a communication site as a blog

 

6. Relay important messages to employees using bots in Teams

relay important intranet messages in teams using a bot

With so many employees now using Microsoft Teams as their primary work and collaboration tool, its a great place to reach them with important announcements that they may have previously seen on the intranet.

Its possible to create a bot for Teams that sends people a message with important updates or actions that they need to take e.g. Compulsory training.

You can connect the bot to Power Automate Flows and write rules that ensure the right people get the messages that are most pertinent to them.

 

7. Manage projects using Office 365 Planner

plan projects in microsoft 365 planner

Some companies use SharePoint team-sites for project management and others use Microsoft Project. However, if you are looking for a middle ground something that is better for tracking tasks than SharePoint, but not as heavy duty as Project then Planner is worth a look.

Microsoft 365 Planner allows you to quickly create projects, organise tasks into buckets and assign them to different team members. It can be used across desktop, tablet and mobile.

You can associate a plan with a Microsoft Team and allow people to track and update tasks there, but also add information on tasks in SharePoint too

Heres a great intro to Planner

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

8. Surface your intranet in Teams

surface your intranet in Microsoft Teams

Its been a big year for Teams. The pandemic has meant lots of home working and many companies have gone from experimenting with Teams to fully depending upon it. Employees have also become comfortable with Teams and it has become an app more central to their workday.

All of this means that its a great place to reach people with your intranet content news, policies, how-to guidance etc.

You can do this a few ways: You can add your intranet as a tab within a Team or multiple Teams, you can build a simple app to appear in the left ribbon (or ask us to!), you could buy software like LiveTiles or wait to see what capabilities Microsoft Viva brings in this space.

9. Use chat bots to provide everyone with a personal concierge

integrated chat bot in sharepoint

Chat bots are Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered assistants that you can interact with via a text chat interface. You might ask them to find you a policy, book a meeting room or check the weather forecast.

Chat bots are a hot topic in the intranet world at the moment because they have reached a level of maturity where they can be useful, but also they are much easier to configure. You no longer have to be an AI boffin to train bots and make them more helpful.

Microsofts bot, Luis, can be embedded on your SharePoint intranet via a chat interface. We have rolled out a bot for UK accountancy firm, Haines Watts.

 

10. Work live on intranet information at the same time using Office Online

Office Online integration with SharePoint

Anywhere in Microsoft 365, whenever you click on a Microsoft Office document that document will open in a new browser tab within Office Online. Office Online includes the web app version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel that runs within your web browser.

But, were you aware that you can click the Edit button and make changes to the file directly in the browser? Not only that, but other people can edit the same document at the same time, and you even can see their changes appearing right in front of you.

There are many opportunities to make use of this neat functionality on your intranet. You could use these files to collect information from multiple people at the same time using a shared excel spreadsheet. Or, you could create a knowledge base / wiki which is based on set of word documents. The contents will be indexed by search so people will easily find the content later.

 

11. Create an approval workflow for policies using Power Automate Flows

 

create approval workflows with power automate flow

Building workflows for your SharePoint intranet used to be quite tricky. Power Automate is the Microsoft 365 app that was designed to fix that. Creating workflows – known simply as Flows – in Power Automate is much more straightforward. It offers integrations with other apps outside of SharePoint and even outside of Microsoft 365, like Dropbox for example.

A really common workflow that companies often want to implement is one for approval of content before its published. Check out this video for a step by step tutorial for building an approval workflow in Flow.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

12. Build an app for field workers using Power Apps

build-sharepoint-integrated-apps-for-field-workers-with-powerapps

Many organisations struggle with how to make their intranet relevant and useful to field workers people not based at a desk. This can be factory workers, delivery agents, sales reps and so on. Most of these workers do not have laptops, but many have tablets or mobile devices.

Power Apps is a tool that allows you to build apps for these staff to use on their mobile devices. The apps could allow them to enter information about a customer they just visited, or log maintenance problems with machinery on the production line. Also, that app can be integrated directly with SharePoint to share this information with other people in your business via the intranet.

We ran a webinar about PowerApps and how it could support your business.

In this step-by-step tutorial video, Microsoft show you how to build an app using Power Apps. Their example scenario is a secret shopper app for clothing retail stores.

See whats new in PowerApps in 2021

 

13. Keep in touch with customers using Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 integration with SharePoint

You may already have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite, but you should really take a look at Dynamics 365.

Dynamics 365 allows you to do all the regular things that youd expect from a CRM: Keep data on customers, integrate with your website etc. However, being based in Microsoft 365 means that it integrates really well with other apps like SharePoint. Dynamics 365 uses SharePoint for storing its documents and can be easily connected to your SharePoint intranet search. This means that your employees wont have to jump between different systems to find the information they need.

Here are 13 reasons why you should use Dynamics 365 as your CRM.

 

14. Run an employee survey using Forms

using microsoft forms for an employee survey

Its often necessary to collect information from your users on your intranet from booking a training course to requesting stationery. You can do this with SharePoint lists, but its a bit difficult to configure and not very easy to use for employees.

Say hello to Forms. Forms allows you to build attractive and usable forms with a simple drag and drop interface.

The forms you create can then be embedded in a range of locations on Microsoft 365, including within your SharePoint intranet pages. You can then use Power Automate Flows to move the captured information through a business process.

Watch this video to get started with Forms.

If Forms is too basic for your needs, then Microsofts upcoming Viva product and its integration with Glint employee survey software will probably be of interest. Using these tools youll be able to get much more detailed insights on your employee experience.

 

15. Craft beautiful sales aids using Sway

creat-beautiful-sales-aids-with-sway-and-sharepoint

Many companies have sales reps out in the field, talking to customers and evangelising products and services. Traditionally they are provided with material to help them explain the products or services to their leads. Sometimes these sales aids are expensive custom apps built for tablet devices, but often they are just a few lacklustre PowerPoint presentations or pamphlets.

Sway is an Microsoft 365 app that allows you to quickly build web app that conveys information using mixed media and a simple interface. Without any need to touch computer code, you can create a set of content that is beautifully structure and presented, but can include written content, images, videos, charts and graphs. With a built in menu system it also allows you to take the customer on a journey through the information that is unique to them, rather than flicking through a generic linear PowerPoint presentation.

You can manage access to all your Sway presentations from your SharePoint intranet.

Get started with Sway using this video tutorial.

 

16. Allow your employees to jump into their Teams from the intranet homepage

Microsoft-Teams-integration-with-SharePoint

Thanks to Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft Teams API – it’s possible to display a list of each employee’s Teams on the SharePoint intranet homepage. This helps to make the intranet more of a personalised and useful daily work tool – presenting the employees with a quick and easy way to access their Teams. This enhancement requires a bit of coding, but it’s something we have added to the capabilities of LiveTiles – as well as a few custom intranets for our customers.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

How to use Yammer for internal communications?

Yammer is a fantastic tool that is increasingly used by internal communications as part of their digital communication tool set. Yammer is not primarily designed for use by internal communicators, its actually a social collaboration platform that everyone can use, but it allows for a more personal and informal approach to communication.

Yammer offers strong opportunities to drive an  informal and impactful approach to messaging, particularly for leaders. It also allows you  to engage staff through dialogue and asking for feedback, an element particularly important for some engagement-led campaigns. Yammer can further boost more formal messaging on other channels such as your intranet.

In this article, were going to look at seven tips for using Yammer that can help internal communicators get the best out of the tool.

Work out how Yammer fits with your other digital channels

Yammer is a versatile tool that can be used for internal communications, engagement, gathering feedback, Q&As, employee resource groups, Communities of Practice and more. Because it is so flexible, it really helps to define how it relates to the other digital communication channels you have at your fingertips, and in particular what it brings to your digital communications strategy. Spending some time to define how internal communicators can best use Yammer for messaging or to amplify items on other channels can help everybody get the best out of it.

One way to do this is to define a digital communications matrix that sets out message type, purpose and intended audience, and matches these to the best tools to use. For example, perhaps Yammer is the best place  for peer shout-outs and targeting success stories to specific groups, while also amplifying more formal communications that are on your intranet. By giving some thought to the detail, you can encourage  effective Yammer usage.

Encourage participation and dialogue

Although Yammer is  not really a formal IC channel, it can be a very effective way to get people to engage with themes and topics in an  informal and natural way that often resonates better than more traditional, corporate news. For example, if your CEO wants to get a message across about a topic like sustainability, wellbeing or purpose, then this could work well as a Yammer discussion. During the pandemic, a more discursive, empathetic and informal approach to some employees communications has  worked consistently well.  Yammer also creates the possibility of dialogue – a far more engaging and valuable communication process that delivers useful insights for leaders.

Integrate Yammer across Microsoft 365

One huge advantage of Yammer is that its part of Microsoft 365, making it super easy to integrate with other 365 tools such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. This not only makes it easier for employees to access Yammer from multiple places within your digital workplace, but also means you can present Yammer threads and messages in context with other content. For example, you can embed a Yammer feed from a particular group as a tab in a relevant Teams space, or  into an appropriate SharePoint page on your intranet.

Integrating Yammer with other Microsoft 365 tools is a powerful tactic for internal communications because it not only means messages are more likely to be read because they are  directly in the flow of work, but you can also add value to  Yammer conversations themselves. For example, if you have an engagement-led campaign around some themed content, an embedded Yammer feed can work well on the relevant SharePoint intranet page.

Use hashtags and @mentions

Never forget that Yammer is a social tool, so you can use hashtags and @mentions to help broaden message and conversation reach, bringing key people into the discussion and allowing employees to follow specific themes.  You can use hashtags centred around different topics to drive hashtag campaigns and encourage more people to communicate, and you can display  discussion feeds based on individual hashtags.

For example, if you were building an engagement campaign around customer service, you could ask people to contribute their customer success stories using the hashtag #keepthecustomersatisfied. You could then compile a Yammer feed of all posts with that hashtag on a thread displayed in the customer service area of your intranet.

Work out your Yammer groups for internal communications

Yammer is designed to be  an organic platform that evolves naturally with employee need; it is intended to allow people to create new groups quickly and easily. When you want to use Yammer as a core IC channel, you generally need to take a more structured approach to creating the right group to match messaging needs. For example, you might want to create a specific all-company feed for news and announcements, and match key groups for specific communications targeted to different locations and divisions. You may also want to create specific groups for less formal types of communication like employee and peer shout-outs and success stories, or have themed channels around your company values.

When you create these Yammer groups, another element to consider will be whether some or even all employees are  entered into these groups by default so they can  automatically view the messages posted.

One tip is  not to create too many Yammer groups, as this can cause confusion and make it harder to find the right discussions.

Keep governance light

When you use Yammer for internal communications, you can expect to receive opinions and reactions. This is  one of the strengths of the platform, and you want to generally make sure you keep any governance of Yammer  light so it doesnt impede peoples ability to access or post messages.

A few years ago, when Yammer and enterprise social networks were less mature, it made some risk-averse stakeholders nervous about misuse. Actually, the overwhelming experience of  Yammer usage is that you can trust employees when using it. Generally, the only pieces of governance you need to have in place are:

  • Making sure all contributions are attributable with no anonymous posting
  • Making sure there is a process to report misuse or questionable posts, with clarity about what happens subsequently
  • Having a social media usage policy that people have to sign up to
  • Having a clear owner and admin for each group.

With these steps in place, you minimise the risk of misuse. Some of these, like assigned group admins, are built into the management of the platform.

Coach your leaders

Yammer can be an excellent tool for leadership communications, allowing your C-suite and senior management team to deliver more informal and personal communications, as well as interact with employees. Here, senior leaders can get a real impression of employee sentiment which can be both insightful and refreshing. Certain formats such as sharing videos, seeking feedback and even organising Ask Me Anything sessions can all work.

Interacting on Yammer doesnt always come naturally for senior leaders, so its  worth spending time  coaching your leaders to give them the know-how and confidence to communicate on the platform. When they are comfortable, it can genuinely revolutionise the way they communicate with employees. In turn, these good habits and behaviours can  trickle down to other layers of management for even wider impact.

Yammer for internal communicators

Yammer is an excellent tool  for both employees and  internal communicators, and we hope youve found these tips useful. If youd like to discuss how Yammer fits in with your digital communication strategy, then get in touch!

Yammer vs Teams infographic

Yammer vs Teams infographic

Also read our article “Yammer versus Teams: which tool should I use”

12 internal communications tools/software for your company

In any average digital workplace, the tools and channels available to internal communicators are becoming increasingly complex. Having options and choice surrounding your digital communications is, of course, a good thing, but managing communications consistently in a joined-up way has its challenges. Defining an omnichannel strategy with relative processes is the easier part, while actually making it work can be more difficult, especially when some communications are not carried out by IC professionals.

One thing that helps is having an overview of the tools, channels and formats that are available to you and your stakeholders. Considering your internal communications landscape and the relative characteristics of each tool and channel can then help you define the processes around core news, crisis communications, leadership communications, campaigns and more informal engagement activity. It also means you can issue guidance and offer support for leaders, managers and teams who need to communicate but are not IC professionals. Here, creating a digital communications matrix that aligns message purpose, audience, channel and content format can support consistent approaches.

In this article, were going to explore the different internal communications tools which are available, particularly for organisations who have a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365. We hope this will provide some useful background for anyone considering their digital communications strategies and tactics.

  1. Email and email newsletters: Outlook

Email and email newsletters remain an important channel for internal communicators. There are advantages in this, but also many disadvantages, with the potential for missed messages and information overload. Email communication remains important for significant announcements and important reminders where everybody needs to be reached. The ability to be able to confirm an open receipt can also be important here.

Most internal communicators drive focused policies on the use of email for communications, and leverage the power of other digital workplace channels to reduce the number of single communication emails sent. They also use newsletter formats to consolidate messaging and drive traffic to other channels like the intranet. For example, a weekly intranet wrap-up email or newsletter that points employees back to the intranet is a tried-and-tested tactic.

  1. Employee mobile app: LiveTiles Reach app

An employee mobile app where employees can access news and updates is now a critical channel for internal communicators, especially in broadcasting messages to frontline employees or a workforce who are on-the-go. In some industries like retail, manufacturing, travel and leisure, an employee mobile app with an emphasis on communications is crucial.

One of the most important aspects of an employee app is that it can be accessed via personal devices and, ideally, reach an audience who may not have a corporate digital identity or Microsoft 365 license. Here, an app like LiveTiles Reach can prove a highly valuable and cost-effective option.

An app can deliver all kinds of messages and updates, both formal and informal, although briefer messaging is sometimes better for reading on a mobile device. Its also worth noting that these apps are popular with both frontline and knowledge workers . There can also be some overlap between an employee communications app, an intranet app and a Microsoft app like Yammer or Teams.

  1. Company Intranet: LiveTiles Intranet

Despite what some commentators say, intranets remain very much a key channel in the digital communications landscape. While older, traditional intranets which act as static content repositories are gradually becoming a relic of the past, modern intranets deliver a range of business benefits and can be highly effective for internal communications.

One of intranets strengths is their ability to deliver a range of messages and communications that recognise the complexity of global organisations. Personalisation should enable content targeting to different roles, divisions, locations and more, while within an intranet, there should be several different communication formats such as global news, blog posts, video and so on. For example, the LiveTiles intranet software includes attractive publishing templates to deliver more formal news, but also the Noticeboard feature to roll up decentralised news from multiple sites; staff can be opted into Noticeboard channels or subscribe.

  1. SharePoint: SharePoint communication sites, hub sites and home sites

Of course, SharePoint is not a generic internal communication channel, but if you have Microsoft 365, it is an option to deliver communications and create experiences that are similar to an intranet.

SharePoint communication sites offer a template to deliver communications from a team, department or function, along with the ability to create news and provide an effective microsite. Multiple communication sites can then be connected via SharePoint hub sites and even a SharePoint home site, creating a more coherent intranet experience by aggregating some of the news.

Communication sites are advantageous in that they can be created and managed without IC or central help. The intuitive and pleasant experiences of modern SharePoint are far better than the administration baggage that came with classic SharePoint. Conversely, communication sites entail a lack of central control, and they often dont meet the more sophisticated news publishing needs of IC teams.

It is now possible to create an enterprise intranet using SharePoint out-of-the-box that can be a critical digital communication channel, but this still requires some skill to pull off, and comes with hidden ownership costs. Our view is that using intranet software like LiveTiles will be a much better fit for IC teams.

  1. Social collaboration: Yammer

Social collaboration tools like Yammer are now important internal communication channels, allowing for a more personal and informal approach to comms. Here, you can create opportunities for feedback, boost and reinforce more formal messaging on other channels, and broadcast quick, informal updates which can be targeted to different groups. A tool like Yammer is an important part of driving engagement and supporting any campaign that involves discussions and listening to employee sentiment. Its also a great place for senior management to engage in conversations.

The beauty of Yammer is that it can also be easily integrated into other parts of Microsoft 365, including Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, meaning that employees can interact with Yammer right across your digital workplace and conversations can be placed into context with content.

  1. Team collaboration: Microsoft Teams

In many organisations nowadays, team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack are where work happens – employees use them for much of their working day. Because of this, they are a tempting channel for internal communicators to use in reaching their audience, even though Microsoft Teams is not necessarily designed as a communication channel in its own right.

Microsoft Teams introduces multiple options, including creating all company Teams and channels to deliver internal comms, or embedding Yammer feeds into different channels. Here, it also now possible to enable access to a LiveTiles intranet, ensuring that internal communications are integrated more directly into the daily flow of work.

  1. Corporate website

You might be surprised that weve classed your corporate website as an internal communications channel, but it is not uncommon for employees to read your website, particularly frontline employees who may have less straightforward access to your intranet. Some large companies like Walmart and the Royal Mail even have semi-open intranets where the line between intranet and website is blurry. Many intranets also feature a feed from the company website, so this should always be considered in the mix of your overall digital communications channels.

  1. Employee Experience and HR platforms: Microsoft Viva Connections

Employee experience is a term and concept growing in use across the digital workplace, and some tools focused on the employee lifecycle and HR processes are now being marketed as employee experience platforms. This includes some intranet software or digital assistants that integrate different applications to present a single, integrated user experience; this even arguably includes core HR systems like Workday. More recently, Microsoft has launched Microsoft Viva, a suite of tools accessed through Microsoft Teams that covers learning, knowledge management and more. All these tools provide options for internal communicators, especially for more HR and learning-focused communications.

Microsoft Viva Connections looks set to become a significant offering for internal communicators. Part of the Viva suite that has yet to be launched, it offers an aggregated view of communications, conversations and more across different channels. Well be exploring Viva Connections in more detail in due course.

  1. Digital signage

Digital signage is another important channel that was getting more attention prior to the pandemic. Of course, the growth of remote working since has meant that this has had less prominence recently, but it remains an important outlet for broadcasting in physical workplaces.

  1. Live events: Microsoft Teams Events

Live events such as virtual all hands meetings, town halls and even conferences have become increasingly important during the pandemic as places to drive engagement and key messages that reach a wide audience. The launch of Microsoft Teams Events makes this more achievable for everybody.

  1. Video sharing platform: Microsoft Stream

Video is another format that has grown in importance during the pandemic, especially for leadership communications. There is less expectation around the quality of video, so it can be very inexpensive to create videos that could have more impact than the written word.

Microsoft Stream provides an opportunity to create a video-sharing platform, with videos that can be easily shared and embedded across all your other channels including the intranet, Yammer, SharePoint and more.

  1. Podcasts

Podcasts (and to a lesser extent, corporate radio) are becoming more prevalent, reflecting their growing popularity in the consumer world as well as the increasing availability of podcast platforms. These offer a vibrant way to reach target audiences, alongside an opportunity to consume information during down time, such as on the journey to work or in transit between locations.

Want information on digital communication options in Microsoft 365? Get in touch!

Internal communicators have many options, especially with Microsoft 365. If you want more information or are wondering how they could all fit together, then why not get in touch?

7 steps for planning an Azure migration

Migrating to the cloud is a strategic investment. Most organisations that are building a digital workplace based on the cloud choose to go with an Azure-based migration, and with good reason. In our view, Azure is the best-in-class cloud option due to its flexibility, scalability and capabilities such as reporting and integrations; it delivers a wide range of benefits from cost reduction, to business continuity, to supporting your digital workplace strategy. It is also the obvious choice for anyone focused on the Microsoft stack.

If you are going ahead with an Azure cloud migration, you need to adequately plan for it, both surrounding the details of the migration itself and the longer-term impact and ongoing management. Note that these are not just technical considerations but also business ones; moving to the cloud is as much about business transformation as it is about technology change.

In this article, were going to cover seven of the key areas you need to think about from a business and future management perspective when you are planning your Azure cloud migration.

1. Work out your scope and strategy

The starting point for any Azure migration must be to properly define your scope and strategy. This needs to focus as much on the business benefits as it does on the technical ones, meaning it requires discussions beyond the IT function or digital workplace team.

When speaking to other key business stakeholders and support functions about the transition, it is good to try and reach alignment and consensus. Not only should your cloud migration strategy and scope align with your overall company strategy, but it should take into account the different needs, plans and roadmaps of key stakeholders. Here, the different priorities and technical plans of other teams can impact the prioritisation of the steps in your migration, its timing and even some of the detail.

A strategy and scoping exercise working with other stakeholders can help to identify areas of value, potential challenges you may face and dependencies to factor in. It can also help you build up the relationships that will help further down the line with the actual implementation.

2. Audit your data and apps

Your strategy and scope might define the higher-level roadmap, but you will need to carry out an audit of the data you already hold and the various apps that are in use to define the detail around your Azure migration. Companies that have built up acquisitions and mergers often have huge collections of legacy data and content that might need to be migrated, and it is not unusual to discover collections that IT functions were previously unaware of while auditing. Youll also want to map the applications in use to decide what to bring over; this process has value regardless because it may help identify opportunities to simplify your application landscape.

An audit of your data and any related applications is not just about having a list of what is out there: its also important to identify a clear owner for each item (not always as straightforward as it might seem), as well as any issues – for example, around security and compliance or dependencies – which might impact if and how content is migrated.

3. Define your security and compliance needs

Its essential to involve the right people in your Azure migration planning – early conversations with your Information Security team and your Legal, Compliance & Regulatory team are strongly advised.

From a stakeholder management perspective, you may need to allay any fears they have, but they will also help identify any risks and advise on how they can be mitigated. For example, if you work in a regulated industry, there may be some data that must remain on-premises for compliance reasons.

Similarly, the territory of where data resides can be important. Here, Microsoft has country-specific data residency options – another strength of Azure. You may also need to identify replication policies between on-premises and cloud, a process which aids in adequately supporting your business continuity needs.

4. Ensure you have the right skills in place

Azure cloud migrations can be complex, and its important to ensure you have the right skills and experience in place for them to go smoothly. Ideally, you want to have someone on the migration team who has worked on an Azure migration before and can spread knowledge to the rest of the team; of course, there are options to bring in external expertise to fill any gaps here. As with most Microsoft offerings, there are a number of additional self-service resources that are available to help you plan your Azure migration.

5. Consider the change management effort

Migrating to the cloud is a business change which can significantly impact employees, particularly if they are moving to using Microsoft 365 for the first time. There can also be concerns from staff about security and risk. Always consider the change management aspects of your migration in terms of securing buy-in, supporting new ways of working, handling any disruption caused by the implementation and implementing any necessary communications in response to negative perceptions about Azure.

6. Commit to managing Azure

Although not always acknowledged, Azure does require some commitment to manage it, and you should always factor this into your resourcing plan for after the migration. Firstly, without active management, you will not necessarily be able to take advantage of all the analytics, services and integrations that Azure delivers and which can kickstart transformation for your business.

Secondly, its worth remembering that Azure is still a relatively new platform. Microsoft continues to invest in Azure to make it better and better which is highly positive, but it does mean that features within the system may be upgraded or even removed, and this may require action from time to time. For example, if you are working with Azure integrations, these may need to be upgraded.

As with any cloud service, managing these changes is unavoidable. Overall, going in with an active commitment to and mindset for managing Azure is the best approach.

7. Define the future roadmap too

Youll already know that you need to meticulously plan for the actual implementation, particularly in order to avoid any interruption of service. It can be good to draw up a detailed roadmap covering the specific steps to be taken after the launch too, in order to ensure you keep up the momentum, follow through with benefits, consider any ongoing change management needs and support a programme of continuous improvement.

Migrating to Azure

Migrating to Azure has enormous value, but you need to view it as both a technical and business change. If youd like to discuss your Azure migration strategy, then get in touch!

We use cookies to give you the best experience on our site. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find more about the cookies, please see our Privacy Policy