Migrating Semi-Structured Content to SharePoint Online

The Project

In migration to SharePoint Online, we are delivered a “blank slate”.  This serves as an excellent opportunity to clean up and rethink the structure of content in our SharePoint environments.

However, this blank slate can pose challenges as there is often critical content that needs to be maintained in its current state.  Often, there is also a restrictive timeline with which to move to the cloud and shut down expensive on-prem environments.  This is the exact scenario that a Seattle Based Non-Profit was faced with.

Our client had identified three methods in which they could move to SharePoint Online:

  1. Site to Site Migration: Move one to one existing sites from their on-prem SharePoint Farms to SharePoint Online. A third-party tool had already been purchased that was an excellent use case for this type of migration.
  2. Build Net New Sites (no content migration): Via engagements with our client (in house), new sites could be built with SharePoint Online best practices in mind. Old content could be left behind to be “archived”.
  3. Build Net New Sites (migrate existing content): Build net new sites for our client (via engagements), and migrate their content into the new site structure and taxonomy.

It was quickly decided that some form of content migration was necessary to preserve critical content, but net new sites, and a migration into new site structure, would also be required. However, scenario three presented a serious issue.  The timeline to complete the migration to SharePoint Online had been recently shrunk from 24 to 12 months.  700 site Collections with over 2200 sites would need to be moved in this short time.  Migration of this “semi-structured” content using the third-party tool would be far too time consuming to meet the mandated project end date.  A new approach would need to be taken to make this 12 month goal attainable.

Plaster Group’s SharePoint consultants stepped in to help evaluate the scope of the project and select a new tool that would fit this use case.

CaptureThe Solution: Streamlining the Migration of Semi-Structured Content with Client-Side Tools

When migrating 1:1 from one environment to another, some consistency is required across the environment. Factors that must be considered include:

  • Columns
  • Content Types
  • Term Sets

As most any SharePoint Analyst has seen, the structure of content across a single or multiple farms is almost never standardized to the point that a 1:1 migration is possible.  Many SharePoint farms are not using content types at all.

What this leaves is each team to determine and create their own content types, columns, and policies that need to be moved to the new environment.  Each team requires their own metadata to be mapped to the new “standardized” fields and term sets, along with the system metadata that is driving many of their information management policies.

Plaster Group, working with our client’s SharePoint Architects, determined the Server-Side tool purchased was not the correct fit for migrating this type of content as it would require months of creating plans and schedules tailored to each site, down to the list or library level.

Our client needed a tool that a SharePoint Analyst could use to quickly and easily identify and map content migrations on a site-by-site basis.  The Plaster Group team quickly identified a client-side tool that would be fast and flexible enough to accommodate these goals.  A proposal was delivered to the leadership team on a tight timeline to be considered in the budget for the upcoming year. This proposal was accepted.

Plaster Group consultants have implemented the tool and are using it to do the heavy lifting in our client’s SharePoint migration. The migration has been quick and seamless so far. Initial uses of the tool show that it provides great flexibility in identifying and migrating critical content to SharePoint Online.  It has reduced content migrations for individual sites from days to hours and will allow our client to successfully push toward their 12-month cloud migration strategy.