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Successful Planning Key to Office 365 Deployment

Congratulations, you’re moving to a new office!

But wait, you say. You’re not actually moving to a new office location. You’re deploying Microsoft Office 365. True, but moving to Office 365 brings many of the same benefits as relocating to a new office does, and you’ll need to do many of the same things to prepare for such a change, starting with proper and thorough planning.

Pack Up Boxes?

You’ve already lived through enough digital transformation to know that there is a virtual equivalent to thing like packing up boxes in preparation to move, and here is your first great opportunity. Just as you would use a marker to label each box as to where it will go in the new office, your move to Office 365 presents a great opportunity to re-organize major data assets like your Exchange Message Store in preparation for migration to your new platform. Now is a great time to re-examine and update your policies, rules, and data locations. Older data can finally be moved off to archive. Contents of inboxes no longer in use can be moved to where managers can easily access them when and if necessary.  Best results will be the product of proper planning.

Begin with the Ends in Mind

When planning your Office 365 deployment, one of the first things Microsoft suggests you do in their Deployment planning checklist for Office 365” is to “Develop success criteria and a communication / training plan.” The classic model they describe flows from Assessment to Planning then Deployment, and finally the management of updates and ongoing support.

As you embark on building your plan, remember that Office 365 brings new functionality that your people may have never had before. Personal and organizational cloud storage in OneDrive is a great example. They may find themselves freed from the limitations of the storage available on their mobile devices in new ways they never thought about before. Skype communications enables video and screen sharing that enables whole new levels of collaboration. Microsoft Teams takes that further into truly revolutionary new levels of ease in working together.

You’ll want your planning team to become fully familiar with everything that Office 365 makes available to them, and the best way to achieve that is to have everyone experience qualified Learning Center run training specifically designed to introduce management to everything Office 365 brings.

Focus on the user experience. What do you want their everyday working experience to be like? How can you make it easier for them to be more productive and more enthusiastic? Which resources can you put at their fingertips? How should the many documents they use be organized for fastest retrieval, and which will require check-in/check-out for better version control?

Taking Inventory

Before you deploy, you’ll want to take a comprehensive inventory of your entire network community and digital assets.

  • What are all the existing user names, email addresses, and groups you currently have in your community?
  • Looking at all the email-boxes, which are current and which have been dormant? Which need to be migrated directly, and which to other storage?
  • What applications, browsers, desktop and mobile operating systems are currently in use by whom?
  • What are the specifics of your IP stack, like owned IP address blocks and top-level-domain-names, DNS providers, proxies, firewalls, and other connectivity issues? You’ll be making many changes with your internet registrar. Be sure you have the specifics of how to do that, and a specific resource lined up to handle it.
  • Do you have all the proper Office 365 licensing required for your number of users?

Preparing Your Environment

Your current environment may be managed using Active Directory (AD), in which case your AD managers will need to become familiar with what they will need to adjust to accommodate Office 365. Existing security may need to be re-provisioned to accommodate your new environment. Will yours be a hybrid environment that will require directory synchronization and other measures to provide peaceful co-existence? Will you be using single sign-on services?

You may have your own help desk, or a contracted external one. They’ll need to be prepared to advise users about how to accomplish various things in the new environment.

Deployment

How you actually deploy Office 365 will depend upon the size and complexity of your existing environment. In smaller organizations, you may simply provision and deploy from local sources, or from the cloud. Larger organizations may choose to employ the Configuration Manager.

While more guidance on these choices and much more is available from the Microsoft Deployment guide for Office 365, the most efficient way to evaluate, make the right decisions, build the best plan and ultimately enjoy the benefits of the most effective deployment is to engage with the experts at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers to prepare your planning team, your deployment team, and to train your users to take the greatest possible advantage of everything Office 365 brings to your enterprise.

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