The key to successfully migrating from SharePoint Server to SharePoint Online is to invest time and effort into migration planning. Defining migration approach and migration plan will help to avoid problems occurring during the actual migration.


To develop a plan, first we need to understand the content and features in the environment we’re planning to migrate. SharePoint Server provides an extensible platform. It’s often used to host corporate intranet, website, as a platform to build electronic forms and manage business processes or as an Electronic Document and Records Management Solution (EDRMS). Knowing the extent of customisation will help us to estimate the effort required to move the content and functionality to SharePoint Online.

Working with system administrators or reviewing system documentation is always a good start. However, from my experience with planning and executing migrations, this is typically not enough to get the full picture.  


That brings us to the source assessment and migration tools. Several tools are provided by Microsoft that can help with the initial assessment and then content migration. I’ve used  SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool (SMAT – ) on number of occasions to get a detailed information about the on-premises farm.  The tool scans the SharePoint Farm and provides information on things like workflows, solutions, large objects, customisations checked out files and more.

Most of the 3rd party tools (like ShareGate Desktop) also provides source analysis to flag potential migration issues.  

Environment build and configuration

Once we have a view of the source, we can plan our destination environment. The approach to building the destination environment and the migration approach typically depends on the number of customisations and supportability of the custom functionality in the destination environment. Typically, we can adopt one of the following approaches:

  • Content and features that can be migrated as is (lift and shift)
  • Bespoke features no longer required or replaced by out of the box functionality in Microsoft 365.
  • Features no longer supported in Microsoft 365 or bespoke features where additional development will be required

It’s worth investing effort at this stage to redevelop some of the functionality using modern tools available in Microsoft 365 (Power Platform, Azure Automation and Functions). This will prevent from using services that approaching end-of life (for example InfoPath or SharePoint Workflows) and having to plan another migration or redevelopment in the future. Migrating form on-premises SharePoint provides an excellent opportunity to upskill the in-house development teams and train end users.

As an example, on one of my recent projects, we decided to replace a solution built using a list, SharePoint workflow and server-side PowerShell code with Azure Automation. We re-created the functionality using modern list, written a runbook and migrated the list data.   

Mixing SharePoint new and modern

Some of the commonly used list types don’t have an equivalent in SharePoint Online. Task list and Calendar can be given as examples. Planner and modern Calendar view can be used to address some of the requirements however, it’s not always easy to convince end users to give up the tools they use day-to-day to manage their work.

One of the options in this case can be using a mix of Classic and Modern functionality and gradually moving users away from Classic. Classic and Modern pages can co-exist in SharePoint online and although the end-user experience switching between two different types of interfaces is not great, this approach can provide a short-term solution and ensures all data can be migrated.

Pilot Migration

Before commencing the bulk of migration activities, it is recommended to run a migration pilot. The pilot can uncover potential migration issues, helps to assess the real migration throughput, and helps to finalise the migration plan. 

If you would like to discuss how risual can help you to plan SharePoint migration or have any questions about Microsoft 365 get in touch today.

Thanks for reading and I hope that has been useful for you!

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