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June 12
SharePoint Content Migration: 4 Planning Tips

Updating your SharePoint environment between versions or from on-premises to SharePoint Online is a reality for many organizations. It’s not just the version or location to consider, its’ the content too.  As you migrate between versions, there is an opportunity to define or refine your current and historical content to make the end user experience better, enhance search results and apply governance policies.

I recently completed a content migration and offer the following guidance around the themes of test, estimate, evaluate and plan for exceptions.


Let’s begin by selecting a specific quantity of items for a test migration and determine the following three items:

  •    How much time did it take to migrate the quantity of items you selected?
  •    Did your content map successfully from source to target destinations?
  •    How many exceptions did you encounter in this test migration?


Time is a crucial element for migrations. Time means money, resources and impact to end users. Starting with 100 items, my selected quantity for a test migration, take a look at your migration tool log file to determine the elapsed time to complete the test migration. Use this as a baseline time estimate for creating the total migration estimate, excluding handling exceptions. For example, if the elapsed time is two hours for 100 items and you have a total of 10,000 items to migrate – the migration estimate is:

10,000 items / 100 (100-item batches) = 100 batches

100 batches x 2 hours each =   200 hours

To complete the migration in a week, you’ll need to consider how many team members are migrating content and when the work will be completed. Using 200 hours as a guide, with five team members migrating for 40 hours each, this migration may be completed in five days. (Five migrators /200 hours = 40 hours per migration team member).


Evaluate those first 100 items – how accurate was the migration? How did you do? Did the migration process deposit items into their target destination? What is the metadata? Do you see created by, last modified dates? How about new content types or terms, did they apply as intended?

The test migration is the best time to thoroughly evaluate if items migrated as intended. Invest the time now to prevent additional time for exception handling as well as re-running migration segments later. Spending more time up front means less time as you conclude the migration process.

If the test migration falls short of expectations, make the necessary adjustments and re-run it to refresh the baseline time estimate.


Plan for Exceptions

No matter how well you plan there will be exceptions in a migration process. For whatever reason, the tool has a hard time reading or finding the source document, so it skips it and lists it as a failure.

If team members stop for each batch file and deal with exceptions, the migration process will take longer than the estimated 200 hours potentially infringing upon budget, timeline and end user expectations. I advise you run the migration, and deal with the exceptions at the end or alternately assign one team member to work exclusively on exceptions. Focus on the big picture, completing the migration within the established timeline, and following up with the minority of items in a separate exception handling process.

For estimating purposes on the 200 hour migration, a safe bet is to establish an expectation to spend up to 15% of time working through exceptions. On this 200 hour migration, that yields an additional 30 hours for exception handling. (200 hours X 15% = 30 hours). You may wish to round up to 40 hours, the allocation for one full time exception handling resource for one week, the same timeline as your planned migration.

Leveraging the four themes of testing, estimating, evaluating and planning for exceptions will help you execute a successful migration.

Need help planning your SharePoint Migration or Upgrade? Take a look at our SharePoint Pre-Migration Assessment​ offering. ​

About Nora Ten Broeck, PMP, MOS: SharePoint 2013: Nora is a SharePoint enthusiast with interests in engagement management, improved business processes and Nintex. Follow her @NoraTenBroeck

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