We are talking with Sii’s Szymon Bochniak about Microsoft Office 365 migration challenges, including application migration from Lotus Notes to Office 365 and SharePoint, and the Microsoft-centric future of the digital workplace.
Cloud migration strategy and data ownership
From your perspective, what typical challenges do organizations face when migrating to Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint in particular?
Szymon Bochniak: Every migration project to SharePoint Online in Office 365 is challenging as it impacts the entire organization. The migration of large volumes of data and crucial business applications built over a course of many years requires knowledge and ownership on the business side.
Data ownership is a missing part in most organizations. This is a result of the nature of the “low-code” solution development, which generates orphan applications over time owing to changes taking place within the company. This situation is natural but at the same time difficult. How can anyone discuss the data without the data owner?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge is to build a clear and transparent migration strategy that is also safe for the business. The strategy should move the existing data to SharePoint Online while at the same time removing or sunsetting part of the data.
My role in such projects is to help IT & Business to find a solution that both guarantees a smooth migration to a new environment and ensures that the business needs will be properly addressed.
From Lotus Notes to Microsoft 365
Can you please share your experiences with migrations from Notes and Domino to the Microsoft stack? What are the common challenges here?
SB: My work in Office 365 migrations is primarily focused on the migration of business applications or business data to SharePoint Online and Power Platform–based workflow frameworks.
“The Lotus Notes and SharePoint platforms cannot be mapped one to one. The user experience, data structures, and general philosophy between both solutions are very different.”
From a technical perspective, there’s no rapid way to migrate a live business application. The Lotus Notes and SharePoint platforms cannot be mapped one to one. The user experience, data structures, and general philosophy between both solutions are very different. Therefore, this kind of migration usually calls for a redevelopment of the original Lotus Notes application almost from scratch.
The only way to develop such a new application, then, is to work very closely with the process owners. Such an implementation requires not only that the development team understand the purpose and usage of the original application but also that the business users understand the new platform.
A close collaboration with key stakeholders during the implementation phase will ensure a smooth adoption of the SharePoint Online platform, including the new application being built.
Have you recently been involved in a Notes/Domino migration or modernization project? If so, is there anything you’d like to share with us?
SB: Over the past year I have had the opportunity to work closely with a Scandinavian company that was migrating legacy Lotus Notes applications to Office 365. I can share that using Seascape for Notes dramatically improved the speed of moving the historical Lotus Notes data to SharePoint Online.
The main goal of the project was to migrate 100 percent of the applications to SharePoint Online and Power Platform. Thanks to the automatic generation of the “Lotus-like” web-based archives provided by Seascape for Notes, we were able to meet the business need of retaining access to the complex data structures previously stored in Lotus Notes, without any additional adoption or training process.
An important roadblock to cloud migration is an organization’s dependency on legacy applications and data. What approach do you recommend in this case?
SB: Every migration project constitutes additional cost for the organization. Gathering the budget for such an initiative could be challenging, but at the same time maintaining dependency on the legacy systems that are out of support presents a huge risk for the organization. Delaying the decision to make the move will increase the overall migration costs because of an increasing volume of data, a lack of legacy systems engineers, and various system incompatibilities that continue to escalate over time. This problem is not specific to Lotus Notes, but it can be found in old legacy SharePoint versions like the 2008, 2010, and 2013 versions, which are no longer supported.
“I hope that the future will bring us business automation platforms that are simpler to implement and that greatly reduce manual work and paper-based collaboration”
The solution for the organizations with a smaller migration budget could involve a step-by-step migration of the data and applications. A bigger number of smaller migration projects could help to move users to a new platform and gradually increase the business interest in the initiative.
Ready-to-use migration tools and low-code development platforms can help organizations to rally internal migration teams on the business side, speed up the migration process, and limit costs.
The future of application development
Where do you see low-code platforms in five years’ time? Please indicate your key predictions. What do you think about the latest developments, in particular Microsoft Power Platform?
SB: The pace of the improvements and changes in cloud-based solutions is super-fast. I’m beginning to think that it is difficult to predict what it will look like in the next three years, leave alone five. I have been following the Microsoft investments into Power Apps and Power Automate closely for the past three years and during this period the platform has transformed rapidly into a globally adopted low-code platform.
Today we see more and more AI features being introduced with the platform, and I believe that in the next year we will see a continued focus on the utilization of RPA, bots, and machine learning.
What are your expectations of Microsoft’s Project Cortex?
SB: Project Cortex could really turn into a game changer for the way we utilize information across a company. I imagine this platform to be an additional layer on top of the data that will be organized and mapped automatically (or semi-automatically). Solutions of this kind have the potential to save time and money for every company.
This kind of improvement could become a must-have feature for every organization. In my opinion, the final success of Project Cortex will strongly depend on its licensing model. If at least a part of the functionality of Project Cortex will be available for standard Office 365 plans, I would expect that it will be heavily utilized by everyone.
What’s your best advice for long-term retention of records? Do you think that preservation of existing content is properly addressed in modernization projects?
SB: Execution of a modernization project represents an ideal opportunity for an organization to take stock of their existing content. Work put in to review the business and legal requirements for storing long-term records could be very beneficial during migration scoping. Clearing the applicable requirements for the record management may also help to shrink the scope of the migration. Many times, data is stored forever without a planned deletion timeframe. Knowing how long specific types of information must be retained can simplify decisions about removing unnecessary data storages.
Do you think that Microsoft Teams can act not only as a collaboration hub but also as a universal application hub for users living in Teams?
SB: The strategy of publishing all new Office 365 solutions as applications in Microsoft Teams suggests that Microsoft is steering us to Teams as a collaboration hub application. New apps like Communities (Yammer) or Microsoft Lists or Tasks (To Do & Planner) show that this kind of approach works well. I only hope that building a flexible and personal setup for Microsoft Teams will remain a standard. Nobody wants to work on overwhelming and complex applications.
How do you see the future of the digital workplace?
SB: Frankly, it is extremely difficult to imagine how the digital workplace will look in more than two to three years. Nevertheless, I hope that the future will bring us business automation platforms that are simpler to implement and that greatly reduce manual work and paper-based collaboration. Technologies like AI, RPA, and process automation platforms should be delivered in low-code mode that’s adaptable to the regular business user.
The Expert Profile
Szymon Bochniak works as an Office 365 Delivery Manager at Sii Poland. He manages a team of 35+ consultants; his main mission is to help business users solve their challenges using Microsoft 365. In his free time, Szymon shares his thoughts, ideas, and tips for Office 365 business users at Microsoft 365 atWork – office365atwork.com