How to Avoid Wasting Your SharePoint Customizations When Migrating to Office 365

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Guest blog by Erwin van Hunen, Product Manager at Rencore.

Successful full deployment and adoption of SharePoint can cost your organization as much as nine times the price of the original software license. Where do these additional costs come from? In most cases, the price tag of a successful SharePoint deployment also includes consulting, training and, of course, the cost of SharePoint customizations. The time and money spent on these additional investments explain why many businesses are loathing to migrate to new versions of the platform.

Because Microsoft manages Office 365 and SharePoint Online centrally, you don’t get as much control over the code the platform runs on as you do on-premises. This means that many SharePoint customizations cannot be migrated as they are – and if you’ve spent considerable sums of money on customizations but can’t use them in the cloud, it can feel like a wasted investment. What’s more, given that many of your employees will depend on the SharePoint customizations you have implemented, leaving them behind when you migrate will frustrate staff and could lead to adoption problems with Office 365.

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So, does migrating to Office 365 mean you automatically lose all your SharePoint customizations? Not necessarily. Let’s look at what kind of customizations you can (and can’t) migrate, and explore your options.

What SharePoint customizations can you NOT migrate

Certain SharePoint customizations simply can’t be migrated to Office 365. Full trust farm solutions, for instance, cannot be migrated because these make important changes to the underlying code in SharePoint. Microsoft cannot allow you to make changes to this code in SharePoint Online as that would affect the overall experience of every business that uses the tool.

SharePoint Online also does not allow you to migrate any customizations which use the SharePoint Object Model or compiled code (.DLLs, .EXEs, .WSPs, etc.).

What SharePoint customizations can you migrate?

SharePoint Online will let you migrate any customization which doesn’t affect any of the fundamental underlying code of SharePoint. This would include:

  • Client-side code (such as JavaScript) which runs in the browser
  • Web parts that don’t require compiled code
  • Sandboxed solutions that only contain declarative artifacts
  • Various low/no-code customizations to look and feel

You will, therefore, still be able to migrate many of your SharePoint customizations to the new environment. However, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should migrate every single customization. Instead, you should think about the purpose of the customization, how useful it actually is, and investigate alternatives.

A plan for migrating customizations
Like other aspects of migrating to SharePoint Online, you should develop a plan for migrating any customizations. This should include carrying out a review of what they’re currently used for, if there are any problems with them, who uses them and if there are alternatives that might be better suited to the structure and approach of SharePoint Online.

1. Discover

First, you need to carry out a full analysis of all the SharePoint customizations that are currently running on your systems. Often, you may have forgotten certain customizations were even deployed, so it’s essential that you create an inventory of customizations, understand who uses them and check whether the code can be migrated. Once you have collected a list of all your customizations, you can decide which ones you want to migrate. If certain deployments either can’t be migrated or are not used regularly enough, now’s the time to remove them from your migration list. You can also look for alternatives in the app store.

SPTransformator not only creates an inventory of customizations and their usage in your farm but also dissects the SharePoint farm solution to show you all their artifacts and dependencies.

2. Transform

If you have full trust solutions that you really want to migrate, now is the time to transform them to a more modern customization approach. Whether you choose to rewrite the code entirely or deploy it in a different manner, transforming that code will allow you to keep using your most popular customizations.

When transforming your customizations with SPTransformator you can easily access artifacts you are working on with the Transform overview.

3. Implement

Your final task is to implement your existing SharePoint customizations in the new environment. It’s important to define where your customizations will be deployed and fully understand how they will interact with SharePoint Online.

Successfully migrate SharePoint customizations
When businesses have invested significant sums of money and time into building customizations that employees depend on, it can be frustrating to simply leave them behind. And this is why we developed Unique in its ability to help companies migrate customizations to the cloud,  SPTransformator is able to scan your existing environments for all customizations and provide you with a complete list of location and use. It can then tell you whether the customization can be migrated to SharePoint Online and how. For customizations which can’t be migrated directly, it also provides you with guidance and a knowledge base on your options for migrating them.

SharePoint is often a huge investment for businesses, and SharePoint customizations make up a large part of that cost. By using  SPTransformator, you ensure you continue to get long-term ROI from your existing SharePoint customizations.


About the author

Erwin is a Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Certified Master, and Microsoft Certified Solutions Master and works at Rencore. He is the product manager for SPTransformator, helping customers to successfully migrate from on-premises solutions and traditional solution packages to the new add-in model for SharePoint. Erwin is a core member of the SharePoint Patterns and Practices team ( helping developers worldwide with code samples, scenarios, solutions, and guidance to successfully implement customizations for SharePoint and SharePoint Online. Erwin is speaking regularly at SharePoint conferences around the world, like Ignite 2015, and is one of the organizers of SharePoint Saturday Stockholm, the largest SharePoint focused conference in Scandinavia. (Connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.)

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