This is the first blog in a series of posts related to “Migration” and “Upgrading” to the latest SharePoint 2013 Platform. Many of our Enterprise customers are hearing a lot of good things about the new features and functionalities. They are looking into their existing SharePoint investments and wondering whether they should continue to invest in what they have or ‘take the plunge’ now.

These questions are fundamental and start with “Why?” If they pass that gate, they move onto “If” and then they land on “When.” The only solid assertion is that if you have a significant investment in SharePoint as a business critical platform, you will end up on the newer version at some point – so the operative consideration is “When” for many.

It is worth taking a step back and framing the problem complex a bit before diving into details on approach and methodology:

Defining your Goals

The first thing to clarify is your definition of “Upgrade” and “Migrate”. Quite often these words are misused and lead to expectation problems with your business users. If you simply take all your current workloads on SharePoint 2010 (or 2007 for that matter), and “upgrade” the underlying server infrastructure to 2013, and “migrate” those workloads onto it, what business value have you created? SharePoint 2013 is a fundamentally re-architected product and platform, and many of your workloads need to be upgraded, tweaked, re-imagined or retired –simply “upgrading” and “migrating” is not taking advantage of all the improvements.

Hardware Considerations

SharePoint 2013 requires new hardware in almost all cases – the minimum hardware specs have increased significantly. Do not scrimp on these specs, or you will have pain later with adoption and performance. Couple that with the fact that there is no “in-place” upgrade options, and infrastructure planning and capital cost scrutiny is a vital part of any move to 2013.

Upgrading from 2007 to 2013

Unfortunately, there is no path from 2007-2013 – all 2007 instances must pass through 2010 first to work as designed in 2013. It is worth seriously analyzing your 2007 workloads to decide if they even ready to make the journey.

Dealing with Customizations

Be ruthless with leaving behind highly customized applications and rebuild them properly on SharePoint 2013, do not try and force them to work by jamming and hacking them into SharePoint 2013.  Make the investment now and re-design the critical workloads to take advantage of the new architectural principles of SharePoint 2013. Identify those customizations as needing to be “re-platformed”, instead of “upgraded” or “migrated.”

Evaluate your Users

Consider your organization’s place on a maturity curve and SharePoint – how sophisticated is your investment in the platform? How mature and trained is your user base? How much of the product are you actually using today? Governance and adoption are the key success pillars to any technology solution and you’ll need to take a hard look at how ready your organization is to sustain and support a new technology.

I am hugely enthusiastic that SharePoint 2013 is a game changer – the platform’s evolution comes to full enterprise worthiness with this release. We all like shiny new things, and the first impulse is to leap towards them, fire up the servers and start moving in, however, the best advice we can give our customers is to stop, analyze, plan, and move with focus and clarity of value. Bring the right things online when you can, show business value quickly and incrementally, have a program and ensure your organization is mature and ready to sustain and adopt the new features. Be prepared for all the new Social functionality that is deeply embedded in the product, find your evangelical business users and champions – don’t make this an IT project on an island, involve all of your business.