George Charity, Austin Airways and South Porcupine

This all started long before the first DC-3 blog I posted back in 2008. Looking back, I remember George showing me pictures of the planes he flew Austin’s, Provincial Air Service, Gold Belt Airways and Georgian Bay Airways to name a few. I thought this blog would be fitting to show some of the planes he flew, most have notes on the edge explaining them – location, year etc. The location that I remember is of George flying out of Nakina (Twin lakes) area, Prince Rupert and South Porcupine. I’m sure that were others but I don’t have that information and all his children have passed on. There are recording on 8 Track that he made but the recording quality and age make it difficult to understand.

Enjoy the sampling of pictures (There are many, too many to post) and if you have any to share post them in replies or email me at


Establishing a SharePoint/Office 365 Support Infrastructure Summary

Over the years I’ve worked in a variety organizations both as consultant and in IT departments. I’ve worked with some great professionals that helped me better understand the support structures required to operate and support an application/service effectively. Sometime an afterthought, meeting ongoing support expectations in today’s ever changing business environment can be a having sufficient budget, sponsorship, managing contractors, full time staff and service organizations (Outsourcing) can be a headache. Though not the focus of this blog, I will outline the required support infrastructure and highlight risks where appropriate related to sourcing.

Where do you star? What do you have in place that you can leverage? Help Desk? Training? Communications? SharePoint user group? Great places to start assessing your current investments effectiveness and costs. For example:

  • Help Desk – what does you help desk current support? Volume of calls? Satisfaction levels? Its ability to onboard a new application or service?
  • Development and support – SharePoint’s one of the products that people want to heavily customize beyond simple branding. A design and development team will be required. Have team or third party provider?
  • Training – what training is offered today? Satisfaction levels? Its ability to onboard a new application or service?
  • Communications – what does the commination group do today specific to awareness? Simple corporate communications or do they have a role in end user education? Promoting new applications and services?
  • SharePoint user group – have users groups formed organically or through official channels? What feedback do they have about support and training?

Thinking about the aforementioned items you could easily get to a state of analysis paralysis trying to boil the ocean as they say so how do you avoid it? Here are some key areas to focus on:

  • Define the Support Infrastructure requirements, offerings, roles and responsibilities, deliverables, reporting and measures and game plan
  • Corporate communications – this team will help you market your offering and collect feedback as you define, deploy and operate. Utilizing intranet, surveys, newsletters, emails to name a few the teams will help you engage end users.
  • Training materials – for training materials you may choose to adopt materials that can be purchased from a third party such as or create your own. There are pros and cons with either approach such as customized environment or your organizations own processes which vender such as won’t have. They will have however a robust library of documents and videos available on demand which can take organization considerable time and cost to assemble. Weigh the pros and cons and go with what’s best for your situation.
  • Videos and Documented guides and policy – At a minimum you’ll require usage policy that users must sign off on and comply with while using the applications. This could be data and security policy compliance and simple instructions regarding what to use the application for and what not to use it for. I suggest ongoing yearly recertification and sign off enforced by HR and managed through a Learning Management System (LMS). In addition, user guide must be available as the guide for using the application/service. The guides usually take the form of written documents and videos.
  • Lunch and learns – these are events that communications or the product management team would chair. These are interactive forums for launching applications/services and conducting surveys.
  • User Support/mentoring Groups – user groups are an effective tool for reaching deeper into an organization to educate and collection feedback on application/service related topics. Everything from how to get help, how to best use features and obtaining firsthand information from business regarding their priorities and expectation regarding the application/service.
  • Help Desk – to assist with call handling, simple troubleshooting, monitoring and routing the help desk will require scripts and education. Make this a focus area and not an afterthought, not having a solid help desk will be problematic.
  • Third Party – if you’re in a situation where you don’t have services to offer and must use third party provider to either provide all services or to augment when elasticity is required based on demand, suggest reaching out via RFI to determine which provider can best service your requirements.

Finally, the shit structure should match the operating requirements, specifically you will require teams to “follow the sun” as they say. For example:

  • First shift – this team works from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.
    • This might be the prime shift that covers majority of user population. For example North America based company.
  • Second shift – this team works from 5pm-1am Monday through Friday.
    • This might be a secondary shift that provides support for off hours related work during maintenance windows which are usually after normal business hours. e.g maintenance window 8pm-6am.
  • Third shirt  – this team works from 1am-9am Monday through Friday.
    • Same as above.

As the title suggests this is a summary, to execute on creating your infrastructure could be a simple operation if your organization has mature ITSM process, experienced staff and budget. Or you might be in a situation where limited resources exist and in that case a third party is required. Having solid plan in either case will help whereby the stakeholders are actively involved and onboard greatly helps in the efforts.

Have feedback or ideas, contact me

Migrating to Office 365 or SharePoint Online? Part 1A: End-user Training and Compliance

Migrating to Office 365 will have an impact on end users in several ways and to make sure their experience is smooth during and after the transition training and support must be provided. The training and support consists of the following for Office 365:

  • Service offerings – explains what the service offerings are (e.g. Mobile Profession, Team Collaboration, Project Management, Business Application), how to chose and how to gain access to them. For example, your organization might offer all the applications available or a subset this all depends on business need, licensing you choose, funding available for support and your ability to support the various offerings. Publish this information on your SharePoint service information site such as a Collaboration Central or SharePoint Central.
  • Usage compliance – explains what the users are responsible for as site owners and users. This training enforces data and security policy with end goal of passing audits or at a minimum preventing data loss, privacy incidents and overall good upkeep. HR must mandate this training and make it a requirements for new and existing employees yearly.
  • Provisioning – outlines the step by step process for requesting the service in its various forms. For example, your organization packages basic and advanced services where you have bundled Office 365 applications. End users would have a place to go (e.g. Company provisioning site) and request either of these bundles for their project, team or department. The provisioning system would guide the end user through choosing option best for them; enter required data and obtaining required approvals. Ongoing it would also manage updates such as ownership, administration and compliance with data and security policy, provide reports to name a few. Publish this information on your SharePoint service information site such as a Collaboration Central or SharePoint Central.
  • How to training – training materials such as videos, quick reference how-to, discussion groups and FAQs to name a few. Also how to get in touch with SharePoint user groups for additional help and support (Generally run by Product Management team or SME). The end goal being to augment help Desk support and prepare end users for Office 365 prior and post launch. You might chose to create new materials or subscribing to materials available from venders. For those with customized and or hybrid environments the training material must account for this and help the user to avoid confusion. There are online services available that might help such as WalkMe and Lynda.
  • I will assume you have an eLearning site, publish instructions regarding how to access the eLearning courses on your SharePoint service information site such as a Collaboration Central or SharePoint Central. Also consider placing FAQs, Discussion areas and service related information on the site as well, make it the place to go for information and knowledge sharing.
  • Support groups – these can be discussion groups, ad-hoc or scheduled Skype sessions that are team, departmental or regional in scope. Utilizes these groups end user have another option for obtaining support and learning. These group could be published on team, departmental or regional sites for ease of access. A Chairperson would help market and management the group to maximize reach and the end users getting value. Publish this information on your SharePoint service information site such as a Collaboration Central or SharePoint Central.

Have feedback or ideas? Contact me

SharePoint Site Security: Open Sites (Anonymous access) vs. Closed Sites

SharePoint site permissions can be a burden for site owners and SharePoint admins to manage especially when you introduce large number of sites, compliance requirements and unique permissions. Though SharePoint provides you with the basics out of the box, untrained site owners will create some interesting and risky permissions configurations especially if you introduce sub sites and unique permissions. In regulated industries such as Pharma, Banks, Medical and Energy Auditors are picky about site permissions as it related to data privacy. In short auditors don’t like SharePoint security model because its distributed, places the power of security in site owners and there’s no out of the box way to monitor, enforce and correct. As a result? Failed audits, privacy breaches, panic…a nightmare.

So how do you approach this? The following are training, technical, policy and process related actions that must be carried out to address this problem:

  • Site owners must be trained on an ongoing basis – mandatory training must be performed yearly to enforce and ensure owners know their responsibilities and sign off on their compliance.
  • Provisioning systems must know the difference between open and closed sites – When an open site is requested additional approvals must be obtained via approval workflows and the site provisioned accordingly. When closed sites are provisioned, this must trigger enforcement tool configuration to add the site to daily scanning to ensure that Everyone cannot be added.
  • Sites must have visual markers – whether an open or closed site there must be visual markers that communicate the site type (open or closed). This is another tool for ensuring data and security compliance.
  • Enforcement tools must scan sites daily to remove Everyone from closed sites – to enforce and protect enforcer scanners must be run ensure site permissions compliance. When Everyone is found in a closed site, it must be logged and the site owner notified.

In addition, make sure this is documented in your control plan and can be reported on when auditors request information regarding your SharePoint environment and your compliance enforcement efforts.

Have feedback? Contact me at

Migrating to Office 365 / SharePoint Online

Summarizing my Migrating to Office 365 – 12 steps that will help you get there blog, by request this blog is a summary of the steps with an additional blog on quality assurance.

I’ve done several migrations over the years and the tools have come a long way but the organization challenges are still the same. Such as managers in denial, executive sponsors don’t understand complexity and risks, angry business users, unaware of risks and effort required, under funded, uncooperative teams, tedious and lengthy processes, support teams stressed and overworked and non-supporters that simply get in your way. Organization ask for best practices but rarely adopt them because core organizational issues – very common. If your planning to migrate or are in the process of migrating I hope this series of blogs helps you.

Found this helpful or have feedback? Contact me

The Complex Sale – A Prescriptive Approach for Target Account Selling

There are many books that come to mind regarding sales techniques all claiming to have the approach to selling. Some are very good as they offer prescriptive approaches and or methodologies for approaching sales. Having been on both sides of the fence as a pre-sales consultant and as a customer, I thought this topic might be an interesting blog. My sales experience goes back to 1989 working as a pre-sales / technical person that both helped sell and deliver and or manage project delivery. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some talented pre-sales and enterprise sales reps that have taught me several lessons that I will share in this blog.

Back in 1989 I was fresh out of school, had worked at IBM in large enterprise accounts for a few years as a CSR. Then left and worked for a small VAR in the city that was adopting services as many did at the time to boost ailing product margins – back in the day PCs sold for $25,000.00 each. Lesson One – Product sales is all about speeds, feeds, price and availability. Taking orders for products or downloads such as software is much different than an enterprise sale. Specifically, the level of skill , duration and acumen is much different and therefore some companies (Managers and owners) have a difficult time grasping this. The sales staff at the VAR were inside sales order takers and the owner of the company (the main sales person) leveraged his relationships from University to penetrate major enterprise accounts and pass order onto inside sales.  This worked fine for PC orders but once the sale got complex there was a skills gap (level of discussion, technical depth, risk management, scoping, negotiations etc.) missing that their model could not fill – enter the Systems Engineer, a sales savvy technical person. We all know this role well, establishes credibility based on solution area expertise, flies under the sales radar, scopes and writes proposals and SOWs, helps farm accounts. Today the Systems Engineer may be called a Strategic Advisor, Senior Consultant, Solution Architect etc. names that help them fly under the sales radar.

So back on the topic, your introduced to the client what must you do next?

  • For quick spot check scenarios, questions to ask are; 1) Do you have an inside coach? 2) Is there a compelling reason for the client to act? 3) Is there allocated budget? Why ask? So many times sales reps have just thrown leads over the fence completely unqualified.
  • Building relationships – constant networking in the account, getting to know people from these areas:
    • Technology – technical pain and requirements.
    • Business – business impact, pain and requirements.
    • Purchasing – steps, signatures, reviews etc. and also helps with timing around close.
    • Legal – purchasing timing, contractual risks, penalties and also helps with timing around close.
    • Operations – operational pains and risks.
    • Third-party service providers – leverage incumbent contacts and partner.

Note that utilizing the relationships you will gain a complete view of the situation and be able to craft a compelling solution that aligns with all parties – this wont happen over night. Obtaining an organization chart or simply networking and asking who these people are will help with targeting. Lesson 2: Never tell a client you want to be their trusted advisor, that is so unprofessional. A junior rep did that in front of me on a joint call a couple years back, the client looked at me a rolled their eyes. She lost credibility on the spot. You earn Trusted Advisor by delivering what the client perceives as value consistently. Finally, remember people do business with people they trust – establishing and retaining credibility is a difficult task.

  • Learning how decisions are made – as your building relationships ask how decisions are made, this will help with networking and being able to predict the sales probability. You’re looking for people that are exposed by risk / benefit from the solution and those that support and don’t support the need for a solution. Questions to ask, who makes the final decisions and signs? Who influences the decision makers? Who are the anti-supporters?
  • Learning the technical / business environment – working with your contact you must gather information about the environment, pain points, risks as this will help you with crafting your solution – build value proposition you might say. If possible obtain documentation and conduct white boarding sessions, these are of great opportunities for sharing knowledge for both parties if it doesn’t turn into free consulting. Ask yourself by would the client want to participate? What’s in it for them? Use caution because if not well positioned you could look foolish and disorganized.
  • Learning how purchases are made – through the relationship building process you learn how purchases are made. Simply ask how they are made, start with the Project Manager, ask purchasing, managers, legal with purchasing / signing authority. Gather the information from multiple view points and use it to assess your understanding of the customer and your level of relationships. These relationships will also help with questions such as are we competitive? Will this deal close? When?
  • Competition – know your competition, simply ask and in some cases venders of record information will be available. Also leverage your professional network as someone there might have worked with the client before and could help. If your relationships are strong enough one of your contacts might help you better understand the landscape.
  • Know when to walk – some just don’t want to buy, simple as that. No urgent need, no budget or maybe they don’t like your company and have someone else in mind. Beware of the sales rep with the “sunshine pump” as they will string you along chasing that account what seems like forever and then blame you when the deal doesn’t close.
  • Sales people and the sunshine pump – ran into this a lot of this over the years. Sales throws lead over the fence, says its yours to lose. When you ask questions to qualify you get nothing back or just that’s its a great opportunity for the company. Or that it will close but no real info about whose making the decision, when etc. Before taking on a pursuit, scope it with the sales person and loop in your manager. Ask the quick scoping questions I mentioned earlier and press for good answers.

Aside from the aforementioned points, know your companies products and services inside and out. Know the good and the bad so that you can scope and manage expectations effectively. Also, be prepared to compare your competition and know how to handle questions and push back.

From a more practical perspective, I use the Holden method of sales as a basis, it helps me focus on specifics for an account and fill in the blanks. Its gives you a methodology that helps you plan building relationships and gathering information. What it won’t do is repair a damaged relationship instantly. Lesson 3: It will take time to repair relations your company or past staff have damaged. For example, I worked for a software company a while back and they “Hit and run…” their clients in my region told me the company was amateur in their practices and untrustworthy. Lesson 4, most sales managers suck at coaching and or managing.

The following templates will help you collect information and focus on developing beneficial relationships with your clients that over the longer term.

  • Company Background and analysis
  • Opportunity analysis
  • Decision making analysis
  • Quick spot check analysis

Here is some recommended reading as well that will help:

  • The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation – By Mathew Dixon
  • Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond – By Deepack Malhotra and Max Bazerman
  • Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High – By Jeff Thull
  • The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential – By John C Maxwell
  • Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress free Productivity
    – By David Allen
  • Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Coworkers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day – by Linda Durre
  • Professional Services Marketing – By Mike Shultz and John Doerr
  • People Styles at Work: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better – By Robert Bolton, Dorothy Grover Bolton

In the end your approach must be tailored to your client and company you work for. Lesson 4: A company I worked for was a street fighter, their entire sales team was technical and had never been in an enterprise sales role. Their approach was “speeds and feeds – hit and run” focused on short term sales cycle – note you must be comfortable with both approaches as each customer/employer is different. Enterprise sales people didn’t fit into the mix, the company wasn’t willing to invest and change to go after larger accounts and repair the “Hit and Run…” damage they caused. Lesson 5: Some managers/companies won’t get it, their culture and management team are stuck in their ways due to lack of experience, choose jobs carefully or else you could be placed in a no win situation.

Have feedback, suggestion or want to share your experiences? Contact me .

Migrating to Office 365 or SharePoint Online? Part 7: Pulling It All Together

Concluding my Migrating to Office 365 – 12 steps that will help you get there blog, this blog is focused on the execution of your migration project – once you’ve completed all the preparation steps. If you haven’t, read my past blogs as they are focused on preparing – Migrating to Office 365 – 12 steps that will help you get there blog. Also, note that skipping any of the steps introduces risk in the form of quality issues and cost overruns but most importantly negatively impacts the business users and their day to day operations. Finally, I’ve had this blog series on my to do list since March 2015 but never got around to it due to family sickness. Thank you for all the emails and feedback regarding how you utilized this series for your projects and articles.

During preparation phases we conducted an inventory, analysis, cleanup and established the controls required to be successful. The controls consist of communications, scheduling, resourcing, budgeting and risk management – all very important topics often carelessly overlooked by management to save time and money but actually results in overruns and unnecessary risks that negatively impacts the business longer term. The following is a quick refresher:

  • Communications – established with lines of business, site collection owners, technical team and PMO. Templates, email, Migration Central site, escalation process to name a few.
  • Scheduling – established based on fiscal, technical, contractual and resource requirements.
  • VIPs – these are persons are departments that require extra attention and priority. For these sort of users / business units more hand holding will be required and scheduling to minimize impact.
  • Resourcing – resourcing in place for pre-migration, migration and post migration activities – usually separate teams.
  • Capacity management – capacity plan in place and product roadmap updated to reflect procurement (lead time for purchase and installation) of additional capacity (Servers, storage, backups, network etc.) and services.
  • Process – rigorously tested, documented and ready to go.
  • Tools – use tools to automate process and reporting such as reporting on site owners, large lists, third party etc. But remember that Microsoft doesn’t support using migration tools to jump versions. Use a intermediary farm if you do jump or else your in for a lot of pain.
  • Risk plan – work with extended team to assemble list of risks, likely hood of occurring, impact and plan to addresses them – more on this later.
  • Budget – is based on solidified requirements, extensive peer reviews and allocated for certain – executive sign off in writing.

As part of your analysis you categorized sites by complexity – green, yellow, red. Though you may think green starts first that’s not the case, all sites begin at once – I sure hope you planned your resourcing or you will incur much risk – this is covered later in Blog. What do I mean by start all at once? Here is a quick summary:

  • Green sites can begin almost immediately because no re-work or cleanup is required. For green sites, simply give site owners enough waring to prepare, review training materials on the new SharePoint and prepare the site users.
  • Yellow sites, cleanup and some minor rework will be required – don’t underestimate the work associated with correcting and reworking sites and the risks of not addressing this work properly. The risk of not doing so is business outages and cost/schedule overruns. For example, the rework could be version cleanup, user permission cleanup, site owner updates, simple large lists (Only require indexing and views and maybe some archiving or deletion).
  • Red sites cleanup could mean complete rework. For example, FAB40 templates sites, extensive SPD worked sites, or a third-party tools that are no longer supported, out of control lists (Users that utilize SharePoint as a database 15-25k items 50+ columns wide) or customizations that simply won’t work in the cloud or that the organization does want in new environment due to support costs.

So, let that sink in for a while you’re thinking about migration logistics, risks, resourcing and budget. Let’s come back to sites later in the blog, let’s talk about what you require in place before executing your actual site migrations.

Before communications begin a complete Inventory of sites that is 100% up to date with owner information as they must be notified of the migration early to help them prepare. Your communication plan must include all the standard items such as people, process and tools such as Migration Central site (See prior blog), Help Desk Scripts, Email templates for contacting sites owner pre, during and post migration – don’t use Email and Spreadsheets its sloppy and unprofessional. Also beneficial is the issues and action plan includes procedures, guides, communication and escalation process for dealing with problematic owners and sites.

Training for your migration such as how to prepare, what to do during and post migration. Topics include how what the site owners, users and migration team are responsible for – helps remove ambiguity.  Training materials for new platform such as Office 365 and or SharePoint 2016 “How to…” for site admins and users. Note that Migration Central can house the training materials as well as other support materials such as FAQs, discussions to name a few. It can also house a discussion area for site owners and user to ask questions but must be staffed so that questions don’t go unanswered.

As with any project, staffing is critical but keep in mind that SharePoint is a customer facing highly business visible application. As a result the lack of a skilled and experienced team and honed methodology will be very noticeable. So advice for assembling your team:

  • The lead architect and PM must have migration experience on the resume or you’re at risk
  • Product management have roadmap in place for additional capacity, services, patching and feature activations.
  • The help desk must have person(s) trained on the migration so they can triage calls properly – primary and backup is a good idea and make sure the shifts are covered. Support scripts will be required so process and policy can be followed consistently
  • The development team tasked with yellow and red site cleanup must have experience with SharePoint and tasks such as large lists, InfoPath, custom templates and third party tools. The team will also have access to the version control library and documentation collected as part of the analysis phase.
  • The SharePoint team will require augmentation because of increased call volume. Issues will arise such as how to, minor site migration issues and basic handholding. They will also be required to help provision sites, related content databases and most likely trend reporting. To help, training staff will be required as some just won’t have time to review online training so this can be dedicated staff of conducted by the SharePoint team.
  • Coordination and reporting staff will focus on managing the Migration Central site, communications to site owners and trend reporting. Your team will also consist of toolset venders and most likely Microsoft to assist when issues only they can resolve.

You will also have representation from cloud, networks, servers, storage, security, compliance and communications team.  On a final note the less experienced your team is, the more risk you assume because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Each phase of migration must be incorporated into your master plan and master schedule, published in a project schedule and on the Migration Central site. Each phase will include preparation emails to site owners, notifications to the persons operating the migration tools, persons conducting post migration support. Don’t forget reviews of migrations at each phase and incorporate the learnings to improve your overall program. If you haven’t read ”
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” By Peter M. Senge, I highly recommend it.

Risk Planning
Though we covered a risk planning exercise in a prior blog I want to recap some common risks to highlight that you cannot skip this step and be successful. Risk planning must one of the first exercises you carry out with the extended team:

  • Executive support – no executive/or an executive with weak funding capability, no ties to the business, lacking strong relationships and empowerment over technology area and all its silos.
  • Management – management disempowered and in denial, with no funding or weight they are not able to support the project team effectively.
  • Funding – no funding for the experienced people, tools and venders required for success.
  • Project team – one small inexperienced team that must do it all – this results in staff turn over, quality problems and schedule overruns.
  • Product manager – alignment with dependency products (Servers, VMs, Storage etc.), capacity plan in place and product roadmap updated to reflect procurement (lead time for purchase and installation) of additional capacity (Servers, storage, network etc.) and services.
  • Project manager – hasn’t worked on migrations or in the solution space before.
  • Lead architect – hasn’t worked on migrations or in the solution space before.
  • Culture – not conducive to team work – soloed and full of anti-supporters – traditional organization.
  • Capacity planning – projecting capacity needs (Servers, network, storage) and accounting for provisioning timelines (Provisioning lead times can be weeks or months depending on complexity of operating environment) for your environment. Weekly reporting is highly recommended to stay on top of projects versus reality.
  • Site remediation – is skipped or done poorly – no clear line of sight to work required and risk areas.

If you haven’t already, read my Migrating to Office 365 – 12 steps that will help you get there blog – use it as a checklist. If you have completed all the steps then good for you, you have minimized your risks and had a great chance at success. If you haven’t completed all the steps, you’re at risk and expect a rocky road and have your resume ready. If you work in a traditionally structured organization such as government and financial for example conduct aggressive risk planning as these sorts of cultures will have great difficulty with projects such as migrations because their culture  isn’t conducive to success. Note most fail at their first migration projects, people quit and IT managers get fired – do your company a favor and hire experienced people and listen to them.

Have feedback or experiences you want to share? Contact me

How to staff your SharePoint Team

people at workHaving seen both good and bad I thought this would make an interesting blog. After having a chat with some of my industry peers I realized that some management teams don’t staff sufficiently and their SharePoint team and business users are suffering for it. Specifically, management staffs SharePoint teams like they would IT infratrsucture and not a business facing service.

When you staff your team, know this – your providing a complex web hosting/collaboration service. You require infrastructure, development, user interface design, end user training and administration skills. Also, with SharePoint being a global service in many organizations that have offices in the America, EMEA and ASIAPAC, SharePoint’s reach is broad and its user base very large with diverse requirements and expectations. This places a huge support burden (cost, risks, workload etc.) on IT departments as the support requirements are 7/24. The downside of not staffing correctly is higher than usual staff turn over, not meeting expected service levels, degraded environment and service and not containing risks and associated.

Symptom your team isn’t staffed and managed properly:

  • Turn over – people come and go monthly/yearly. Perhaps your organization is so messed up new people just don’t want to invest time and or have better options.
  • Unplanned costs – consulting fees to troubleshoot and fix ailing environment.
  • Quality issues with code / changes – cause performance and stability issues. Lack of procedural rigor and enforcement by management.
  • No documentation – come support time when a reference is required these no central document/code repository to reply on.
  • Failing Audits – simply put, you have audit requirements where SharePoint is graded and fails due to various reasons such as failure to comply with data and security policy.
  • Capacity issues – whether it be CPU spikes or storage issues, no capacity plan and monitoring of any merit. Not all changes are simple storage increases or server augmentations. It could require major capital purchases and lead times.
  • Nothing gets done – same recurring problem year after are a sign that the manage team are not effective in their roles.
  • End users that lack the basic SharePoint skills and no plan to address it.

So how staff? Here is a baseline model:

  • Executive sponsor – Owns budget and ultimately service quality and compliance with company policy. This is an active role, supporting the team during budgeting, downsize, escalations and being able to say NO to the business when resources are not available or the request is not in the best interest or suited to SharePoint.
  • Product Management – Owns product roadmap, new feature releases, risk planning, develops budget and other operating models. Works with other product managers to align roadmap such as Operating Systems, Database services and other related infrastructure. Also work with business unit and SharePoint User Group to collect establish two way communications.
  • Service Manager – manages the service to control plans for availability, performance and compliance. Deals with staffing, outages, escalations, reporting and problem management.
  • Business Analyst – works with business unit and user group community to facilitate and capture requirements. This role requires strong communications, knowledge of business, technology, writing and facilitation.
  • Engineer / Architect – work with business analyst and technical team on requirements to design enhancements and supports broader team from a technical perspective.
  • Developers – work on code, manage source code and documentation. Know and enforce development standards, know the customizations inside and out. The number of developers depends on size of environment and number of customization. there should be at least one that knows all the customizations to some degree.
  • Quality Assurance – develops test plans, test cases and reports for testing new features and performance ongoing. Maintain quality assurance environment such as data set, toolsets and related documentation.
  • Administration onshore (Day) – day to day administration which includes Help Desk, service sustainment, provisioning, service packs and other changes.
  • Administration off shore (Night) – day to day administration which includes Help Desk, service sustainment, provisioning, service packs and other changes.

The aforementioned model assumes you have teams allocated to shared services such as help desk, monitoring and reporting, coding and source code management, networking, servers, compliance/risk management, storage and quality assurance.

Using offshore resources? Some points that might help you ease the pain of a transition, make sure you request this in your contract:

  • Provide a onsite coordinator (minimum part-time) to assist with the coordination of work.
  • Rotate team onsite to emerge them in the process and culture for 6 months to a year, when they go home they can bring their knowledge back and share it to help the broader office understand process, policy, culture and expectations to name a few.
  • Clearly document all process and policy involved in their responsibilities and clearly highlight demarcation points.

It’s important to remember that most organizations rate SharePoint as a Administration level application or tier 3 or 4 – whatever is lowest in your organization. As a result its not allocated the same funding and attention a mission critical tier 1 or 2 application but that doesn’t stop business units from building mission critical applications and there in-lies the political rub – the disconnect that makes life difficult.

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SharePoint Test and Quality Assurance – Part 5 Office 365 Migration Testing


Some of you may have read my blogs on SharePoint testing, I wrote several blogs on the topic such as SharePoint test and Quality Assurance – Testing SharePoint out of the Box Part 3. Often overlooked or under funded, testing is very important to minimizing Business and IT risk because of the user interface differences, user training impacts, custom code/templates, data and security policy impacts.

The blog will focus on the creating your test plan, test cases, report and presenting the results to manage expectations and correct any faults. Where possible I will provide documented example templates you can use to kick start you’re testing.

So where do you start? Create a test plan as follows:

  • Define the purpose of the testing – generally it’s to manage the risk associated with migration to understand the following:
    • Impacts of migration to end user from a usability perspective
    • New training required for end users
    • Determine initial impact help desk and support resources
    • Developing/Refining the communication plan
    • Verifying connectivity required between the environments
    • Verifying ability to enforce data and security policy
    • Testing migration tool sets to understand what can be automated
    • Identifying manual process tools wont address
    • Where additional scripting is required
    • Creating migration guides for the migration team (forms the basis)
    • Determining impact to servers, storage and network
    • Document operational jobs (e.g. backup, indexing, virus scans etc.) start and completion times as they will impact migration performance
    • DLP settings / upload non compliant data
    • Multifactor authentication settings / test variety of scenarios
    • Intrusion detection
  • Determine the staff and skills required.
  • Funding required for the staffing, tools and thirdparty.
  • Defining the test environment from a technology perspective.
    • Source and destination environments (Servers, network, software etc.)
    • Network requirements (e.g. bandwidth, firewall rules etc.)
    • Monitoring and reporting – capacity, performance and progress
  • Defining the dataset that will be used (e.g. what datasets are available that mimic production? Must a dataset be assembled from scratch?)
    • Create manually (Takes a lot of time or use scripts)
    • I’ve implemented a mix of both to best try to mimic production
  • Defining key outcomes / success factors.
  • Link to test plan template

Once you have completed writing your test plan, circulate the document for review and sign off with the key stakeholders such as the following:

  • IT Director – Executive responsible for environment. Depending on signing authority I suggest the CIO be looped in as well.
  • Product manager – owner of SharePoint / Collaboration service.
  • Service management – operation teams such as support, server, network, storage and directory teams
  • Quality Assurance Manager – manages QA team.
  • Engineering – engineering / architects responsible for the environment
  • Microsoft – your friendly Microsoft support person / team.
  • Third party – any third parties that support the environment such as staff augmentation our outsourcing.

Note it’s important to collect everyone’s feedback, answer their questions, educate each other and obtain sign off. By completing this stage correctly you will avoid organizational risk that could create roadblocks due to misunderstanding objectives and outcomes.

With the Test Plan signed off, you can now create your test cases and report documents. Your test cases document will contain a list of test cases which must follow the Rational Unified Process (RUP) format. Keeping its simple, each test case should contain:

  • Name – A descriptive name.
  • Description – Short description of the test case.
  • Data set – A description of the data set being used using the test.
  • Preconditions – What must be in place or is expected to occur be for test.
  • Post conditions – expected post conditions as a result of completing the test.
  • Steps – steps for tester to carry out test.
  • Outcomes – The results of the testing
  • Screenshots – Screenshots that show the outcomes where it makes sense (can be very effective in communicating).
  • Link to test cases template

With the above format in place, the following test cases are recommended:

  • Site Migration to destination environment(s) SP201x and or O365
  • Home page migration (especially from 2007 environments)
  • Permissions groups
  • User IDs
  • Lists especially large
  • List views
  • Workflow
  • Complex list / library
  • Custom site template
  • Custom list / library template
  • Email enable libraries
  • Custom workflows
  • Custom forms
  • Subsites
  • Sub Subsites
  • Custom .Net code
  • Unique permissions on child objects
  • Custom embedded HTML/Java code
  • Site migration duration 500 MB, 1 GB, 5 GB and 25 GB (Do for both SP201x and O365)
  • Broken links identification and correction (Update)
  • Impact on server work load
  • Impact on storage work load
  • Impact on network work load
  • Impact on capacity and reporting
  • DLP detection event capture, logging and alerting
  • Multifactor authentication
  • Intrusion detection event capture, logging and alerting

The above items are some basic tests than you can start with and build from there depending on your environment. For example, you might want to test Content Editor WebPart migration that contain custom CSS and Java, third party application migration, test impact/implications of settings such as versions and recycle bin. From a manual process perspective you might want to test Large List cleanup processes (Views, Indexing etc.). Some common problems you will find through testing (Each migration tool and environment will have its own quirks) are as follows:

  • Corrupted permissions – especially where there are unique permissions.
  • Large lists – 5000 item limit reached especially if you have legacy 2007 environments.
  • Corrupted lists/libraries – views don’t work properly, filtering errors and form issues.
  • Custom Code – code that wont migrate, must be rewritten.
  • UI quirks – content editor webpart, navigation, CSS and JavaScript.
  • InfoPath forms – especially those that use the old environment for lookups.
  • Wide open sites – permissions configured to leave site wide open.
  • Broken links – requires update tool in most cases.
  • Project 11 sites – these are sites the business builds on their own because their project wasn’t funded – often require time consuming reverse engineering.
  • FAB40 templates – if you have legacy 2007 environment(s).

For monitoring during load tests you should monitor VM Host (If you are virtualized) servers, network and storage devices. For Servers you can use PAL, for network speak with the network team and monitor traffic between new and old farms and O365.

Some lessons learned include the team must have experience, management will oversimplify the work, document everything, capacity planning must be done in advance not as an afterthought, circulating and communicating results, dealing with problem managers/employees quickly and proactively/aggressively managing expectations. Involve all stakeholders and make sure they sign off in writing to avoid roadblocks and politics.

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