Thirteen pitfalls of SharePoint migration and how to avoid them

In this article, I describe the thirteen most prominent pitfalls that I have encountered in the SharePoint migration projects of various organisations.

1. Lack of knowledge

What is SharePoint exactly? Knowledge is the key. It does not matter from which to which version of SharePoint one migrates: it is important that those who are involved in the migration project possess adequate knowledge about SharePoint. The SharePoint platform is linked to many other components of the IT landscape, including: SQL servers, IIS application servers, DNS & Active Directory, custom .NET code and networks. A good (migration) project team consists of people who are knowledgeable about all these other components. Hence, a strong project team is the foundation of a successful SharePoint migration.

2. Insufficient end user training

Training is essential for a good understanding of SharePoint’s features. End users often think in terms of folder structures instead of metadata, or do not know how to properly use SharePoint’s authorisation structure. This means a single click can make sensitive content available to the entire organisation, which is not desirable. Lack of knowledge also prevents one from efficiently making use of all the possibilities offered by the platform. Well-trained end users and managers can also help the ‘SharePoint oil spill’ to spread within the organisation.

3. Lack of communication about the upcoming changes

It is important to keep the organisation updated about the upcoming changes: a solid communication plan will help. Adjust the communication plan to the project’s planning so employees will stay informed during the execution of the migration plan. Here are some communication tips to stimulate employee involvement:

  • Try to get some time in the various department meetings to present the migration plan there.
  • Organise short sessions for the end users in which the changes are explained.
  • Give demos of new features which will simplify existing corporate processes.

4. ‘Garbage in = garbage out’

‘Garbage in = garbage out’. Make sure the existing SharePoint environment is as proper as possible. Do not migrate a SharePoint environment where erroneous data is the cause of malfunctions. If the existing environment’s content is not proper, then it will not be proper after the migration. Clean up the existing data as much as possible: you will prevent mishaps in the new SharePoint environment.

5. Underestimating SharePoint architecture

SharePoint 2013’s architecture has changed much compared to that of SharePoint 2010. Many new features have been added. The social aspect of SharePoint 2013 has been updated, and now has:

  • continuous content crawl to keep the search index up to date;
  • request management;
  • distributed cache;
  • and many other features.

So much has changed in SharePoint 2013 that you will need to revisit the entire architecture and cannot migrate on the content database level.

6. No “good” assessment of the existing environment

A good assessment of the SharePoint environment that is to be migrated is vital. There are many factors which can cause a SharePoint migration to fail and a migrated website to function incorrectly. You will want to identify these causes beforehand. Think of custom code, work flows, content editor web parts with scripts, etc. Using a simple Powershell script, it is possible to make a good assessment of the SharePoint environment that is to be migrated. Using the assessment, you can determine the main focus of the migration and which matters need to be resolved first. It is also possible to use the ‘site collection health check’ tool in SharePoint 2013. This tool checks a 2010 site collection to see if it is eligible for upgrading. For more information about this tool, go to:

7. Not testing

Test, test, and test again. It is one of the most important parts of the migration project. First test a migrated website in a testing or acceptance environment before migrating it to a production environment. Have the website owners/end users test the migrated website as well. An end user can detect errors even if a migration has been executed in a technically proper way. A good migration strategy takes into account the testing of rights, navigation, style and content.

8. Wanting to do everything yourself

Depending on the size and complexity of the SharePoint environment that is up for migration, it can be much cheaper to purchase a 3rd party tool instead of migrating manually. Ultimately, a 3rd party tool will save on costs and time. For a nice overview of available migration tools for SharePoint, go here:

9. The steps are too big

Work towards the finish line in incremental changes. For many end users, the gap between SharePoint 2007/2010 and SharePoint 2013 is wide. It is therefore important to execute changes one by one during the migration project. If at all possible, involve end users in every step of the way. My advice is to introduce SharePoint gradually instead of in one go.

10. No governance has been implementend

It is becoming increasingly important to have a proper governance document for a SharePoint environment. This document describes the rules, responsibilities and roles related to using SharePoint. The internet offers websites that will help you set up SharePoint governance. Here you will find Microsoft’s ‘white paper’ for the planning of SharePoint governance::
The lack of a proper governance document can cause:

  • information to be increasingly harder to find;
  • conflicts to erupt between IT and the business;
  • user satisfaction to drop;
  • the lack of a good authorisation model;
  • bad performance of the SharePoint environment.

11. Style has been forgotten

This matter is often underestimated when it comes to a SharePoint environment. The lack of a native style in a SharePoint environment will not directly cause the migration to fail. However, it plays an important role in improving users’ acceptance of the new SharePoint environment.

12. No plan for rollbacks

Why is a strong rollback plan necessary if there is a strong migration plan? Most migration problems that are caused by, for instance, unidentified custom work can be resolved. But recovering a non-functioning rollback plan is not possible. Therefore, you should always ensure there are good backups on the file and database levels before the migration commences. For this reason, an ‘in place’ migration is not recommended.

13. Lack of goals

The entire SharePoint migration has been carried out and the organisation now uses SharePoint 2013. But has the migration been successful? You should define a number of assessable goals beforehand that ought to have been accomplished after the migration has been completed. There are certain tools, for example those that can analyse user data, which can aid in the formulation of assessable goals.


SharePoint migrations offer an organisation an opportunity to clean up content, implement changes and realise the ultimate SharePoint vision. SharePoint migrations are much more than just a technical project, and should be well thought-out and planned; otherwise, there is no chance of a successful migration.

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