Preventing Microsoft Office migration pitfalls

Like most enterprise application upgrades, Microsoft Office upgrades can cause major business disruptions without proper planning and testing. For example, end users can quickly become frustrated when they’re unable to do basic tasks because they’re not familiar with the new user interface.
When files are converted to the new format and links are broken, business critical files fail to function properly due to compatibility issues. The number of calls placed to your help desk will be a quick indicator of whether your company has properly prepared for these challenges.Here are few things to keep in mind to ensure a successful upgrade.Addressing file compatibility issues can be a tedious process. Users have been creating business-critical files for years and they’re spread companywide across multiple servers and workstations. Simply locating and identifying the most critical files is an important first step in preparing for a MS Office upgrade.The initial file discovery can be used to define the scope of the file migration project. Of the millions of files that exist in a large enterprise, it’s important to define the characteristics that define a file as being critical. Some of the more common attributes include how recently the file was modified, last accessed, if it’s linked to other files and whether it was customized using software code and macros.Testing and trainingOnce the business-critical files have been identified, it’s time to figure out which will be problematic when you roll out the new version of MS Office. Each release of MS Office includes new features designed to make people more productive, as well as features that have been removed or changed. Files that use any of the features that have been changed or removed will no longer perform as expected or may not work at all.Each of the identified files must be tested to ensure there will be no business downtime once MS Office is deployed.Another pitfall that many companies face is training – or the lack thereof. When the new version of MS Office is deployed, employees are going to find many of the simple tasks they do each day to be challenging.For instance, MS Office’s new “ribbon” interface is designed to enable users to work more quickly and easily. Common tasks are grouped more logically, however, the menu system that we’ve grown accustomed to is no longer there and the initial learning curve can be frustrating.Prior to training your staff, ask your employees how they use MS Office through pre-training interviews, so you can tailor the training accordingly. This will spare them – and your help desk – some headaches.Identify the primary stakeholders within each business unit, as these employees will either make your MS Office upgrade a success or scream that the project has failed. Including the stakeholders in the early phases allows you to address all of their concerns early in the project.Pilot deployments with small groups of business units are a perfect way to validate that your planning and testing have been successful. Track any issues and questions that arise and make changes to the training or file migration plans based on this input.Another category of migration pitfalls are applications that integrate with MS Office. Take an inventory of your applications and verify with each vendor that their application is compatible with the new version of MS Office. Additionally, you should test any add-ins and applications that have been developed internally to ensure a smooth transition to Office 2010.Shawn Allaway is president of ConverterTechnology, a Nashua-based solutions and services provider for firms migrating to new versions of Microsoft platforms. He can be reached at 603-880-9118 or