If you’re gearing up for a consolidation, divestiture, or acquisition event of two or more organizations, you’ll likely be merging multiple Microsoft 365 tenants. This process can be daunting and exhaustive, as numerous steps are needed to do the job correctly. Plus, it’s easy for valuable data to get lost or poor data to make its way in during the process — especially if proper planning and validation procedures aren’t put in place from the beginning.
Your Microsoft 365 tenants represent an imperative piece of your technology stack. Each dedicated instance contains all the Microsoft 365 services your organization employs for its location. From Teams and SharePoint collaboration to Outlook and productivity applications like Excel and Word, disruption to Microsoft 365 services and its tools can significantly impact business continuity.
Needless to say, a lot is on the line when you approach bringing two or more Microsoft 365 tenants together.
To eliminate the headaches and risks often associated with managing and merging Microsoft 365 tenants for an acquisition or consolidation, we’ve put together this easy-to-follow 9-step checklist. Let’s take this journey together, shall we?
1. Existing Infrastructure Assessment
First things first, you need to carefully assess and document the existing IT infrastructures, Microsoft 365 subscriptions, tech stacks, and usage patterns of each organization involved. Doing so will help you identify potential overlaps, redundancies, and gaps, decreasing the likelihood of low-quality data entering the new environment.
During this process, you’ll also want to evaluate whether there are any areas of technical debt (i.e., potential areas of imminent rework requirements for the future). If there are, you may want to consider areas to modernize your technology stack before the acquisition starts. This helps streamline processes and reduce reliance on legacy tools, setting you up for more success after the acquisition is complete.
Assessing each organization's current infrastructure and identifying improvement opportunities helps you avoid potential bottlenecks before the migration happens, decreasing the chances of major roadblocks occurring.
2. Identify Priorities
A critical part of correctly managing and merging your Microsoft 365 tenants for an M&A event is collaborating with stakeholders and defining a unified vision. Everyone may have different priorities during the merger, which is why you need to work closely with the involved team members to review your data findings from the assessment, set clear objectives, determine the top priorities, and then outline the steps for technical integrations.
Be sure to consider renewal timelines and contract terms for existing platforms and technologies, as these may influence your project timeline and your order of concerns.
Also, factor in and maintain some level of flexibility and agility as priorities may shift or unexpected costs may arise during the migration process.
3. Create a Project Roadmap
Your purpose during a Microsoft 365 tenant merge project to create a leaner technology stack that improves efficiency — both during and after the merger. Now that your assessment and priority designations are complete, it’s time to draft a project roadmap and plan.
As a part of this, you should step into research around product pricing, including licensing, storage solutions, product packages, etc. This will help you make more informed decisions that help cut costs.
Many factors go into a project plan—geographies, domains, Microsoft 365 application licensing, security, services, and more. There are also a few different approaches, from a single event migration flow to phased event migration and tenant-to-tenant migrations.
4. Define Workloads
With a project roadmap created, it’s time to document your current Microsoft 365 workloads, which include technology processes, activities, and milestones. As you outline these processes, be sure to categorize workloads into different work streams and assess the technologies, resources, and skills associated with each. This will help you assign the right person with the right skills to each workload.
Additionally, you’ll want to determine which technologies should become the primary tenant or source of truth for each workload. Be sure to communicate that decision to the rest of your team so everyone stays aligned.
5. Implement Staff Training and Change Management Processes
Merging two Microsoft 365 environments is a big change for users within both organizations. Some users may be more equipped than others. At the end of the day, users are what helps keep businesses running smoothly and growing, so ensuring the least disruption for them is critical.
As part of your transition plan, you must assess whether you have enough skilled staff to manage the work streams efficiently. This will help you determine whether additional training or upskilling is needed before the merger begins.
Additionally, you’ll want to develop repeatable migration patterns to facilitate future technical migrations successfully. You’ll need to create a repeatable process that follows change management best practices, and you’ll likely need to work with an experienced technology partner to help with this (more on that below).
6. Attain C-Level Oversight and Involvement
During the Microsoft 365 migration process, you’ll want to recognize the potential for emotional and political challenges during M&As. To combat this, consider promoting C-level buy-in to enable timely decisions and reduce conflicts.
Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that top-level executives know the project's progress and challenges. This gives them a chance to provide recommendations and potential solutions.
7. Gauge and Assess Security Posture
With security risks increasing daily, you must keep your security posture in mind from the beginning. You’ll want to ensure all team leaders are involved in the discussion, so they can highlight security vulnerabilities you may not have been aware of.
You can then perform a thorough security assessment for both organizations involved in the merger or acquisition. This will help you identify potential security threats and take proactive steps to remedy them before a consolidation or acquisition happens. Additionally, this will ensure you’re more prepared for the targeted security attacks that may occur when the M&A event is complete and is public knowledge.
You’ll want to define key administrators who can make decisions around security quickly and efficiently. Should a security threat occur, the right people can quickly resolve the problem.
Another step in the merging process of Microsoft 365 tenants is to ensure that both the source and target tenants have a similar or identical security set-up. If not, one side may need a security upgrade to streamline and simplify the migration process.
Additionally, you’ll want to appoint a single person or champion to streamline decision-making around Microsoft 365 security. This will help you stay ahead of security measures and protocols to minimize potential risks.
8. Ongoing Honesty and Agile Planning
For a Microsoft 365 tenant merger to succeed, you must reevaluate priorities and objectives throughout the process and adjust your plan accordingly. This will increase the chances of a successful merger and decrease the impact of potential disruptions to daily operations.
What does that mean? Set up regular check-ins, progress, and status meetings with key project sponsors and participants and dedicate time to discussing any obstacles or threats to the milestones. Consistently working to identify these allows you to proactively adjust for unforeseen changes without compromising the project.
9. Enlist a Technology Partner to Help Merge Microsoft 365 Tenants
Engaging with an experienced Microsoft 365 partner, especially one who is familiar with M&A technology stack migration requirements and best practices, is a pivotal piece to the success and efficiency of a tenant migration project.
As soon as you work with them (ideally from the beginning of this process), inform your partner of any possible roadblocks or limitations to avoid potential pitfalls. Being honest about your current infrastructure allows experts to weigh in on solutions and help outline areas you can improve.
At JourneyTEAM, we have extensive experience in M&As and know that every Microsoft 365 tenant scenario is unique. That’s why we can customize our services, merger and acquisition technology plans, licensing packages, and support offerings to your specific needs.
Whether you need in-depth help throughout the entire migration process or support from time to time, JourneyTEAM is here to help.