Tips for choosing a Microsoft migration vendor

Many organizations who move to the Microsoft cloud use an external partner to do the heavy lifting. The great news is that there is a slew of transformation vendors out there, each with different strengths and specialties. When you choose the right one, it can make all the difference between a smooth migration—or one that goes sideways.

Microsoft Cloud migration | Binary Tree

But choosing the right partner can be a challenge. Gartner says it’s because of many organizations:

  • Lack of experience working with external partners on migrations
  • Aren’t familiar with different types of partners and business models
  • Aren’t sure how to evaluate proposed migration plans
  • Don’t know what a realistic, competitive price should be for this type of work
  • Get only one bid
  • Underestimate internal effort

So to guide you in your search, here are some tips from Gartner on an approach to choosing a migration vendor (peppered in with nuggets of our own).

Familiarize yourself with common migration approaches

Migration vendors tend to offer a wide range of services and approaches. Some vendors specialize only in the more basic up-front assessment and leave the actual migration up to your internal team. At the other end of the spectrum are the vendors who offer end-to-end services across all migration phases, from assessment to adoption.

This variety of services can make it difficult to compare approaches and costs. So before you approach vendors for bids, make sure you have an idea of the approach you’d prefer. Gartner says there are generally five types of statements of work in this space:

  • Assessment only. This is often the first step in any migration project. A partner can come in and help you take an in-depth look across your environment, which gives you a solid idea of migration scope, timeline, and cost. The outcome of this project can give you the confidence to move forward with this migration vendor—or find a better one.
  • Cloud-based migration services. This more lightweight service can be great for simple email environments. Partners often quote by mailbox and include documentation and support and remote professional services, if issues come up. But you as the client might have to do the actual data transfer and tweak settings in your software.
  • Email migration specialist. Partners in this area will usually give you a detailed project scope. They’ll often use repeatable processes and proven tools, offer lightweight project management, and do any technical work remotely.
  • End-to-end global integrator. This is often the most detailed, standardized, and comprehensive type of effort. Partners in this space have a proven track record of working with enterprises around the world on many types of complex migrations. Their SOWs should have detailed project phases, checkpoints, possible remediation, and SLAs. Gartner finds that these types of agreements tend to stick most closely to your planned timeline.
  • Generalist IT consulting organization. If you’re already working with a general IT consultant on other projects, it can be tempting to ask that vendor to also help you with your migration. The downside of this approach is that your vendor might not specialize in migrations, and so might have to scramble to put together a team.

Estimate scope and effort

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that your internal resources will need to do during the migration. Even if you want a turnkey vendor who can shepherd you through all steps of the process, your internal team will still have action items throughout.

So before you start reaching out to vendors, make sure you have a general idea of what you need the partner to do vs. what you will do. This helps you send out a more specific request for proposal and ask the right questions in early conversations.

Research the partner

New migration vendors continue to enter the market, so it’s always a good idea to confirm that your vendor is experienced at helping organizations like yours. Make sure to:

  • Look at their background. Have they been around for a while? Are they exclusively focused on migrations?
  • Check customer references and case studies. Have they helped organizations like yours?
  • Investigate their relationship with Microsoft. Are they a gold or silver partner? Do they have other key certifications, like around security?

Get more than one bid

A good rule of thumb is to get at least three bids. This gives you a nice range of vendors to compare against and makes it more likely that you’ll find the right partner who does exactly what you need. It also gives you a sense of the costs involved, which can vary widely depending on the proposed scope.

Evaluate statements of work

The statement of work helps show the level of rigor and attention to detail that the vendor will bring to the project. It will also give you a good sense of whether the vendor’s approach matches up with your needs. Some things to look for:

  • Have they scoped the project appropriately?
  • Did they do a good job of understanding your environment and needs?
  • Do they have a clear, proven process?
  • Will their process scale to the number of users you have?
  • Do they have plans to remediate any issues they might find in your environment?
  • Do they set clear phases, tasks, deliverables, and SLAs?
  • Are there any areas that seem vague or squishy?
  • Have you had a good experience thus far during the sales and scoping process?
  • Will you have a dedicated team?

Compare cost against value

Last up, a note about cost. Gartner says that projects of this type tend to have a huge variation in cost. Again, it all depends on the type of support you’re looking for. If you have a smaller budget to work with and can’t lean on the vendor as heavily, it might leave more work for you to do on your side. Or if your environment is rather complex, making the investment to measure twice and cut once may be the better option to reduce any potential risks, downtime, and disruption.

So the idea is to not get too hung up on cost alone. Instead, look at the value that the vendor will bring against how much work you’re prepared to shoulder internally. Plus, migrations of this type tend to overrun their scope and timeline, as it’s not always easy to predict possible snags. The right vendor can help you sidestep road bumps and make sure unexpected costs and delays don’t creep into your project.

Get started

At Binary Tree, we’ve been doing migrations exclusively to the Microsoft platform for more than 25 years. Using our proven process and award-winning software, our experts can help plan your project, move users and data, and manage the process from end to end. All to make sure your migration stays on schedule and on budget.

For more about how we can help (or to get a bid), get in touch. Or see more about our solutions to migrate to Microsoft.


Source: Gartner. How to Evaluate Integrators’ Cloud Office Migration Proposals. July 2017