Tenant-to-tenant migrations are becoming increasingly mainstream. As the world grows more connected and digitally dependent, there’s a corresponding need for optimized IT infrastructures to streamline business processes, collaboration and administrative tasks. 

Often driven by organizational changes, including acquisitions, mergers, and divestitures, tenant-to-tenant migrations can greatly improve efficiencies and reduce costs. However, merging disparate workloads and processes between organizations is highly complex and involves numerous moving parts and variables. 

The depth of data, technology, and systems span the entire organization, making it exponentially more challenging to connect two companies successfully. Additionally, each organization operates according to its unique capacity and requirements, including business culture, workloads, work processes, and systems. Each company must continue operating normally without friction to daily activities, operational disruption, or downtime. 

Tenant-to-tenant migrations are undeniably intricate, but a strategic approach can alleviate certain challenges, facilitate a smoother migration process, and improve user adoption.

What is a Tenant-to-Tenant Migration?

Tenant-to-tenant migrations, also referred to as tenant mergers, involve transitioning data, users, and resources from an existing Microsoft 365 tenant to another tenant. 

A Microsoft 365 tenant is the group of services that’s allocated to a business and is usually correlated to at least one of their public DNS domain names. It provides a centralized, segregated container for various subscriptions and their licenses that are relegated to user accounts. Once created, the tenant is assigned to a particular geographical location, or a tenant can have multiple locations and be moved between them. 

Think of a tenant as a business’s space within the broader cloud-based realm of Microsoft 365 services. It’s a popular service for collaborative activities, like emailing through Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Teams messaging. 

There’s two primary types of tenant-to-tenant migrations:

  • Batched migration: The tenant is migrated in multiple groups throughout a predetermined time frame, with each group of users potentially organized by business unit or location. 
  • Cutover migration: The entire tenant is migrated in one session, such as over the course of a weekend. 

Let’s look at some examples of why a business might want to perform a tenant-to-tenant migration.

  • Acquisition: A company is acquired by another company and all of the users need to reside within the same Microsoft 365 tenant to ease collaboration, provide new email addresses, and basically ensure everyone is working within the same environment.
  • Divestiture: A company is splitting off into two companies, or a portion of the company has been sold. The subset of users and their data, along with other content, has to be moved to its own separate tenant. 

Tenant-to-tenant migrations involve varying degrees of effort and complexity; for example:

  • Low Complexity & Effort: A business has just purchased another company and wants those user’s emails integrated within the original business content, then provided new emails. This would be a fairly low effort project that might take two to three weeks to complete.
  • Medium Complexity & Effort: A company wants emails, OneDrive, and SharePoint migrated, which would take approximately four to six weeks depending on the specific project context. This example might be considered intermediate complexity and effort.
  • High Complexity & Effort: A business has a significant Microsoft Azure footprint and wants a substantial amount of integration, like identity, into the source tenant. The user names for Microsoft 365 and the source tenant are connected to other third party systems or internal applications. These types of scenarios can become quite complex, demand a high level of effort, and can take months to complete. 

Why Tenant-to-Tenant Migrations are Challenging

Every business who engages a partner for their tenant-to-tenant migration wants to hear that the process will be completely problem and error-free. However, this is rarely the truth for any tenant merger.

Issues, unknowns, and landmines inevitably arise; picture tenant-to-tenant migrations like changing an airplane engine in mid-flight. With so much at stake, the airplane can’t go down or offline. Similarly, tenant mergers are all live – all the time. 

There will be some problems, which is why a highly experienced migration and merger services partner is essential. Any issues will likely be something they’ve previously come up against, and if they haven’t, they can draw on their existing knowledge to quickly determine what the problem is and effectively address it. 

That being said, a few main challenges include: 

Company disposition

The current disposition of the company can create some complications. For example, the merger might be the result of a buyout or takeover and there may have been some jobs lost during the process. 

In these cases, personnel may be resistant to merging, or they’re resentful of the migration because their jobs might be made redundant. Thus it’s critical to be mindful of potentially sensitive scenarios requiring additional diplomacy.

 Company culture

Company culture plays a role in tenant merger etiquette, particularly in international organizations where communication is a barrier. Different languages and time zones can make typically straightforward tasks, such as coordinating decision making, presenting various merger options and aligning key players, incredibly challenging. 

Technical issues

Other challenges are often more technical in nature. For example, consider a tenant merger consisting of two disparate IT systems within the same global company with many of the employees’ user accounts in both organization A and organization B. Numerous complexities must be evaluated, such as which account should be each user’s primary account? Does each user need to maintain both accounts, or just some aspects from one account? 

These instances can’t be approached with an identity tool that simply merges an identity together and deletes the superfluous account. Instead, a granular approach and more imaginative or ad-hoc solution is usually required to resolve these kinds of issues.

Components of a Successful Tenant-to-Tenant Migration

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for tenant-to-tenant migrations, and there’s no magic wand that can be waved to seamlessly accomplish it.

Standard migration tools are risky because they don’t account for either project complexity or the unexpected; if a problem occurs during the migration then an organization could face massive disruption to their services and operations. If the migration involves multiple workloads, including email, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams, then the process must be carefully orchestrated and managed because that’s essentially several projects being simultaneously synchronized on a single cutover migration day. 

A Holistic Process Powered by Specialized Experience

Things can (and will) go wrong, and it’s better to have a seasoned migration and merger team available to anticipate potential problems when possible, and swiftly resolve unexpected issues if they do emerge – before they snowball into a bigger complication. However, organizations may also want to work with a partner because of the efficiency, or because their experts are already fully engaged with their own work and can’t devote the time to a migration.

Furthermore, specialized expertise, like that provided by a Microsoft 365 and Azure Migration & Merger Services partner, enables organizations to leverage thousands of hours of collective tenant-to-tenant migration experience. 

CloudServus is a Gold Tier Microsoft partner with a holistic process to deliver successful tenant-to-tenant migrations. Our comprehensive, end-to-end approach encompasses everything from initial client engagement and detailed migration roadmap to cutover and final remediation.

The most crucial component of CloudServus’ process, however, is practical knowledge, experience, and previous exposure to the numerous challenges associated with tenant-to-tenant migrations. For a better idea of what that might entail, check out this case study involving a tenant merger for a hugely popular global video game publisher.

The value of cultural awareness, creativity, and interpersonal connection can’t be understated. In other words, people will always be the most important tool in any tenant merger – and are the core pillar of CloudServus’ ethos. 

Contact CloudServus today to start your Microsoft 365 tenant-to-tenant migration.

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