The Fourth Office 365 & SharePoint 2016 Migration Readiness Pillar: Customizations

The Fourth Office 365 & SharePoint 2016 Migration Readiness Pillar: Customizations

By Adam Levithan | July 14, 2016

This is Part 4 of our migration readiness series. InPart 1: Architecture, we wrote about architecture and making your content as lightweight as possible before making the big move. In Part 2: Network Optimization, we talked about how why network optimization can significantly boost productivity. In Part 3: Database Readiness, we explained the importance of database readiness and why it is essential for a clean slate in your fresh, new environment.

Remember that time you were forced to move schools and to your horror discovered the school’s dress code meant wearing a uniform as standard? You had to, painfully, put your colorful clothes and ironic T-Shirts back into the closet and save them for weekend wear. If, for today’s post, you imagine your migration to Office 365 as moving to a new school, we’re on the right track.

You might remember your previous surroundings fondly, like your old school where you could wear anything—In SharePoint On-Premises you can freely and easily customize your environment depending on your tastes and needs. From changing themes to customizing master pages and web parts—but don’t forget, your old school had its issues too and not being able to wear what you want is a small price to pay for a better education.

In this post we ask: are your branding customizations accounted for.

Customization and code preparation

Office 365 has restrictions on what kind of code you can run and how. Customization, as a rule, is not possible because Office 365 is a cloud service and one of its core principles is the ability to offer a stable performant service to everybody. Customizations can cause performance and stability issues and if customization was available to the thousands and thousands of companies that use Office 365, it would likely render the environment useless.

Customizations are ultimately available via the SharePoint Add-in Model, but more on this later (in fact, we’ve dedicated a full post in our series to it!).

Load times

One of the drawbacks to customizations that exist in SharePoint On-Premises (and the full trust model in SharePoint 2010 and 2013, which made customizations very easy and thus very popular) is the increased load times on a page by page basis. While these can be relatively small increases per page—let’s say a default page takes 0.5 seconds to load; the customized equivalent might take 0.6 seconds. But when customizations are made across larger environments, with hundreds and thousands of pages, it can lead to significant delay and user frustration.

Customization problems and solutions

If you have been following this series you’ll be familiar with our example company, Lefkada and its travails from an organization unsure of where to begin, to a migration success story. Lefkada had highly branded sites across corporate Team Sites as well as branding and customizations by end-users in individual sites. So how did they go about solving the issue of moving, knowing they couldn’t take everything with them.

First, they set up a project team to decide on which customizations they would still need in Office 365 and how to accomplish this. One of the best approaches here was to look at the available functionality in Office 365 and comparing that against their customizations. The team looked at recreating their branding with minimal changes to the out-of-the-box SharePoint while still meeting their brand guidelines.

Lefkada came to realize that their access to the core ‘nuts and bolts’ of the platform was not going to be at the same level that they had with On-Premises. They made their focus about the needs of their users and not on trying to manipulate a piece of code. Knowing the restrictions they faced regarding their customized content, they set up a plan to retire as much code as they could. The big picture for Lefkada here was seeing the potential that Office 365 would actually deliver much more in the long run.

Metalogix recommends

The greatest tool you have is your education. Luckily you attended a private school where there was a strict dress code. The important thing here, regarding your migration, is understanding the difference between On-Premises and in the cloud and what branding and customizing can be done with the different platforms. In Office 365 branding can be done, but as you’re not in control of overall performance we advise caution.

Metalogix are the experts when it comes to assisting your migration process, all the way from learning and planning through execution and maintenance.

To increase your readiness, read our ‘Five pillars for migration readiness’ series here. And don’t forget to check back for the next post in the series: Add-Ins.


Adam is a Director of Product Management at Metalogix and a Microsoft MVP advocating for collaboration by connecting business needs with the right technology. Prior to Metalogix, Adam was a Practice Lead for Office 365 in a cutting edge Microsoft Consulting firm where he was responsible for moving customers to the cloud, designing and implementing information architecture (SharePoint Farm and content) and increasing user adoption. Adam is an ongoing member of the SharePoint Saturday DC coordinating committee and active speaker at various events.

Written By: Adam Levithan

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