Office 365 tenant divestitures are notoriously complex, and without a proper understanding of how to execute one, they can become extremely problematic for IT teams.
Divestitures are very different from merger and acquisitions, although many people bucket them together. If you work for a company that regularly engages in M&A activity, you may think you have your Office 365 tenant to tenant migration process nailed down, but divestitures can see you easily come unstuck.
The planning effort is often underestimated, with major challenges surrounding the process of securely and accurately separating data, and then moving it.
Divesting your data
It must be noted, divestitures are inherently difficult because, in most cases, companies typically do not plan to spin off or sell a business unit from the outset. This means their Office 365 users, and more importantly their data, is intermingled with an enormous amount of other data.
To make it even harder, this business activity is often related to other M&A work. For example, in the US, sometimes in a regulated entity you can’t acquire a company if it’s going to put you over a certain percentage of business, which is really common in the insurance and finance sectors, so you suddenly have to divest a section of your business, or a region of your business.
This often means selling to a competitor, and that gets really stressful because you have a legal obligation to divest the users and their data to that other entity, but you want to ensure you’re not sending strategy documents or items that could inadvertently help the competition.
To make matters worse, often the data that’s going and what’s staying is not well defined in the planning stages and, again, the people who are moving probably have multiple projects and multiple tasks they’re working on, so uncoupling this data can be extremely difficult.
Most organizations follow one of two paths when they embark on this process.
The first path is a user-driven process, where your users designate the data that’s moving. This can be as simple as creating a top-level folder for the users in OneDrive or Exchange, and then you instruct them to drag and drop the items they want to move.
Once you have the data in this centric space, it makes it easier to conduct spot-checks to ensure employees are moving the right items before they’re migrated. Here’s a brief overview of this method in this short video:
The other approach is to conduct a full eDiscovery search. You can leverage your eDiscovery capabilities to look for key terms, maybe a project name or a client name, to collect relevant information.
This approach is championed by many, but may not always be practical. You can learn more in the video below:
If the segment of the business is spinning off into a new entity, then it’s a little less stressful because it’s not a competitor, so in many cases you’re in control of creating the new Office 365 tenant.
You have the keys to both as you migrate data, so you can then perform eDiscovery searches on the target tenant to ensure nothing inappropriate has moved. When that company does divest or formally spins off, you just have to ‘give the keys’ to the new tenant owner, and that’s a way some organizations do it, mainly for spin offs but even for some for divestitures situations.
If you’re really concerned, you can even put users into a ‘demilitarized zone’ of another tenant, but this scenario creates a problem for the third entity, because you’ve now got to perform another tenant to tenant migration, and this second disruption makes for a less than user-friendly experience.
However, in the world of data security, this is approach may help you address those concerns.
If you’re an IT manager, Office 365 engineer, or Exchange admin and you’d like to learn more about the distinct challenges concerning business divestitures, please join me for this on-demand webinar:
Office 365 Tenant Divestitures: How to Manage Your Breakup
I’ll be going into more detail on the following issues:
- Data collection and security – deciding what stays, what moves, and how to cut the right staff off
- Separation methods – Outlining user-driven and automated approaches
- What to ask your leadership team – Ironing out your processes at the early planning stage
- Setting user and management expectations – Communicating change efficiently and effectively