We perform a variety of Microsoft tenant migrations at Finchloom. Some are consolidations of relatively similar environments; some involve migrations from Google Workspace into Office 365. Others may require taking back your tenant from a 3rd party provider like GoDaddy. For all, an environment is moved from one place to another and usually consolidated.
We have written several blogs on the topic of migration in the past including Tenant Consolidation for Mergers and Acquisitions, Migrations from Google Workspace to Office 365, and Get Rid of Workspace, Migrate to Exchange. Today we bring our readers a new topic within the realm of migrations: IT Divestitures.
We have seen mergers, acquisitions, and IT divestitures that were quite simple and had a quick turnaround because there were not a lot of customizations in Office 365, and we have seen others that could potentially take months. It all depends on exactly how intricate the environment is, and what decisions are being made at a business level. What might seem like a simple split from a business perspective can turn into a major headache for the IT department.
IT Divestitures are commonplace in business today as some companies grow too large and want to split their resources for one reason or another. In this blog, we will walkthrough:
- What an IT divestiture is
- How IT divestitures differ from migrations
- Reasons that companies tend to divest
- How critical planning is to the entire operation
What is an IT Divestiture?
A divestiture involves one organization’s business unit separating into a different organization. This separation can happen in a variety of ways. A parent company may spin-off a subsidiary with divergent business goals, or two companies that previously merged for the sake of uniformity now decide to exist as separate entities.
Generally, an IT divestiture involves a business unit acquired by a separate company, and therefore, needs to merge with the new company’s environment, migrating to a new Office 365 tenant, Google Workspace, or other. This situation is effectively a divestiture for one company and a merger for the other utilizing a single migration.
We have also seen companies do this internally when a business unit grows to a point where it could survive as its own entity or when the spin-off becomes necessary from a legal standpoint.
For example, one of our client companies divested its non-profit business unit into its own tenant because profit and non-profit organizations are not allowed to share resources. Those shared resources — SharePoint sites, shared mailboxes, Teams, groups, etc. — needed to be divided, but the two companies still needed to share certain data and communications that had to be identified and earmarked before the IT divestiture migration began to prevent one or both companies from being impacted.
The process of identifying shared resources and building new structures to hold them is the biggest technical difference between tenant consolidation and tenant divestiture.
Myth: IT Divestiture is Merely Tenant Consolidation in Reverse
When first thinking about the process of an IT divestiture, many executives assume that divesting one business unit from the company follows the same process as the merger and consolidation of another company, just in reverse.
It is a reasonable assumption that doesn’t work in practice.
From a technical perspective, we always reference both types of projects (consolidations and IT divestitures) as migrations because it does not matter whether we are splitting users out of an existing tenant, bringing users into an existing tenant, or moving somebody to Greenfield.
At the end of the day, we are preparing and executing the migration of data and users from one place to another. There are intricacies and different items that we need to consider for each type of migration, whether it be consolidation or divesting, but at its core level it is the same process.
In a merger and acquisition scenario, Company A purchases Company B, and merges all resources into a single environment. Both companies begin as two separate entities with zero connection to one another and end as a single organization with shared resources and spaces.
In an IT divestiture, we don’t exactly do the reverse since the result is usually not “zero-shared” resources. Company A may have determined through legal requirements, legal needs, or competitive advantage to spin-off the business unit, but that does not necessarily mean Company B is not still under the parent umbrella or that they have stopped working together.
Some data must be duplicated and/or shared so that one portion may be built into the new Company B tenant when the divesting migration occurs.
Shared resources, Teams, SharePoint sites, shared mailboxes, groups, and other related items would all have to be taken into consideration and built either before or immediately after moving the users to keep user impact down. This is one of the biggest technical differences between the process of consolidating versus divesting.
But the real trick is figuring out how to:
- Remove Company A’s proprietary data from Company B without impacting the daily operations of both companies
- Rebuild the connections so that they are still able to collaborate in their respective environments
Dozens of different scenarios need to be considered before divesting, and many of them operate outside the Microsoft suite. At Finchloom, we may divest from one Office 365 tenant to another, or from Google to Office 365, sometimes moving users from an on-prem environment to the cloud, or (although rare these days) from the cloud to on-prem.
IT divestitures can be rather simple if all the shared data and collaboration areas are identified beforehand. The key to understanding how a divestiture and a consolidation differ boils down to the end results. Both are effectively a migration with a different output, one sharing data across separate environments, and the other within a singular tenant.
Why do Companies Divest?
There are a variety of reasons a company could be considering a divestiture:
- Investment Equity Firms
- Purchase and consolidate environments because they plan to divest at some point in the future.
- After purchase, implement and manage identities and data in a way that is not truly integrated
- Less complex to untangle when the time comes to divest
- Creating shared environments initially impacts the speed of the IT divestiture and mitigates potential risks
- Internally Grown Businesses
- One aspect of business grows to a point where it can be its own entity (i.e. Finchloom’s PhishPrevent managed service branching off into its own company)
- Need to separate environments but keep sharing data and communications across businesses
Planning for an IT Divestiture
Almost all migration projects follow a similar outline of repeatable steps that are constant regardless of what is being moved. In our eBook on Tenant Consolidation, we break down the steps and why each is significant. If you would like to read our Tenant Consolidation eBook for Mergers and Acquisitions, please click here.
The steps in an IT divestiture are as follows:
- Pre-migration Planning
- Pre-migration Staging
- Migration Execution
- Post Migration Support
- Project Closeout
The Discovery and Planning phases are perhaps the most under-appreciated steps in the divestiture process, and the ones that we want to focus on in this blog.
Figuring out what data is tied together, and what can be fully moved is a critical part of the discovery process for IT divestitures. Learning about the business itself, what groups share data and work together, and what can be moved in full before the migration starts plays a key role in the timeliness of the project, and successful cutover. We do this within Finchloom because often, the customers we work with have not done this before and do not know all the information that is needed to successfully plan out an IT divestiture.
In theory, if somebody were to bring Finchloom a complete list of all the configurations needed in the destination tenant, users and usernames on the destination side, access levels for each account, and every decision had already been made, we could get a migration done with 1,000 users in it in about a week. It does not take very much time to make configurations but learning about the needs of the organization is a very time consuming and important process.
Many IT Administrators never consider initially building out the environment in a way that enables an easy migration of part of the data. This makes it difficult to identify the shared resources that are moving (like Teams, SharePoint sites, etc.) because they all come with ties to other aspects of the organization. Meetings with the different stakeholders within a company and learning how they interact and share data between themselves is a crucial aspect of discovery. Without it, we would likely miss some of the intricacies of the organization when we begin planning.
Compounding this challenge, IT divestitures may also involve moving part of one company directly to a competitor, so the data that is being moved is co-mingled with other intellectual property that should not be released to the public/purchasing company. Figuring out what data is tied together, and what can be fully moved without jeopardizing either company is a critical part of the discovery process for IT divestitures.
Just after we conclude our discovery phase, we dive straight into planning. The planning phase is vital in ensuring a successful migration as it determines the strategy we will utilize moving forward in terms of tools and timelines, as well as planning out downtimes to ensure that there is no business stoppage during the cutover times. Utilizing the time scheduled in the planning phase to work out what will need to happen, and when it needs to happen by allows Finchloom to prevent work stoppages and ensure a successful migration the first time around.
Within planning, we need to use what we learned in the discovery phase to make some tenant configuration decisions including but not limited to:
- Retention policies
- Spam filtering
- Email naming conventions
- Security services
We do this to ensure that our clients have the licensing necessary for us to do our work, and make sure that everything is in place before the project begins.
Planning an IT Divestiture can feel Slow
Clients come to Finchloom for technical expertise and execution — to get their data moved from one location to another — and the planning phase does not feel like progress in some regards.
The months of planning can sometimes feel like a stall to clients, but the important thing to keep in mind is that these decisions must be made while understanding what is going on in the environment today, and from a business perspective, what it should look like moving forward.
These decisions do not have to be made by engineers either. Any person with knowledge of how the business operates and decision power can decide whether they want to split a department in two or create a shared folder for them.
Companies need to make these decisions before migrating because afterward, employees will lose access to shared resources, causing work stoppages and a variety of other issues.
The last part of the planning stage specific to divestitures is preparing to re-establish connections between the original environment and the new tenant. Sometimes this means creating guest accounts for another tenant, typically the company purchasing the divested business unit.
For the reasons above, and others that impact IT divestitures, it’s best to hire a proficient third-party migration service with a proven track record of success to manage your migration process.
Contact Finchloom for IT Divestiture Assistance
With 8 years of business experience with migration practices, and over 50 years of employee migration experience, Finchloom is well positioned to help companies of any size, and in any location successfully divest an aspect of their business. Partnering with a business with practical experience can reduce delays in migration and ensure that both company’s completed environments perform effectively, with appropriate shared spaces.
If you are interested in learning more about the migration phases, please check out our other blogs above, or download our tenant consolidation eBook at this link. Similarly, if you would like to learn more about divesting an aspect of your business, please reach out using the form on this page. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for our upcoming webinar on Tenant Consolidation which you can learn more about and register for here!