Mergers and acquisitions are commonplace in the business world. However, when two organizations join forces, they are bound to have different data structures and technology environments. It may include separate domain names, security policies specific to each, different Microsoft 365 licensing programs, etc. Integrating these disparate systems can, therefore, prove complex in a consolidation context.
Present across Canada with nearly 250 branches, this ITI customer groups together several divisions offering various financial products, such as credit cards and financing solutions.
This project involved three “tenant-to-tenant” consolidations of Microsoft 365 environments—three entities with different assets but, above all, constraints exclusive to each organization.
The three entities to be integrated were operating in entirely different technological environments and could not merge simultaneously; they had to proceed in sequence. As early as the planning phase, the ITI team had decided that there would be a lot of impact mitigation to be done. This became the priority.
Objectives: Communication, collaboration and compliance
The customer’s main objective was to consolidate the three environments under one so that communications and collaboration would be fluid and transparent throughout the new organization. This involved, among other things,:
- Merging identity and access management systems under Microsoft Active Directory
- Grouping everyone under a single domain in a Microsoft 365 instance
- Consolidating file systems
- Standardize IT, security and compliance management according to the practices and rules at the parent company.
The financial sector is highly regulated, and compliance left no room for improvisation.
A methodical approach to anticipate blind spots
Understanding business processes and the applications that support them is the starting point for any IT environment consolidation project. This phase of discovery and analysis helped identify the teams’ limitations and determine the best ways to reduce the impact.
A good example of a problem that had to be resolved manually by the users was all those Teams meeting links that were broken for migrated accounts. When moving users from one Microsoft 365 environment to another, the links simply don’t work anymore; they can’t be exported.
As part of this project, ITI specialists discovered that certain Excel macro commands used in one of the merged organizations did not comply with governance and compliance rules. These commands would, therefore, have been inoperable in the new environment, being automatically blocked by the security systems. This discovery upstream of the migration gave the customer time to find a new, compliant replacement solution, thus avoiding the loss of essential functionality at a critical time.
A strategy based on change management
Communication with users was at the heart of the change management strategy and master plan ITI developed with the customer.
Users are the first to be impacted, and they cannot be kept in the dark, especially when their productivity is likely to be affected. They were even gas pedals and facilitators for specific aspects of the project.
When the best strategy is to wait
This customer had a large fleet of mobile devices to migrate. During the analysis phase, ITI’s specialists discovered that the contractual agreement was expiring and that the devices needed to be replaced. The teams recommended waiting and deploying the new mobiles directly in their destination environment rather than migrating the old ones, which were reaching the end of their useful lives. A decision that generated substantial savings while de-complexifying a project phase at a high risk of service disruption.
Despite the unexpected
During the analysis phase, the ITI team identified several computers that had become obsolete and no longer met the merged company’s criteria. The devices were ordered within a reasonable timeframe, but in the current situation, several items proved unavailable for several weeks. It was an uncontrollable event that required creativity and, above all, patience.
Read our white paper on the imperative of unifying information systems during a merger.
Significant, long-term gains
Consolidating IT environments in a project like this presented several major benefits for the customer:
Merging environments isn’t just a lever that can be swung and turned in another direction. Such an initiative can take several weeks to complete, as it requires a great deal of preparation.
The role of a partner like ITI in a “tenant to tenant” Microsoft 365 environment migration project like this is to compensate for everything the technology won’t be able to do automatically. You can always try to run the vendor’s script, but it will never be able to consider all those peculiarities specific to your business context. Inevitably, some elements will fall between two chairs, and your users will experience a breakdown in service. Our role is to identify everything that won’t follow naturally and to determine the appropriate recipe.
Thanks to a methodical approach, effective change management and controlled implementation, ITI successfully met this challenge. The long-term benefits to the customer demonstrate that this initiative was worthwhile despite the complexities.