My Bad. What Happens When An Email Migration Goes Wrong

This is not a fictional story, it’s a real one. But, we’ve drastically simplified it and, as they say on TV, we’ve changed all the names to protect the innocent. Unfortunately for hundreds of 50-250 people companies who have suffered an unsuccessful email migration, outcomes like this happen all the time. Migrating your email to Office 365 is easy, but only if you know what you’re doing.


Yellow plc (name changed) is a management consultancy. With 45 consultants in the field and 20 back office staff, Yellow plc had decided to adopt Office 365 to improve collaboration. The company’s starting point was to migrate its email from an IMAP service to Exchange Online. The IT department called a meeting with Moot and Dander (name changed), its IT support company, to discuss the project. A plan was agreed to migrate email across over a long weekend to minimise downtime. So, over the appointed long weekend Moot and Dander moved in and the migration took place.

On Tuesday morning, the MD got in at 7.30am and opened Outlook. She had three emails in her inbox. What happened to the other 600? She’d lost them all. And all her sent items too. As soon as her IT lead arrived at work, he was in the MD’s office to explain. Except he couldn’t. Neither could the COO. The plan they’d agreed with Moot and Dander looked good and, as far as the IT lead knew, it should have worked. Except it didn’t.

Not surprisingly, by 10am, the MD and her – by now very frazzled – IT lead were on an urgent conference call with Moot and Dander. It was not just the MD that had lost her email archive, everyone had. The field consultants were now up in arms. They’d lost both their email and their shared calendars so they didn’t know where they should be or how to contact their clients to warn them that they wouldn’t be there – wherever there was. And, having lost their entire email dialogues with their clients, they were going to struggle to rebuild those relationships.

disasterIt transpired that the company had lost every email that it had sent, or which had arrived before 10pm on the Sunday night. In fact, they’d lost a great deal more than just a few emails, but we’ll spare you the rest of the detail.

Yellow plc never did get its email archive back. It lost the lot. It did get some financial compensation from Moot and Dander, but that doesn’t come close to making up for the data loss. The IT department had lost its credibility and the company’s reputation had been materially damaged.

If Yellow plc’s real-life case study of misfortune isn’t a sufficient warning, let’s consider the real impact of a failed email migration on your business.

Project Impact

When the migration project fails, it gathers momentum, in the wrong direction. Additional resources are required, quickly, to get the project back on track. And allocating additional resources at short notice is expensive. Not just in financial or monetary terms, but the knock-on effect on other projects, which may now suffer as result of their resources being redeployed. Very effective project management will be required if a domino effect is to be avoided and the trouble is, those project managers will have their hands full tackling the original – now out of control – project.

Business Impact

Where shall we start on this list? Most companies can expect to suffer some sort of financial loss, which they can quantify. What’s more difficult to quantify is the cost to their reputation or corporate brand, especially if those brand values are based on messages of quality, trust, customer service or responsiveness. ‘You can trust us to deliver’ sounds pretty hollow when your supplier admits he’s lost all your emails.

Depending on the industry involved, there may also be significant impact from a regulatory or audit perspective. Under EU law, you need to keep your email archive for at least 12 months whilst email histories form vital evidence when dealing with HMRC inspections or contract disputes. Losing your email archive, as Yellow plc did, could leave you very exposed indeed.

Personal Impact

Failed email migrations – and all the disruption they entail – send the wrong sort of message to both staff and leadership teams. And in intensely competitive industries where good staff are hard to find and even harder to keep, these sorts of corporate mishaps cause the best ones to reconsider their employment options. After all, would you want to work for a company that can’t execute something as simple as moving a few emails across?

Of course, it needn’t be like that. Thousands of companies have implemented highly successful email migration projects and are now enjoying all the benefits associated with Office 365, including minimised IT spend, enhanced mobility and collaboration and 99.9% guaranteed uptime. We’ve helped a few of them ourselves.

Find Out More

See our selection of our short video case studies featuring some of the successful Office 365 migrations that we’ve managed for our clients. Migrating email and data is mission critical and it’s not worth losing your name over. Read our blog entitled ‘How to Plan an Office 365 Email Migration’.

If you would like to know more or receive a quote for us to migrate you to Office 365, get in touch with us today.

A strategic thinker and planner with a flair for developing and implementing effective business strategy, Jon has spent the last seven years working closely with Microsoft in the cloud computing and business intelligence space.

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