We recently completed a SharePoint 2010 upgrade assessment for a client running a relatively complex SharePoint 2007 implementation. They’d seen all of the great new capabilities and the improvements to existing features that are available with SharePoint 2010 and wanted to know the best way to get there. The assessment included a thorough discovery of everything in use in the current environment, both out of the box and customized, to give them a concrete feel for the level of effort and the best path to get to SharePoint 2010.

What we’re finding when talking with clients about their potential path for a SharePoint 2010 upgrade is that the level of complexity of your current SharePoint environment will really drive the decisions you make on how to get there from here. Things like, how many web applications are you using and What are they being used for? Do external partners have access and do your users have MySites? are an obvious place to start.

Further and more advanced considerations include what kind of third-party tools (Bamboo, AvePoint, Metalogix, CodePlex, etc.) are installed and are they actually used? What kind of custom features, solutions or web parts were developed in-house that need to be considered during the upgrade? Is your current site’s branding customized from the default SharePoint look and feel? Are you using any of the SharePoint 2007 Enterprise features such as InfoPath Forms Services, Excel Services or the Business Data Catalog?

The list is long and possibly daunting, but a methodical, planned analysis will give you the best idea of the level of effort and best path to upgrade to SharePoint 2010.

For instance in this particular client’s case, there is a high-level of effort in existing portals (they had multiple web applications for various functional purposes) around BI and business process. Back-end data from PeopleSoft HR and Financials, as well as from Service Desk Express, a helpdesk solution, are exposed in SharePoint via the Business Data Catalog for reporting and ease of data access. InfoPath browser-enabled forms are deployed to handle various business processes such as onboarding, site provisioning and travel requests. Custom features and web parts for advanced functionality in the SharePoint installation have also been added over time. Third-party tools are deployed to handle some administration tasks. All of these components served to drive the analysis of the work required and steps needed to migrate the client to SharePoint 2010.

Another important consideration when evaluating your candidacy for upgrade is looking at how much governance went into the design of your current SharePoint 2007 environment. Did it start, for example, from a simple request by the HR department to have forms stored on a website for easy access and then grow into an unwieldy and unmanaged alternative to your file share? Did the IT department set it up because it was a neat new technology and then offer it to the business using the time-tested “provide and pray” approach?

If your first deployment was not well-conceived and structured,, perhaps an upgrade is actually not in order and you might consider a fresh start in SharePoint 2010 with governance, planning and oversight, along with a plan to migrate critical information from the existing environment.

While the client mentioned above went with a true upgrade scenario from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010, we’ve had a few clients recently who decided that the move to 2010 would be a perfect opportunity to restructure their portals. In each of these cases, our clients took stock of the existing installation, looked at what worked and what didn’t, and made the determination to build from the ground up with a brand new structure on SharePoint 2010.

One was dissatisfied with the lack of governance and the proliferation of what were essentially online file shares with no metadata or content types and low validity of search results, and so built anew on SharePoint 2010 after giving significant thought to information architecture and governance.

Another took the opportunity to re-launch their intranet, complete with a new name, new branding (with the idea that it look nothing like SharePoint, as there had been some dissatisfaction with the previous installation) and an entirely new, functionality-based architecture as opposed to the previous hierarchical, department-based structure.

Take these considerations and examples to heart when considering how your organization will capitalize on the next generation of collaboration, improved search and BI with SharePoint 2010. If it becomes overwhelming, let Abel Solutions help you get there with our new SharePoint 2010 Upgrade Assessment offering.

This month’s tip contributed By Sandar Van Laan, Abel Solutions’ newest Senior SharePoint Consultant.