Office 365 Migration Allows Big Data Financial Services Company to Support Hundreds of Users Across Three Continents with Cloud Solution
Global Analytics needed to standardize IT delivery to hundreds of users spread across three continents. After researching the alternatives, Office 365 was chosen as a solution that would meet their needs for a scalable, robust solution to email and collaboration, whilst retaining control over costs. Agile IT was determined to have the specific expertise and experience required to help deliver the solution, and was chosen as Global Analytics’ trusted partner to perform the Office 365 migration.
Global Analytics uses advanced analytics to fundamentally change the way people do business with the people with low access to credit. Combining superior analytics, clear strategic thinking, and top-tier talent, Global Analytics has a proven ability to create innovative credit products that serve their customers respectfully and responsibly. Based across three continents, Global Analytics faced the challenges of remaining productive, effective and cost-efficient across wide time zones, and cultural differences.
Like many businesses today, Global Analytics relied on open-source solutions to provide IT services, such as email. This reliance brought its own challenges, with staff using a diverse selection of email clients and no standard feature set to organize the hundreds of emails received each day.
[three_fourth]Without a global address list or calendar availability, organizing meetings was also a challenge. Attendees had to be contacted to see if they were available, and there was no easy way for Global Analytics to properly allocate and reserve resources, such as conference rooms. Brian Markworth, VP of Finance, said, “We have four conference rooms in our San Diego offices. In order to reserve a room for a meeting, we had to walk to the room and place our business cards in a slot next to the door with the required date and time on them.”
An additional burden placed on the company was that its ad hoc email system was being used as an ad hoc storage space. With no central collaborative solution, email folders were often used as an archive for documents, resulting in large mailboxes and difficulty in searching for documents. If someone wanted to access or edit a document, it had to be sent from user to user. “We needed a better solution”, Brian said.[/three_fourth]
We just couldn’t give up the rich feature set to which we had become accustomed.”
Brian Markworth, VP of Finance[/one_fourth_last]
With its history of using open-source solutions, it was natural that Global Analytics first looked to Google to provide the answer to its needs.
According to Brian, “Google Apps can be an effective replacement for Microsoft Office for some companies, but as long-time heavy users of the Office suite of products, we just couldn’t give up the rich feature set to which we had become accustomed.”
In addition to a desire to stick with the Office software it relied on, security was a major factor to Global Analytics choosing Office 365. Looking at Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, Global Analytics recognized Microsoft’s experience in providing secure access to cloud-based solutions.
Having decided to make the transition to Office 365, Brian was then given the task of finding the right Microsoft Partner to work with Global Analytics to provide Office 365 migration services. Brian contacted Microsoft directly and they recommended Agile IT as a trusted partner.
“What impressed me was that Agile IT was a Microsoft Partner with Gold Competencies and clear expertise in Office 365 migrations,” Brian said. “And having spoken with Agile IT, it quickly became clear that they would work around our core hours, migrate us over a single weekend and provide white-glove treatment for our executive team. Ultimately, I felt I could trust Agile IT with this critical task and they didn’t let me down.”
For Agile IT, migrating Global Analytics to Office 365 came with some challenges that required meticulous project planning.
In order to meet Global Analytics’ requirement for users to be migrated in batches, and to overcome the time zone differences with users based in the United States and India, Agile IT mapped out groups of users and pcs that would be migrated together. Migrating each group at weekends meant that Agile IT had to be able to connect remotely to workstations based offshore, and sometimes those workstations were not available as planned.
“Having a workstation inaccessible meant that individual users sometimes slipped out of sync with the migration plan,” said Jim Belasco, Director of IT Support for Agile IT. “We had to adjust the project plan on the fly to accommodate those users and workstations, and make sure that no one was left out as a result.” An Agile IT team was tasked to collect these one-offs, reschedule and then check and recheck each was completed successfully.
To overcome cultural work practices and differing organizational structures, Agile IT dedicated a Support Engineer to helping Global Analytics IT Team with education, process management, and all the changes necessary to ensure a smooth migration.
Moving Global Analytics from an open-source system with diverse Linux and Windows email clients brought its own challenges for Agile IT to overcome. “We found contacts weren’t always in the top level where you would normally expect them to be,” said Jim, “and they all had to be discovered and moved before migration.” Agile IT worked with the Global Analytics IT team to make all the changes necessary to ensure a smooth migration.
After all the preparatory work was completed, Global Analytics’ users and data were migrated to Office 365 in batches over several weekends. Users within each batch logged out on Friday and came back on Monday to find everything working as it should be.
By transitioning to Office 365, Global Analytics has enjoyed the following benefits:
With the whole organization standardized on Exchange online and Microsoft Outlook, Global Analytics enjoys a streamlined email service with advanced features. Rather than having to manually categorize emails, the email rules available in Exchange Online make categorizing a simple and uniform experience throughout the whole organization. The advanced features of Exchange Online such as legal hold and e-discovery make searching for and managing emails a breeze, and also help meet a corporate requirement for regulatory compliance. And having access to a global address list and calendar means that contacts can be managed efficiently and users’ availability is visible across all three continents.
Full Featured Office Suite
All of Global Analytics users are able to access and utilize the rich feature sets of the Office 2013 applications. Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations all retain the data access, formatting and style that they were created with, without losing any of those features when saved or shared. Document change management and versioning features ensure that users can see at a glance if they are using the latest version, what changes have been made since it was created, and who made the changes.
Improved Collaborative Solutions
SharePoint Online means that documents that must be accessed or archived no longer take up space in a user’s mailbox. All users that need access to a document can find it easily, regardless of their geographic location or time zone, without having to contact the document owner. Security and access to documents is simplified through SharePoint permissions, allowing multiple users to access and work on a document in real-time without the need for it to be emailed from user to user. The flexibility of SharePoint means that Global Analytics is able to stand up extra SharePoint sites as necessary to accommodate their business needs.
And as for those conference room business cards? Brian says, “The days of putting business cards in a slot next to the conference room door are long gone. Now we schedule a meeting in Outlook based on the availability of the attendees and the conference rooms; and the room gets booked automatically. It’s the little things like that which save time and improve our efficiency.”