Migrating to Office 365
By Rob Franch, CTO, Cushman & Wakefield
My first experience with Microsoft Office 365 came back in 2009 when the product was known by another name and sold exclusively to large Fortune 500 enterprises. At the time “The Cloud” and “SaaS” services were still relatively new and somewhat scary to firms that had traditionally done their IT in house. Also, Microsoft was still primarily a packaged software company with little to no experience as a provider of services. To say moving over 40,000 seats to what was then Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) was a somewhat risky proposition is an understatement, however we saw the long-term value of moving towards SaaS based productivity and collaboration platform and moved forward with the conversion as one of the early adopters of the platform.
Eight years and over 100,000 seats migrated later, I am amazed at the transformation of both the technology as well as the service model within the modern Office 365 platform. The feature gaps of on premise and online are long gone, the stability of the service exceeds even the most robust internal deployments. Microsoft has truly transformed into a world class service provider with a customer centric outlook on the client relationship. The technology has evolved well past the traditional email, instant messaging and basic collaboration solution to a cutting-edge communications and analytics platform with the introduction of the E5 SKU. Additions such as of Skype for Business Cloud PBX, PowerBi, Delve and OneDrive the suite have provided organizations a robust cloud based solution that can keep up with the rapidly changing world we do business in.
For new customers, the sheer amount of capability can be overwhelming and with Microsoft continually adding tools like Flow and Teams it continues to grow. When I made the decision to move my current organization to Office 365 the decision was based on very different objectives than when I made the decision back in 2009. At that time the shift was based on moving away from legacy technology and achieving a more predictable and lower operating cost.
The Microsoft Office 365 cloud provided scalability, security and a platform to bring a fragmented environment together into to a single experience
Today the value equation is much different, yes savings are expected, however the expectation is that a productivity suite should not only promote internal collaboration but also enhance the way which we interact with our clients.
When I stated my role at Cushman & Wakefield the firm was positioning itself for rapid growth and expansion through an aggressive acquisition strategy. In addition, our leadership wanted to retain the entrepreneurial culture that defined us, but also create a workplace environment that promoted collaboration and knowledge sharing to position us to compete as a leader in the commercial real estate industry. In order achieve this we all agreed that the technology had to quickly scale to meet rapid growth and needed deliver a unique workplace experience for our colleagues. Based on this guidance we adopted three key requirements the solution needed to deliver. First the solution needed to scale with our aggressive growth targets and deliver a single, predictable experience across the enterprise. The technology had to enhance our new Workplace Strategy changing our offices spaces from closed off cubicles and private offices to more open space, collaborative and client centric experiences. This required a solution that could promote a desk free experience that allowed colleagues to be productive anywhere. Finally, the platform had to not only improve productivity and collaboration but also enable colleagues to enhance client interaction with deeper insights through analytics and interactive dashboards.
We quickly determined that existing solutions deployed were either too fragmented and could not adequately scale or the capabilities were not robust enough to meet our need. This ultimately led to the decision to deploy Office 365 E5 across the enterprise. The Microsoft Office 365 cloud provided scalability, security and a platform to bring a fragmented environment together into to a single experience that could grow at the pace of the organization required. The capabilities within the E5 bundle not only provided the collaboration experience we needed to share knowledge and expertise quickly and easily, it also provided a simple and integrated communications platform that could change the way we interacted with clients and colleagues. Finally, with technologies such as SharePoint and PowerBi we could present data and insights to both stakeholders and client faster and easier than ever before.
Now, 18 months later, the benefits of the investment in Office 365 have come firmly into focus. Having lived through the excitement and challenges of large-scale integration and transformation, the aggressive objectives we set for ourselves are being realized. The new capabilities have changed the way many in the organization work, collaborate and interact. In addition, operational efficiencies have exceeded initial projections providing more value than originally forecast. The focus has now shifted to looking for more innovative ways we can use this investment to solve business challenges and find opportunities to enhance revenue within the firm. Microsoft gave us the platform to build a robust foundation for growth with an evolving set of capabilities that will provide Cushman & Wakefield a competitive advantage in the marketplace.