Experience counts, especially in a fast changing world
This blog will present a simple case study on how a small marketing company was able to successfully take advantage of SharePoint in the cloud to improve their internal processes. We will look specifically at how they were able to quickly develop and deploy a solution in Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud offering. We will show how they took out-of-the-box SharePoint fuctionality to improve their internal processes so that they could economically scale as they grew. The cloud based hosting option of Office 365 allowed the company to get up and running within a month without capital outlays for hardware and software thus providing a quicker time to business value.
Two of the more popular topics these days are SharePoint and the “Cloud”. As most everyone is aware, SharePoint is one of the hottest products for Microsoft and has experienced a tremendous amount of success in the last 5 years. Yet, many companies are still not reaping the full benefits of SharePoint. Now with Office 365, the full SharePoint capabilities are readily available to even the smallest companies. Also, it is very easy to configure and set up so that business value can be created with minimal effort. However, just putting up a SharePoint site will not generate business value. The business value comes from improved collaboration, and refined business processes which result in a reduction in the amount of time it takes to find information.
The “Cloud” is one of the hottest topics in the IT world these days. It is so misunderstood about what it means and how companies can take advantage of “it”. Much has been written about this topic and I will leave further dilution of the topic to others. I will use the term cloud to mean the deployment of the software and infrastructure in a shared environment that is accessible through the internet. The benefits are that there is no capital expenditure for hardware or software. You are merely renting the compute power that you need based on the number of users and software features used.
The Business Needs
A social media marketing company is in the entreprenurial stage, eventhough they have been in business for three years and have a good book of business. As they were refining their business model and beginning to scale, they realized they needed some technology assisted processes to enable their expected growth. The internal processes were defined, however, complex and pretty manual. Also, as they scaled and brought on newer associates, their training process could onerous. The business drive was to standardize their business processes and then to automate them utilizing out-of-the-box features of SharePoint 2010. With some improved processes, they would be able to scale without incurring increased expenses, thus improving profitability (the business value) see “It’s the Business Value, Stupid” .
The first step was to begin defining the processes and the interaction among the processes. As we begin to drill down further into the processes, it became evident that a fast prototyping approach would work well in showcasing how SharePoint could enable the business processes. I already had an Office 365 account so I added another user and created a prototype site on my own site.
We spent several sessions defining the use cases, topology, processes, security, and workflows. We then jumped right into prototyping the use of the system. This prototyping helped us refine the processes not only in the system, but the internal processes of the company as well. By utilizing the capabilities of SharePoint, the client was able to better visualize how best to implement their processes. The fast prototyping approach ultimately allowed us to create a system in less time and with less resources than if we had done a traditional approach of requirements, design, build, test.
The Hosting Question
Through the prototyping process, the client became comfortable with the cloud based solution for SharePoint, however, we still did do our due diligence in evaluating the different hosting alternatives. We looked at on-premise, managed services and a dedicated hosting model. It quickly became evident that, with the small number of users, Office 365 would be the best platform for them. The benefits were:
– No initial capital outlay for the equipment
– Ability to quickly deploy the solution
– No specially trained resources
– Full disaster recovery and systems management
– Least expensive option for the short run.
This small but progressive company was able to improve their business processes and thus profitability by utilizing the efficiencies and flexibility of deploying their site in SharePoint on Office 365. This was accomplished without significant expenditures on hardware and software, yet they have a fully supported, robust environment. More importantly, they were able to have a working system in a very short amount of time. A quicker time to value.