4-page Case Study - Posted 3/23/2011
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Canadian IT Firm Rides a Tide of Expansion with Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010
Non-Linear Creations began in 1995 with a focus on web development. In the ensuing years, it expanded its approach to include a wide range of business solutions, with a redefined focus on aligning business objectives with online objectives. This Microsoft Impact award winner for Marketing Innovation has experienced rapid expansion from “a few guys in a shop” to a team of 80 employees across North America. To facilitate this growing enterprise, Non-Linear Creations turned to Microsoft Office solutions to create a unified technological and communications front, resulting in significant cost savings and increased productivity across the board.
A Growing Company
When Non-Linear Creations started in 1995, it was a small company with a single focus on web development.
||The fact that we’ve had such great success internally [with Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010] means that moving forward… it’s going to be what we recommend as the best tool.
In the ensuing years, as it grew and expanded out to offices as far afield as Regina, Ottawa, New York, and Calgary, it also expanded its portfolio of offerings. Its core competencies now include enterprise content management, search engine marketing, web analytics, and more.
With this growth came increasing difficulties in integrating and facilitating communications across Non-Linear Creations’ wide-spread enterprise.
From an information management perspective, the basics of document exchange, scheduling and conferencing were exhibiting continual pain points as a result of inefficiency, disjointed platforms, and third-party service disruptions. “Some of the challenges we’ve faced in our growth are definitely in collaborating across remote locations,” says Susie Ibbotson, Marketing Director of Non-Linear Creations.
From an IT perspective, it was becoming increasingly difficult to provide service equity to internal and external clients. A “unified front” on end-user systems was needed to effectively create cohesion with the existing backend Microsoft technologies.
Open Source software had been investigated as a solution, but the company found the lack of integration points in non-genuine solutions too problematic.
“Typically [with Open Source] you had to go to another third-party vendor that somehow created a connector,” says Derek Kerr, IT Director of Non-Linear Creations. “You were lucky if it worked and, whatever you do, don’t upgrade.”
It was a very different scenario with Microsoft’s solutions. “No matter what Microsoft products I’m using,” says Kerr, “I know I’m going to be able to access those backend services, retrieve the information and make it seamless and painless for my end users.”
Microsoft’s systematic and detail-oriented approach was a clear indicator to Kerr that deploying Microsoft technologies would be seamless and pain-free. “When they make a change on one backend system,” says Kerr, “The cascading effect to the end user is actually looked at, the derivatives and requirements that are needed are looked at and hashed out before it’s sent out. That’s a big plus for me— that Microsoft has done its due diligence.”Solution
Bridging the Gap
The decision was made to initiate an internal deployment of Office Professional Plus 2010 and Exchange Server 2010 to allow Non-Linear Creations to leverage all aspects of this new collaboration platform, while integrating with its existing communication suite.
The deployment to 80 seats across the company resulted in real-time improvements in collaboration, productivity, and efficiency.
||The cascading effect to the end user is actually looked at… That’s a big plus for me, that Microsoft has done its due diligence.
Ibbotson says the deployment was “instrumental in improving collaboration across our different offices… it was a seamless integration and it really put us all on one platform… Frankly, what I love about it is that I can go on to my desktop and start a live meeting immediately and start being able to collaborate on documents instantly… it’s pretty powerful.”
It provided a similar cohesion and ease-of-use from the IT viewpoint, as well. Kerr says, “One of the biggest things here at our company, at least from the IT perspective, is that we wanted to make sure that we could service our internal clients the same way that we could service our external clients… It made more sense to use the Office client as a unified front on end-user systems in order to be the entry point to Non-Linear Creation’s collaboration world.”
Non-Linear Creations is currently utilizing a consolidated edge topology for incoming mail flow through a threat management gateway server, on which they have installed Microsoft TMG 2010. The company has also deployed Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange. “All of our message hygiene happens there on our consolidated edge and then gets passed into the backend topology,” says Kerr. Remote users are gaining access through Outlook Anywhere services, via the UAG portal.
Social Computing Assets
As a company that focuses on integrating business models with the online world, Microsoft Office’s social computing features have been crucial to both internal and external initiatives. The deployment has resulted in an increase in using profile sites and utilizing this portal for discovering and utilizing internal knowledge and assets.
From the marketing department’s perspective in particular, the features have been key in both personalizing inter-office communication, and in deepening the company’s understanding of the marketplace and its needs.
One-click access to the images, posts, updates, and profiles of key players in the industry has been an enormous asset, says Ibbotson. “I can see what they’re actually working on outside my own work environment. It allows me to understand and be able to position what I’m selling, and what we’re doing [at Non-Linear Creations].”
Cost Savings of 30-35 Percent
The migration to Office 2010 also resulted in significant cost reductions and an increase in productivity for Non-Linear Creations.
||[Microsoft Office 2010] was instrumental in improving collaboration across our different offices… it was a seamless integration and it really put us all on one platform. It’s pretty powerful.
Without a unified messaging front, the company had been experiencing disjointed communication and significant service disruptions. After deployment, key tools like one-click automation and calendar features have resulted in increased productivity and saved man hours across the company. The SharePoint workspace has all but erased the pain point of erratic and confused collaboration across the company’s multiple offices.
Stepping away from third-party email and collaboration services brought costs down dramatically for Non-Linear Creations as well. “There was a very high-cost dollar on keeping it outside on all these disjointed systems,” said Kerr. The dramatic reduction of Non-Linear Creation’s hosted footprint brought in cost savings of around 30-35%, according to Kerr. “We’ve seen a huge decrease in costs by doing that alone.”
Confidence for Future
The reliability of Microsoft’s “due diligence” has provided Non-Linear Creations with a lot of confidence in acquiring and fulfilling future projects. According to Kerr, utilizing a solution other than Microsoft’s would “make it incredibly more challenging to pick up new initiatives.”
A distinguishing characteristic of Non-Linear Creations is the fact that they prefer to test-drive internally before making outside recommendations to clients.
Given all of the benefits that have resulted from their recent Microsoft deployments, Non-Linear Creations feels confident in pushing out the product to customers in the future.
“We’ve had such great success internally,” says Ibbotson, “… moving forward with all of our customers, it's going to be what we recommend as the best tool.”Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 gives your people powerful, timesaving tools to do their best work from more places. With new capabilities and insightful updates to Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Outlook, Office 2010 offers the complete package— with familiar, intuitive tools. Now you can express ideas, solve problems, connect with people, and create amazing results—in the office, at home, or on the go. For more information about Microsoft Office, go to: www.office.comFor More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about Non-Linear Creations, call 1-866-915-2997 or visit the Web site at:
www.nonlinearcreations.comDocument published 3/21/11