When McGrathNicol began in Australia in 2004, one of many challenges the company’s management faced was to choose technology that would provide immediate returns and long-term value. The company evaluated various licensing strategies that would deliver initial cost savings and long-term benefits and found both in an integrated Microsoft® solution acquired through a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. The solution covers the latest Microsoft desktop software and server products, as well as ongoing maintenance benefits under one comprehensive license agreement. Using its Enterprise Agreement, McGrathNicol has achieved considerable cost savings while upgrading to the latest Microsoft technologies. Now employees stay productive and the company continues to strengthen its competitive edge.
McGrathNicol is a leading advisory firm in Australia, specializing in corporate advisory, forensic, transaction services, and corporate recovery. Today, the firm provides services out of its six offices in Australia and one in Auckland, New Zealand. Yet McGrathNicol began operations only four years ago. At that time, management had to plan and build an information technology infrastructure from the ground up, a process that required careful consideration of immediate goals weighed against long-term strategies.
||Microsoft technologies gave us a flexible, reliable platform for growth and our Enterprise Agreement gave us a volume pricing discount. But if you’re in business for the long term, Software Assurance is essential.
Chief Operating Officer, McGrathNicol
For Mathew Doyle, Chief Operating Officer at McGrathNicol, choosing the right technology required a clear understanding of how management envisioned the company evolving over time. “To grow and compete, McGrathNicol had to be dynamic, adaptable, and reliable,” he says. “These are the attributes of our employees. We looked for the same attributes in our technology.” So McGrathNicol searched for a vendor with a proven track record and a technology road map that the company felt it could endorse for the long term.
McGrathNicol decided that an integrated suite of products would support the collaborative nature of the business, as well as reduce IT costs, providing the best value for money. “Finding a single vendor and buying products designed to work together would save us the effort of integrating them ourselves. And working with a common set of tools and technologies to manage a standardized desktop and server environment would also save us time and money,” says Doyle. “The challenge was to pick the right vendor.”
At the same time that McGrathNicol was evaluating various technologies, the company was also comparing licensing programs and acquisition strategies. Again, McGrathNicol kept its focus on the long term. “One of our key drivers was to minimize costs over time. This required a vision for what technology we might need in the future, and a correspondingly flexible deployment strategy. As our business needs evolved, we didn’t want any limitations or additional costs to adopting and managing the licensing of technology.”
After lengthy internal discussions, McGrathNicol was able to define a clear approach to building a technology stack that would support the new company’s goals.
McGrathNicol chose an integrated Microsoft® solution on which to build its business. A major part of its decision centered on the flexible licensing options that Microsoft offers to mid-sized companies. Doyle did not begin purchasing technology until he and his colleagues sat down with the company’s Microsoft account manager and with representatives from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Dimension Data to put in place a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement license that includes the Core Client Access License (CAL) Suite. “Everyone worked together with the same goal in mind: find the right set of technologies at the best price and with the most flexible deployment options,” says Doyle. “We talked about where we wanted to go, and they came back to us with the licensing benefits and the technology offerings that we needed to help us get there.”
Looking ahead, the company chose Microsoft technologies that would support its employees’ ability to stay competitive. “We anticipated that our employees would be on the road a great deal, sharing large numbers of files among virtual teams that cater to different clients, so we wanted leading-edge desktop productivity tools, an enterprise-wide communication and collaboration infrastructure, and powerful mobile solutions,” Doyle says. “On the IT side, we thought about opening more branch offices and the need for data security and redundancy. We thought about how we would manage the increasing number of remote employees and assets on our network. With one agreement covering all the technology we needed, McGrathNicol benefitted from a reduced price for software that we were free to deploy at any time during the three years of the agreement.”
“McGrathNicol had the ability to make some clear deployment strategies and we showed them the most cost-effective way to make good on those strategies,” confirms Mandy Osnabrugge, Licensing Solution Specialist at Dimension Data. “Matthew is good on the visionary side, and with an Enterprise Agreement, there are no limitations to the adoption of technology within the company. We created the Enterprise Agreement so that McGrathNicol would never be in a position where it would have to pay additional costs for software beyond what it was focusing on for the three years.”
When McGrathNicol signed its Enterprise Agreement in 2005, it covered licenses for Microsoft Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2003 and Windows® XP Professional. It also included four foundational servers to support the company’s business goals over time: Windows Server® 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition operating system, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2003.
McGrathNicol also opted for Microsoft Software Assurance for Volume Licensing under its Enterprise Agreement. Software Assurance is a comprehensive maintenance program that includes problem resolution support, training vouchers, software home use programs, predictable annual payments, and a free upgrade path for any Microsoft software covered under the agreement. “With Software Assurance, our IT department can take advantage of great services and support, at the same time planning software upgrades to improve IT management, control costs, and increase our agility as our business grows,” says Doyle.
At the end of 2008, McGrathNicol will be renewing its Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft. Management’s predictions about the growing collaborative, mobile nature of the business have held true and the company’s growth has surpassed expectations. Since its establishment in 2004, the company has expanded rapidly, doubling its headcount in the last three years. In 2006, McGrathNicol added forensic services to its roster of corporate advisory and corporate recovery services and in 2007 it opened a transaction services practice.
||We created the Enterprise Agreement so that McGrathNicol would never be in a position where it would have to pay additional costs for software beyond what it was focusing on for the three years.
Licensing Solution Specialist, Dimension Data
In part, McGrathNicol credits its success to those forward-thinking planning sessions with Dimension Data. These meetings culminated in a judicious choice of technology and a licensing strategy that helped the company simplify software purchasing and licensing management, optimize business productivity, and create an infrastructure for growth.
Simplified Software Purchasing
As a startup company, McGrathNicol saw the immediate benefits of cost savings and simplified budgeting that its Enterprise Agreement delivers through amortized payments. With so many other priorities vying for a finite amount of money at the outset of operations, such as acquiring offices, furniture, and hardware, McGrathNicol was able to make payments in manageable, predetermined amounts every six months.
“It was much easier for me to go to my CEO and make the case for our technology purchase because we could reduce the initial procurement costs and work with more flexible payment options. It’s been fantastic for us,” says Doyle. “I’m shocked at how many companies don’t have an Enterprise Agreement, when you can manage your IT budget so much easier with regular, predictable payments.”
For McGrathNicol’s rapidly expanding business, the annual true-up capability that comes with Software Assurance has proved to be a boon. With annual true-ups, McGrathNicol can run software on desktops as they are acquired during the year, then pay a predetermined price for the software licenses at each anniversary date. This capability supports the company’s ability to mobilize and respond to new business opportunities. For example, when a west Australian winery went into receivership, McGrathNicol quickly doubled the size of its Perth office to furnish the number of employees required for the engagement. The firm has also seen staff size increase by 10 percent when new graduates are hired.
“We don’t have to worry about making purchasing decisions or opening purchase orders, instead we can focus on getting everyone up to speed to take advantage of opportunities,” says Doyle.
Optimized Business Productivity
McGrathNicol is using Software Assurance to optimize business productivity. Information workers continue to fuel the company’s growth by using new communication and collaboration technologies and to boost efficiency by using the latest desktop productivity tools. “Software Assurance gives us that free upgrade path and the flexibility to time those upgrades with our hardware-refresh cycles,” explains Doyle. “Our strategy is a two-year life cycle for laptops and a three-year life cycle for servers. This keeps us one step ahead of our competitors.”
McGrathNicol has recently completed deploying Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007. However, the IT department encouraged the use of the new solution back in December 2007 by giving staff a special incentive to take advantage of the Home Use Program, available under Software Assurance. The Home Use Program allows employees to get a licensed copy of Microsoft Office for use at home, for just the cost of shipping and handling. McGrathNicol offered to pay those costs for staff members if they took advantage of the offer before January 2008.
“Everyone at McGrathNicol spends all day working with Microsoft Office programs and the more familiar we are with these tools, the better we can perform,” says Doyle. “By taking the new version home and learning about all the productivity enhancements and the new Office Fluent™ user interface, employees are now better prepared to use the new version at work. And we save money on training.”
Prior to the Microsoft Office migration, McGrathNicol also took advantage of Desktop Deployment Planning Services, another Software Assurance benefit that helps to increase the value of Microsoft technologies. It offers from 1 through 15 days of customized consulting services. “We redeemed this voucher with Dimension Data. Our desktop manager and desktop support personnel found it invaluable,” says Shiran Herath, IT Manager at McGrathNicol. “For the Microsoft Office migration, the staff learned how to use Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007, which we had upgraded to from Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003—again at no cost. The engagement proved its value as we saved time and money on the first phase of the Microsoft Office rollout, which was handled solely by the desktop manager.”
The company also upgraded to Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007 in order to support better collaboration among mobile consultants working in teams, and between branch offices and headquarters. McGrathNicol also used Office SharePoint Server 2007 to host its public-facing Web site, and is taking advantage of its Web-based forms, workflow, and content management capabilities. “As we are a document-intensive business, we liked the improved document library management. With the Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 easy Web-authoring tool, more people can design their own sites to promote collaboration and information sharing,” says Herath.
McGrathNicol is also reviewing Windows Mobile® 6.1 software solutions so that consultants working out of the office can use faster and better organized text and e-mail messaging. “We are also interested in Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager for centralized management of the growing number of mobile devices in use across all branch offices,” says Herath.
Built an IT Infrastructure for Growth
Over the last two and a half years, McGrathNicol has used its Enterprise Agreement to create an organization-wide infrastructure for growth, complete with the deployment flexibility and the upgrade paths required to keep the company competitive. With upgrade rights to the latest technology available through Software Assurance, McGrathNicol is able to grow the business with the latest technologies to support its operations.
||With the security and performance improvements in Windows Server 2008, we can grow the branch office operations, and with Software Assurance, save hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees.
IT Manager, McGrathNicol
A good example is the company’s recent upgrade from Windows Server® 2003 Enterprise Edition operating system to the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise in its data center and to the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Standard in its branch offices. With Software Assurance, the company could take advantage of a major hardware refresh in late 2007. By using the new operating system for its blade servers in its data center located in Melbourne, the firm was able to increase reliability for its file and print services. With more and more employees sharing an increasing number of files among virtual and real offices throughout Australia, the reliability and security of the company’s data is paramount. The company also wanted to reduce the cost of transferring backup data between branch offices and headquarters.
“The upgrade to Windows Server 2008 Enterprise is a foundational platform change for McGrathNicol,” says Herath. “Throughout 2008, we’ll be conducting a major technology refresh, and everything will be running on this operating system. With the security and performance improvements in Windows Server 2008, we can grow the branch office operations, and with Software Assurance, save hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees.”
As the company has grown and branch offices have increased in size, the IT department at McGrathNicol has taken advantage of other software upgrades under Software Assurance to help control and manage a proliferation of users and assets on the network.
- Improved IT management. After upgrading from Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 to Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007, McGrathNicol IT staffers can deploy new software and upgrades more efficiently to laptops, servers, and mobile devices from a single console at the data center. “We used System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to calculate the deployment count for our desktops for our latest true-up,” says Herath.
- Better control over a standardized desktop. With the goal of standardizing the desktop, McGrathNicol is planning to deploy the Windows Vista® operating system companywide during its laptop refresh program in mid 2008. With everyone running the latest desktop operating system and also the latest version of Microsoft Office, the company’s IT department expects to spend less time managing the desktop overall.
Under Software Assurance, McGrathNicol is entitled to problem resolution support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and because of the built-in flexibility of the Enterprise Agreement, the company can migrate that support into its existing Premier Support program. McGrathNicol IT staff chose to consume those hours as a Health Check for Active Directory, before deploying Windows Server 2008. (A health check is a service provided by Premier Support.)
“The Health Check identified a few issues that may have affected the schema change for Windows Server 2008, and we were able to address them before we did the update,” says Herath. “We also transferred some 24x7 problem resolution hours into Premier Support to carry out a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 health check that identified the need to apply critical security updates before we upgrade to SQL Server 2008 later in 2008.”
“Our first years of operation, with growing revenue and new lines of business, have proved that acquiring a Microsoft-based infrastructure through an Enterprise Agreement was the right decision,” concludes Doyle. “Microsoft technologies gave us a flexible, reliable platform for growth and our Enterprise Agreement gave us a volume pricing discount. But if you’re in business for the long term, Software Assurance is essential. It delivers ongoing benefits such as access to emerging technologies, predictable annual payments, and comprehensive support and maintenance offerings.”
Microsoft Volume Licensing
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