4-page Case Study
Posted: 6/28/2011
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Perkins Eastman Architecture Firm Reduces Costs and Increases Efficiency with Cloud-Based Services

Perkins Eastman is an international architecture and design firm headquartered in New York, New York. With almost 600 employees, the firm specializes in progressive and innovative design, in addition to programming, planning, and consulting services. For communications and collaboration, Perkins Eastman had deployed Microsoft solutions on-premises. As the firm grew, its messaging solution required more maintenance and costly storage, and IT staff at some international offices found additional hardware expensive to deploy. The firm decided to transition to Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based services for messaging and communications. With Office 365, Perkins Eastman could upgrade its solutions to help employees improve their productivity, while it increased efficiency and reduced costs. It could also provide a scalable solution that would enable it to bring new offices on board quickly.

Situation
Since Perkins Eastman was founded in 1981, it has become a leading international architecture, urban design, and interior design firm that offers programming, planning, design, strategic planning, and consulting services. The firm is also strengthened by several affiliate companies and strategic alliances that provide real estate and transportation planning services, branding and environmental graphics, landscape architecture, and economic and demographic forecasts.

Perkins Eastman has almost 600 employees, 158 of whom are licensed architects. It has 13 offices, four of which are outside the United States. One of the offices it opened recently is in Mumbai, India. As it handles more projects overseas, communication and collaboration become more critical to the organization. “Because we are spread out globally, we do have some challenges with communicating, collaborating, and exchanging documents,” says Hamilton Esi, Director of Practice Applications at Perkins Eastman.

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* With Office 365, we can save over $100,000 a year that we were spending on maintenance and storage costs to use for other IT investments *

Hamilton Esi
Director of Practice Applications, Perkins Eastman

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For messaging, the firm relies on Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. It deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to provide presence and instant messaging capabilities for employees. The firm also uses Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as a knowledge repository, and employees use Microsoft Office 2007 on the desktop.

Employees at Perkins Eastman find presence and instant messaging critical to their daily routines. Esi explains, “With instant messaging, people do not have to wait for answers. They can have quick, efficient conversations that yield more effective results.” The IT team has also found instant messaging useful, in addition to desktop sharing, which it uses to troubleshoot issues for employees. The firm also has a computer-aided design (CAD) team that uses desktop sharing to train employees and enforce standards.

Although the firm felt its communications and collaboration solutions were mostly successful, it was beginning to experience some challenges. To support messaging across the organization, it had three servers running Exchange Server 2003, which required regular updates and maintenance. The firm had also set a mailbox quota for employees of 75 megabytes (MB), which it tried to enforce to limit the growth of its storage system, but it found that additional storage for its storage area network (SAN) was required anyway as it added new companies and employees. “As we have merged with other businesses, we have a physical presence across more locations and more people to support,” says Esi. “At some of our new offices, we had a difficult time acquiring and configuring hardware—and it was expensive.”

In addition, Perkins Eastman has many mobile employees who travel to construction sites or to customer sites to give presentations or present plans and drawings. They had to connect to the central office through a virtual-private network (VPN), which could be difficult for people working at international locations.

Solution
When Perkins Eastman heard about the capabilities available through Microsoft Office 365, it wanted to run a pilot for the solution as soon as it was available. The firm joined the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program for Microsoft Office 365, which combines the familiar Office desktop with enhanced cloud-based communication and collaboration services. In addition to evaluating messaging services through Microsoft Exchange Online, the firm decided it would also evaluate the most recent communications capabilities with Microsoft Lync Online.

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* We currently have two people who manage our Exchange Servers full time. We can manage Office 365 with one-third of one full time resource. We can refocus those people on other key initiatives and we can reduce overtime. *

Hamilton Esi
Director of Practice Applications, Perkins Eastman

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To prepare for the transition to hosted services, Perkins Eastman deployed Active Directory Federation Services to enable single sign-on, so that employees could use their existing Active Directory credentials to access Office 365 services. “The process was actually very simple,” says Esi. “If Active Directory is properly configured and updated, it does not take more than a few days.”

After Perkins Eastman had prepared its environment, the firm found it easy to move mailboxes from its on-premises servers to the cloud. “The ease with which we were able to move mailboxes impressed us,” says Esi. “We were able to do it quickly because we were working in a familiar environment with a familiar set of tools.” With the help of Microsoft, it used Remote PowerShell to customize settings and policies for its Exchange Online environment. When the transition to hosted services is complete, the IT team will use role-based access control to define internal help-desk support and administration roles.

At its headquarters in New York, Perkins Eastman will keep one on-premises Exchange Server, which it plans to upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. For employees, this means that they will experience no service differences whether their mailboxes are online or on-premises. With Exchange Online, employees also have 25 gigabytes (GB) of space to store email messages, so the firm plans to repurpose much of its SAN for other business-critical files. Employees can also use the personal archive for long-term retention. “With the personal archive, we do not have to stop and tell them to archive their mail,” says Alan Ho, Director of Systems for Perkins Eastman.

Perkins Eastman plans to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010 this summer so that employees can take advantage of the capabilities in Microsoft Outlook 2010 that the latest version of Exchange supports. Employees will have access to capabilities such as Conversation View, which groups together messages from a single conversation so that employees can then quickly and easily identify the most recent messages, view the chain of responses, and see a preview of each response in a conversation upon opening the individual messages. Employees can also use Outlook Web App to access their email through any browser from any computer with a broadband connection. “Employees have much more flexibility with both options for accessing their email,” says Esi. “With Outlook 2010 on the desktop, they can work offline if they do not have a connection. On the other hand, if they have to use a computer other than their own, they can still use Outlook Web App to check email and stay current.” The firm is piloting several smartphone models that support ActiveSync.


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With Office 365, Perkins Eastman plans to extend its communications capabilities through federation in both Lync Online and Exchange Online. Before, employees used Office Communications Server primarily for presence and internal instant messaging. Now, they can use the ad hoc collaboration and online meeting capabilities available through Lync Online to hold meetings with partners and customers. By using Lync Online for conferencing, Perkins Eastman can eliminate the use of third-party conferencing applications. Additionally, through federation, employees can connect to partners and customers more easily on a daily basis because they can see presence for federated colleagues and easily connect with them through instant messaging to give quick updates or share information. They can also share calendar and free/busy information with federated colleagues through Outlook or Outlook Web App, so that they can easily schedule meetings with people outside the company.

After Perkins Eastman has completed the transition to Office 365 for messaging and communications, it will test the capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint Online to determine if it wants to use the hosted service or upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 on-premises. “We see an advantage in integrating our corporate intranet with SharePoint Online so that employees can get into the system to retrieve the information they need to deliver services to clients,” says Kim Lam, Director of Technology at Perkins Eastman.


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“By using Office 365, we have the flexibility to choose what will work best for us in terms of our SharePoint solution, because even if we decide to deploy it on-premises, we can still take advantage of the interoperation between SharePoint, Lync Online, and Exchange Online,” says Esi.

Benefits
By using Office 365, Perkins Eastman can provide the latest messaging and communications capabilities for its employees to help increase efficiency and to enable the IT team to focus on solutions that support the business, while also reducing costs. “We see an opportunity to streamline our services and make Perkins Eastman a whole lot more efficient and nimble, and to reduce our costs,” says Esi.

Reduce Costs
By transitioning to hosted services for its messaging and communications solutions, Perkins Eastman expects to reduce costs for administration, hardware, and applications. “We currently have two people who manage our Exchange Servers full time. We can manage Office 365 with one-third of one full time resource,” says Esi. “We can refocus those people on other key initiatives and we can reduce overtime.”

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* At some of our offices, it was a real challenge for us to acquire hardware and set up everything. With Office 365, we can set up offices quickly. We just add their accounts and ensure they have an Internet connection. *

Hamilton Esi
Director of Practice Applications, Perkins Eastman

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The firm also plans to repurpose much of its SAN and retire any hardware it no longer needs. “With Office 365, we can save over [U.S.]$100,000 a year that we were spending on maintenance and storage costs to use for other IT investments,” explains Esi. It will also eliminate costs for third-party conferencing applications, because employees can use Lync Online to hold online meetings with external parties.

In addition, it will reduce its electricity usage. “By moving to hosted services, we are one more step closer to being green,” says Esi.

Increase Efficiency
Perkins Eastman can confidently hand off most of the maintenance and administration for its messaging and communications solutions to Microsoft. “For IT technical services and support, Office 365 will enable my staff resources to concentrate on more strategic issues and challenges that face us as an organization,” says Lam.

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The company can take advantage of premium antispam and antivirus protection, 24 hour a day, seven days a week IT-level phone support, and a financially backed, 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement. “We are more than happy to offload backups and data recovery to Microsoft,” says Esi. “It makes us leaner and more efficient, so we can free up resources and advance the IT team’s mission to help make the firm more effective.”

The firm can also bring new companies or employees on board more quickly—or easily remove services for employees who are no longer with the company. “Over the last few years, the firm has grown and shrunk and then grown again,” says Esi. “At some of our offices, it was a real challenge for us to acquire hardware and set up everything. With Office 365, we can set up offices quickly. We just add their accounts and ensure they have an Internet connection.”

Improve Productivity
At Perkins Eastman, mobile employees will no longer have to worry about VPN connections or remembering additional logon information. “In the past, employees have always had to connect through the VPN,” explains Ho. “By using Office 365, they can use any wireless network to connect.”

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“Exchange Online gives our employees access from anywhere,” says Esi. “They can connect through whatever Internet connection they have available and check their email.” With Outlook Web App, they no longer even need to have their own laptops in order to check email.

With Lync Online, mobile employees can instantly communicate with colleagues back at the office, and they can even get help-desk support for core business applications, no matter where they are. In addition, they can more easily hold online meetings with external partners and customers, or escalate a chat session to a sharing session.

Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products—Microsoft SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—with the latest version of our Office desktop suite and companion web applications for businesses of all sizes.

Office 365 helps save time and money, and it frees up valued resources. Simple to use and easy to administer, it is financially backed by a service level agreement that guarantees 99 percent reliability. Office 365 features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the business-class privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.

For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:
www.office365.com

For 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:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Perkins Eastman products and services, call (212) 353-7200 or visit the website at:
www.perkinseastman.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 600 employees

Organization Profile

Perkins Eastman is an international architecture and design firm with expertise in several core practice areas, including healthcare, senior living, education, hotels, office buildings, multifamily housing, urban design, and more. It employs almost 600 people and has 13 offices worldwide.


Business Situation

Perkins Eastman was interested in a messaging and communications solution that could help it reduce administration and allow its IT team to focus on providing core business applications.


Solution

Perkins Eastman decided to transition its messaging and communications solutions to Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based services to increase scalability, efficiency, and productivity.


Benefits

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase efficiency
  • Improve productivity


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Exchange Online
  • Lync Online

Vertical Industries
Professional Services

Country/Region
United States

Languages
English

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