Showcase Magazine publishes a variety of magazines and used many free technologies for communication and collaboration. However, managing multiple passwords and technologies was difficult for employees and the company’s owner, who also handles
IT management. The company adopted Microsoft Office 365 and gained access to a comprehensive suite of online tools. Showcase Magazine now runs more efficiently, offers increased value to customers, and can better focus on expanding the business into new geographies.
Showcase Magazine highlights the best that southern Virginia has to offer. The company publishes city/regional magazines that are dedicated to tourism promotion, private-label magazines for companies and organizations, and a few special interest magazines.
It also helps clients with marketing, graphic design, and public relations.
The company’s seven employees cover sales, editorial, public relations, and accounting tasks, often working outside their individual job descriptions. “Like most small business employees, we all wear many hats, and most of us work from the office, home,
our cars, or anywhere else we need to be to get our magazines published,” says Andrew Scott Brooks, Owner and Publisher at Showcase Magazine.
One of the hats Brooks wears is that of IT manager. “As the resident IT geek, I help employees deal with technology issues and find free or low-cost IT services that we can use to communicate and collaborate,” says Brooks. Until recently, Showcase Magazine
relied on technologies such as Dropbox for document sharing and Skype for videoconferencing. “As with any creative endeavor, collaboration is key at Showcase Magazine,” Brooks says. “We found inexpensive ways to collaborate on our articles, but managing all
those technologies caused frustrations for me and my employees. Managing so many passwords and vendors was a real nightmare. Additionally, none of the technology tools worked together.”
In 2011, Brooks learned about Microsoft Office 365, which unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft productivity servers into one connected, online solution. “When I first encountered the beta version of Office 365, I
immediately saw how straightforward it was to use and realized that Microsoft had taken all the most useful features and put them together in one place, accessible from anywhere,” says Brooks. “I naturally assumed that it would be very expensive. Imagine my
surprise when I found out that the monthly subscription fee is just [US]$6!”
||I’ve gained one to three hours each week in overall efficiency.… Every hour that I spend on anything other than my core business is costing me money—Office 365 helps me maintain my focus.
|Andrew Scott Brooks
Owner and Publisher, Showcase Magazine
In September 2011, Brooks set up the production release of Office 365, which took about an hour to be installed and begin running smoothly. He and several of his employees now rely on Microsoft SharePoint Online to collaborate on magazine articles, where writers
and editors can see who made changes to an article and refer to the built-in versioning to stay up-to-date. Employees can gain access to the articles and other pertinent information stored online from anywhere, which minimizes trips to the office to retrieve
documents, because they now are saved in the cloud as opposed to only on the company’s computers. Brooks also used SharePoint Online to create a website for one of the chambers of commerce that Showcase Magazine serves, a process that took about 90 minutes
from start to finish. The chamber of commerce now receives email inquiries from its site through Microsoft Exchange Online. “If you can create a Microsoft Word document, you can design a website using SharePoint Online,” says Brooks.
The company uses Microsoft Lync Online for video conferences, which is especially helpful when meetings include the graphic designer, who lives in Minnesota. “When we use Lync Online to share presentations and collaborate on articles or design layouts, we
might as well be in the same room together,” says Brooks.
Showcase Magazine is using Office 365 to boost professionalism and expand its business. “Now that we have Office 365, we are on the same playing field as the companies we want to impress—and at an incredibly low cost,” says Brooks. The benefits of using
Office 365 include:
IT management reduction of 80 percent and increased efficiency. Brooks has experienced a significant reduction in the amount of time that he spends on IT management, time that he now can devote to growing his business. Now that he has Office
365, he no longer has to wrestle with making so many different technologies work together, training employees to use them all, and troubleshooting. “I’ve been able to reduce the time that I spend managing technology by 80 percent. And I’ve gained one to three
hours each week in overall efficiency. As a small business owner, every hour that I spend on anything other than my core business is costing me money—Office 365 helps me maintain my focus.”
Faster service, enhanced value to customers. Showcase Magazine now provides a greater level of customer service, from quickly and easily creating compelling websites using SharePoint Online to delivering faster overall response times. “Because
of Office 365, we have integrated tools at our fingertips to help us offer our customers a greater breadth of service in a timely manner, which makes us a more valuable vendor to them,” says Brooks.
Expanded business opportunities. In addition to improving service for current customers, Brooks believes that the company’s use of Office 365 will help it add new customers. “We can extend our business into other areas of the country because
we can take on new customers without spending time and resources to meet them in person,” says Brooks. “Most of our work has a pretty low profit margin, and if I have to travel beyond the region to meet with clients, I can’t really afford to take the work—the
costs are prohibitive. But by using Lync Online with the Attendee client, we can successfully interact with customers through video conferencing.”
Greater business focus. Showcase Magazine is poised to further its success because it can now concentrate on business itself, rather than on the technology. “When you have to look down at what’s going on with your technology tools, you’re
taking your eye off the horizon and losing out on the new opportunities that may present themselves,” says Brooks. “We can concentrate on what we do best at Showcase Magazine because Office 365 is so simple to use, efficient to manage, and effective for our
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