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Posted: 5/1/2012
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HSS Outsourcing Company Opts for Robust Cloud Services Solution over Google Apps

Outsourcing company HSS had been using a POP3-based email solution. Because it believes in the outsourcing model, it began to evaluate cloud services email offerings in 2009. It tried using Google Apps but realized that it lacked features that employees wanted. In 2011, after an eight-month pilot project, HSS deployed Microsoft Office 365 to 250 employees. It benefits from a reduced IT workload, lower costs, and the advantage of using tools including Microsoft SharePoint Online.

Business Needs
Founded in 1967, HSS is a major outsourcing company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. It supports a trained workforce of more than 3,000 employees working in 16 states. The company’s workforce includes security officers, nursing and mental health professionals, biomedical engineers, technicians, security system integration specialists, and other skilled workers. Its three divisions include Healthcare Security, Aviation and Government Services, and Medical Equipment Management Services. “HSS (known as Hospital Shared Services at that time) started as a nonprofit organization that supported hospital needs,” says Marina Johnson, Chief Information Officer at HSS. “Now the biggest part of our business is security. We provide security personnel for hospitals, airports, government entities, and more.”

Because the HSS IT department has a staff of six and does not directly generate revenue, Johnson operates with limited resources. “IT is not our core business,” says Johnson. “We provide outsourcing services for our clients and we believe in that business model, so we use it for our internal functions as well.”

In 2009, HSS began to research outsourcing its email services to increase profitability, get more advanced functionality, and improve business continuity. The company had been using POP3 email service hosted by a local Internet service provider. Employees used Microsoft Outlook as an email client. (About 450 HSS employees had an HSS email account.)

“We didn’t have all the bells and whistles that are available with Microsoft Exchange Server,” says Johnson. “We patched together ways to share calendars and access the company’s contact list, but it didn’t work very well. We were looking for something more reliable that would allow us to move into the future.”

Solution
Johnson had been hearing about Google Apps through the media. “It sounded very attractive,” says Johnson. “You pay a monthly fee and you get email, shared calendars, user lists, and a backup. I thought it was worth a try.”

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* As soon as I began working with Office 365, I realized that it’s an advanced, professional, and business-oriented application. It was like coming home. Everything we needed was there. *

Marina Johnson
Chief Information Officer, HSS

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Starting in July 2009, the IT staff and several HSS executives tested Google Apps—including Google Mail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. Pilot users had Google Mail functionality working with their Microsoft Outlook clients.

HSS found that Google lacked a number of important features. For example, it was impossible to customize the column width of Google Mail messages. Employees were unable to sort by sender or subject and found the Google Mail label system cumbersome. They weren’t able to mark messages that are very important and require immediate attention. Employees expressed frustration because they could not find the features they needed.

“We were used to Microsoft Office and replacing Office was never even a consideration in any stretch of the imagination,” says Johnson. “We expected the same level of functionality from Google, but features that we used every day were not available. We didn’t realize how much we would miss Office features until we didn’t have them.”

After testing Google Apps for almost a year, Johnson decided that HSS employees accustomed to working with Outlook would find it difficult to adapt to Google Apps. “I was thinking how painful it would be to adopt Google Apps,” says Johnson. “I talked about our search for an email solution with a Microsoft representative, who introduced us to the beta version of Microsoft Office 365. That really helped us on this journey.”

HSS liked Microsoft Office 365 for its collaboration and productivity tools delivered as a cloud service and available by subscription. Office 365 brings together Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online into one connected, online solution.

Starting in January 2011, HSS tested Office 365. In August 2011, HSS adopted the released solution and deployed it to 250 employees. “As soon as I began working with Office 365, I realized that it’s an advanced, professional, and business-oriented application,” says Johnson. “It was like coming home. Everything we needed was there.”

Benefits
By adopting Office 365, HSS benefits from a solution that its IT department can easily manage. It can provide an up-to-date productivity solution while avoiding the cost of hiring IT resources to maintain additional infrastructure. The company is also taking advantage of new tools. “Office 365 has all the customization features we were used to,” says Johnson. “We also got capabilities that are new to us—Lync Online and SharePoint Online—and we’re exploring the functionality of those tools.”

Minimized IT Workload
Because Office 365 is a cloud service, HSS has reduced the burden on its small IT staff. “We don’t need to manage Exchange Server or the hardware for it, provide access for remote employees in 16 states, and make sure that somebody is available 24 hours a day to troubleshoot the system,” says Johnson. “Instead, we get managed services through Office 365, and we can add subscriptions as needed. This was the biggest factor in our decision.”

Reduced Costs
Thanks to the high level of security and reliability of Office 365, HSS avoids the need to hire staff to manage security that would be required with using Exchange Server. “With Office 365, Microsoft handles security and they do a great job,” says Johnson. “We are paying for that and feel comfortable doing so.”

Added Functionality
Now that it uses Office 365, HSS is taking advantage of new tools that it can use to expand its portfolio and improve business processes. The IT department is working to set up an intranet on SharePoint Online, which will make it easy for its dispersed workforce to access and share documents without using a VPN [virtual private network]. “People are really excited to use Lync Online and SharePoint Online,” says Johnson. “We’re looking into how we can adopt these solutions into our IT infrastructure.”

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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 3000 employees

Organization Profile

HSS, a major outsourcing company with an emphasis on security services, enjoys a 91 percent customer retention rate. It is one of Colorado’s largest employers, with a workforce that operates in 16 states.


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

Vertical Industries
Professional Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Cost Containment

Languages
English

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