UrbaCon General Contracting and its subsidiaries sought to replace Google Apps for Business because it was cumbersome to maintain and did not provide unified communications capabilities. Executives decided to transition from Google Apps to Microsoft
Office 365. Now UrbaCon benefits from simplified IT management, improved network security, and the ability to support employee productivity from practically anywhere.
UrbaCon General Contracting and its subsidiaries, Khayyat Contracting and Trading Company (KCT), Loyalty Business Development Investment (LBDI), and Highness Design, provide turnkey design and construction services. Because the company’s internal resources
and knowledge base spans design, procurement, and construction functions, it excels in completing large-scale projects faster than its competitors.
The UrbaCon IT team faces the challenge of serving a highly mobile workforce. “One of the main priorities of our IT team is to ensure that our employees can communicate with each other and share documents—whether they’re at a job site, in an airport, or
at one of our office locations,” says Muttia Alkhayyat, Chief Information Officer at UrbaCon.
The company relies heavily on Microsoft technologies to run its business. For example, UrbaCon uses Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to extend data and workflows from its Microsoft Dynamics AX business management system to employees across the organization
based on their roles. And it uses Active Directory, a component of the Windows Server operating system, to manage network access to these resources.
||Microsoft Office 365 works with Active Directory, so we have more control in administering our environment—while delivering benefits like a single sign-on experience to employees.
| Muttia Alkhayyat
Chief Information Officer, UrbaCon General Contracting
During the past two years, UrbaCon used Google Apps for Business, a hosted solution that includes Google Mail and Google Docs. Throughout this period, the company experienced a number of limitations with Google Apps. For example, Google Mail lacked support
for capturing both email and voice-mail messages in a single, unified inbox. This meant that executives who were traveling might not be aware of important client calls until they returned to the office. UrbaCon also found that using Google Mail placed a burden
on its IT team. Because the Google Mail service did not interoperate with the company’s Active Directory database, IT staff spent up to 10 hours each week manually updating and reconciling user account data.
UrbaCon executives searched for a solution to replace Google Apps. As part of its evaluation process, the company initiated a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office 365, which provides a full suite of subscription-based productivity and collaboration applications
hosted in Microsoft data centers. Microsoft Office 365 includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online, in addition to Office Professional Plus 2010. “We knew right away that, with Office 365, we had found the missing
link to creating a single, comprehensive platform for communication and collaboration that can scale to meet the needs of our business,” says Alkhayyat.
In migrating to the service, company leaders prioritized the transition to Exchange Online. The UrbaCon IT team used the Directory Synchronization Tool included in the Microsoft Online Services Migration Tools, to replicate user data from its on-premises
Active Directory environment to the Exchange Online directory. Because Exchange Online works together with Active Directory, employees will be able to access a global address list to locate and contact colleagues from across the company in a matter of a few
clicks. And, administrators will no longer need to manually reconcile user account information between the company’s identity management and email services.
The company is also eager to provide employees with access to voice-mail messages in their Microsoft Outlook inboxes, a capability enabled by Unified Messaging for Exchange Online. Employees will receive both the voice recording and a transcription of any
messages left on their office phone. They will also be able to configure custom greetings and call transfer options so that callers always know how to find them. In the coming months, executives are enthusiastic about combining presence awareness, instant
messaging, and multimedia conferencing capabilities in Lync Online with the advantages offered by Exchange Online.”
By moving to Microsoft Office 365, UrbaCon anticipates the following benefits:
Simplified IT management. In transitioning its messaging infrastructure to Exchange Online, the company benefits from automatic synchronization between its Active Directory environment and its email service. By avoiding the need to manually
duplicate user account data in the process of setting up, maintaining, and deleting email accounts, the IT team will save approximately 10 hours weekly.
Improved network security. Interoperability between the UrbaCon identity management infrastructure and its email service will also help strengthen data security. Administrators can now extend the security policies that govern other network
resources to its email environment. This will help enhance control over email groups, which will reduce the likelihood that unauthorized users gain access to sensitive information. “Microsoft Office 365 works with Active Directory, so we have more control
in administering our environment—while delivering benefits like a single sign-on experience to employees. “
Greater value from existing IT tools. Beyond extending the value of its investment in Active Directory, UrbaCon can now take full advantage of workflow tools in Microsoft SharePoint Server to automate business processes. For example, when
an employee is assigned to a task associated with a given workflow in SharePoint Server, that employee will receive an automated email notification that their participation is needed. “Now that we directly link Exchange Online to our intranet, as well as to
our Microsoft Dynamics AX business management system, we can use these tools to their fullest potential to improve the efficiency of our business,” says Alkhayyat.
Increased productivity. By providing access to email and voice mail all in one place, together with presence awareness and on-demand conferencing and chat tools through Lync Online, UrbaCon is now better equipped to support the productivity
needs of its mobile workforce. “The availability of our employees, even when they’re on the go, is crucial for the success of our business,” says Alkhayyat. “Microsoft Office 365 gives us enterprise-grade tools that work with software we already own, so we
can keep our people connected to customers and suppliers at all times.”
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