Homeboy Industries wanted to make it easier for employees to collaborate. The organization chose to migrate from a previous version of Microsoft Exchange Server to Microsoft Office 365, which combines messaging, collaboration, and unified communication
capabilities in a cloud-based service. Now, beyond boosting productivity, Homeboy Industries has increased IT efficiency by 62 percent and avoided an estimated US$40,000 in capital expenditures.
For people looking to escape the violence of gang life, Homeboy Industries is like an oasis—a wellspring of hope for a better future. From its founding in 1992 in Boyle Heights, California, the nonprofit organization provides a variety of free services—from
tattoo removal to legal services—to thousands of recently incarcerated men and women. And, through a network of social enterprises (businesses) that it operates, like Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy offers former gang members an opportunity to build job skills in
a supportive environment.
For nearly a decade, Homeboy Industries relied on a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange Server for email, calendaring, and contact management. When Andrew Platts joined Homeboy Industries in 2010 as the Director of Technology, he noted several challenges
with its existing IT environment.
For example, Exchange Server was not linked to the organization’s Active Directory service database. This meant that employees did not have access to a global address list to quickly find the email aliases and phone numbers of colleagues. It also prevented
employees from sharing calendars and contacts. Beyond these difficulties, the organization did not have an efficient way of creating new email accounts or disabling the accounts of people who no longer worked at Homeboy Industries.
Lack of system scalability was another challenge. “Given the way that our email system was configured with our hosting provider, we were limited to 500 megabytes of storage per email account,” Platts explains. “I handled a lot of requests from people who
needed help archiving old email messages to free up storage space.”
In early 2012, Homeboy Industries started evaluating various technology solution options. At first, the organization considered purchasing new server and networking equipment and investing in upgraded software.
||By choosing Microsoft Office 365, we freed up a substantial amount of money that can now go into services that help change lives.
| Andrew Platts
Director of Technology, Homeboy Industries
Then, Platts took a closer look at Microsoft Office 365, which provides familiar communication, productivity, and collaboration applications hosted in Microsoft data centers and delivered as cloud services. “Microsoft Office 365 offers the latest and greatest
business tools, easy setup and management, and guaranteed reliability,” says Platts. “It’s as close to a perfect fit to our needs as I can imagine.”
With the solution in mind, Platts contacted a Microsoft representative, who put him in touch with Microsoft Partner Network member SADA Systems, an IT service firm based in Los Angeles. “It was clear to me that the people at SADA Systems were complete pros
when it came to the technology,” says Platts. “And they made a real effort to understand the way that our people work and our mission as a community organization,” says Platts.
Working with the SADA Systems team, Homeboy Industries prioritized moving approximately 120 user accounts to Microsoft Exchange Online. Employees can now use the Global Address List tool in the Microsoft Outlook client application to instantly find a colleague’s
email address, phone number, and other contact information. “People also love that they can easily schedule meetings by viewing each other’s availability,” says Platts. “And they almost never think about using up storage capacity or sending large files anymore.”
Platts appreciates that he can create and disable email accounts and handle other important administrative tasks—all from a web-based portal.
Homeboy Industries has also deployed Microsoft Lync Online to approximately 10 employees in various program management roles to and is evaluating expanding its use of this tool. And, in the coming months, the company plans to deploy Microsoft SharePoint
Online to make it easier for staff to share documents and access their files from practically anywhere.
By adopting Microsoft Office 365, Homeboy Industries is experiencing the following benefits:
Increased IT efficiency by 62 percent. Before deploying Microsoft Exchange Online, Platts estimated that he spent up to eight hours a week administering the organization’s email environment. This workload included time spent creating new
user accounts and assisting colleagues in setting up local personal archive folders to free up storage space on the email server. Now, because Exchange Online provides complete interoperability with the Outlook messaging and collaboration client, 25 gigabytes
of storage per user, and a centralized management console, Platts spends just three hours a week on administrative duties related to email. “The management time that I save each week means I can be less reactive and focus more on things like strategic planning,”
Estimated capital cost savings of $40,000.As Platts compared solution options, he estimated that it would require a minimum investment of US$40,000 in hardware, software, and IT support
to obtain the equivalent services that Homeboy Industries accesses through Office 365. The organization was able to replace what would have been a sizeable capital cost with a highly affordable monthly operating expense. Instead of spending $40,000 on IT infrastructure,
the organization now spends $1,500 a month, effectively distributing the cost over more than two years, while practically eliminating hardware maintenance time and expenses. “We’re always looking for ways to invest more in the direct services that assist our
clients,” says Platts. “By choosing Microsoft Office 365, we freed up a substantial amount of money that can now go into services that help change lives.”
Enhanced productivity and strengthened job skills. For Homeboy Industries, the move to Office 365 has empowered staff, trainees, and clients to work together more effectively and get more done. “Because the tools in Office 365 are so easy
to learn, people start using them right away,” says Platts. “I’ve noticed that our people are not only building technical proficiency really quickly, but they have a much richer appreciation for the power and importance of collaboration, which is a skill that
they’ll carry with them wherever they go.”
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