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Posted: 2/11/2014
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St John Cloud-Based Email System Strengthens Communication Infrastructure of Leading Ambulance Service

St John, New Zealand’s main ambulance service provider, faced a dilemma. Its on-premises email server was nearing its end of life, increasing the risk of data outages and a failure of email communications which could impair its ability to support those who deliver healthcare and community services. By switching to Microsoft Office 365, it set in place the infrastructure to support increased staff productivity and better delivery of healthcare and community services.

* We have set in place the infrastructure that enables increased employee productivity and changes the investment profile needed to deliver it. This supports our ability to deliver healthcare and community services more effectively and efficiently, anywhere and anytime. *

Daryl Tomlinson
ICT Solution Delivery Manager
St John

Business Needs

St John is New Zealand’s main ambulance service provider catering to approximately 90% of New Zealand’s population. Reflecting its importance to New Zealand’s population of 4.5 million people, St John responds to over a thousand callouts a day. As the largest primary healthcare provider in the country, St John has contact with more than one million people annually, providing a wide range of community and health services designed to improve the health and well-being of New Zealanders.

Email is critical to good communication in St John– with nearly 2,500 paid staff, 9,000 volunteers, and over 6,000 Youth members and over 200 locations nationwide. Email is also used by St John to communicate with external agencies and stakeholders including District Health Boards, NZ Police, NZ Fire, and hospitals all over the country.

In 2010, St John faced a dilemma. Its server infrastructure which ran on Microsoft Exchange 2003, an on-premises system, was nearing its end of life. Unless the issue was addressed, there was the risk of data outages and interruption of email communications, which were important in supporting the ability of St John to effectively deliver services. “Given the crucial role that our organization plays in New Zealand’s healthcare system, we took the issue seriously. We could not afford to lose our email communications systems. They are critical for our operations,” said Daryl Tomlinson, ICT Solution Delivery Manager at St John.

“The obvious option would have been to upgrade our on-premises server and invest in software licenses and hardware. But given major resource constraints as a charitable organization, we considered that sticking to an on-premises server model and upgrading it were not the best ways to push our financial envelope” says Tomlinson, “We had to orient our IT strategy towards improving internal customer satisfaction and meeting demand, while controlling our maintenance demands and the total cost of ownership of our on-premises IT systems,” Tomlinson added.


The ICT team at St John elected to explore cloud-based email alternatives. Such a solution would mean transferring to a third-party provider the responsibility for hosting and maintaining St John’s email system.

“The one-off capital cost of upgrading our physical infrastructure in a traditional on-premises model, and its associated upfront capital costs, would have been significant. We needed to find a better way to achieve the result, while meeting our cash-flow and financial constraints,” said Tomlinson. “A cloud-based solution helped with this and had the added advantage of providing improved redundancy for disaster-recovery capabilities. This was crucial since we almost had to evacuate one of our data centers in the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, which would have caused major disruption to communication at a critical time,” he added.

St John examined various cloud-based solutions, eventually choosing Microsoft Office 365. “A key advantage of Microsoft Office 365 was that it provided a user experience that our employees were used to and could be seamlessly integrated with our existing collaboration and telephony platforms. We were confident that there would be no degraded user experience with Microsoft Office 365,” said Tomlinson.

“When St John approached us, they wanted a clear commitment that we could provide them the level of support they needed at an enterprise-level,” said Dirk Develter, Microsoft New Zealand Cloud Solutions Specialist “This was a commitment we could easily give since Microsoft focuses on delivering enterprise-level products and services” he said.

After a pilot run in October 2012 involving thirty users from different St John offices, the project undertaken through Microsoft Professional Services commenced roll-out in May 2013. “At present, around 2,000 of our users have been moved from Exchange onto Microsoft Office 365. Our goal is to complete the migration to Microsoft Office 365 by December,” said Tomlinson.


“By switching to Microsoft Office 365, we have set in place the infrastructure for increased employee productivity, which supports St John delivering nationwide healthcare and community services more effectively and efficiently,” said Tomlinson.

Anytime, Anywhere Access for Increased Productivity
With cloud-based Microsoft Office 365, St John people can access their email anytime and anywhere. This expands their ability to respond quickly to, and communicate with, their customers and stakeholders, whether they are in the office or at home.

Most Up-to-Date Applications to Support Organizational Services
The suite of applications in Microsoft Office 365, which includes enterprise-grade email, Microsoft Office tools, conferencing, and document collaboration software, are updated and upgraded automatically and regularly at no added cost to St John. This feature ensures that St John has the latest and most up-to-date applications to support the delivery of its organizational services.

Rich Experience on Mobile Phones and Desktop
Using Microsoft Office 365 allows St John employees to have the same rich experience they expected and have been used to, whether using their mobile phones or desktop computers. “Because Microsoft Office 365 had the same interface and features that our employees were accustomed to, its use at St John was met positively. We were also able to moderate the amount of training or retraining that our people needed in order to use it effectively,” said Tomlinson.

Focus on Value-Added Activities
Prior to shifting to cloud based solutions such as Microsoft Office 365, St John’s IT team spent most of its time maintaining the IT infrastructure. Once fully migrated, Microsoft Office 365 is maintained by Microsoft. St John’s IT team will then be able to devote more of its efforts to value-added activities such as delivering new solutions rather than maintaining the old. This improves the organization’s core capabilities and supports the delivery of health care services more effectively and efficiently.

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 2500 employees

Organization Profile

St John provides ambulance, community and health services to improve the health and well-being of New Zealanders. It is the largest primary healthcare provider in New Zealand and has contact with more than 1 million people a year.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365 Professional Plus
  • Cloud Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server
  • Exchange Online
  • SharePoint Online

Vertical Industries
Health Provider

New Zealand

Business Need
  • Mobility
  • Business Productivity
  • Business Intelligence and Reporting
  • Data Protection and Recovery
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Employee Engagement
  • Business Continuity
  • Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity


Microsoft Consulting Services