Grupo Romero is a diversified Peruvian company with businesses and employees in more than 10 countries. It used an on-premises IBM Lotus Notes email infrastructure, which was expensive to maintain and difficult to use. To reduce costs and give 6,000-plus information workers simpler, more powerful communications capabilities, Grupo Romero evaluated both Microsoft and Google cloud-based solutions. It selected Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, part of Microsoft Online Services, and migrated all users to the new service in just three months. By using Microsoft Exchange Online, part of Microsoft Online Services, Grupo Romero has improved email availability, helped employees be more productive, and lowered email costs by at least U.S.$50,000 annually. Employees will become even more productive as they begin using the service’s additional capabilities.Situation
Grupo Romero is a diversified company based in Lima, Peru, with a 120-year history. Its main business is packaged food products, but it also has sizeable logistics, transportation, textiles, agro-industry, and biofuels businesses. In all, Grupo Romero owns nearly 50 companies that have a presence in more than 10 Central and South American countries. It employs approximately 13,000 people.
||[Employees] are saving time throughout the day in setting up meetings, organizing their email messages, checking email from their smartphones, and generally being fully productive when traveling.
General Manager, Priox, a Grupo Romero company
Because Grupo Romero has businesses and employees in so many locations, some of which have unreliable landline telephone service, and because all important decisions have to be routed through Lima, email communication is critical. For years, Grupo Romero used IBM Lotus Notes for email messaging, but costs and usability problems kept climbing.
“We had Notes servers all over the hemisphere and needed a large staff to maintain the infrastructure,” says Jose Torres, Chief Information Officer for Priox, a Grupo Romero company that provides infrastructure, operations, technology, human resources, and other services for many Grupo Romero companies. “It is hard to find people who are familiar with Notes in our part of the world and they tend to be quite expensive. We were spending [U.S.]$400,000 a year maintaining Lotus Notes.” Support was made more difficult by the fact that the company had multiple versions of Notes at different locations.
Notes-related calls constituted a full 30 percent of the company’s help-desk tickets. “Notes was slow, prone to problems, and users didn’t understand how to use certain features. Notes was incompatible with other applications—we heard these problems all the time and spent a lot of time and money solving them,” Torres says.
Grupo Romero grew increasingly weary of the high cost required to support Lotus Notes, and the company also wanted to give its more than 6,000 information workers simpler, more modern communication tools that they could use to be more productive. If an employee was traveling to another office, he or she needed to ask the IT staff to set up remote email access by replicating their inbox to a server at the new location. Additionally, it was difficult and costly to set up access to email from mobile phones.
Availability was a final concern. Notes was stable on the whole, but because there were so many Notes servers in so many locations, there were occasional server outages. “When email was down, our business was down,” Torres says. Solution
Grupo Romero became more interested in cloud computing, whereby IT services run in third-party data centers and are delivered to users over the Internet. “We decided that we wanted to outsource our IT infrastructure wherever possible,” Torres says. “We wanted to focus on our businesses and have someone else care for servers. Also, by using cloud services for email, we could provide one consistent program to the entire workforce, no matter which company or location. Mobility was another attraction; traveling employees could connect to email and access documents from anywhere.”
Grupo Romero worked with Priox and representatives from the major Grupo Romero companies to evaluate online communications services. They first evaluated online solutions from Google, such as Google Mail, Google Docs, and Google Sites. The committee ran a five-month test with the Google solutions using about 40 employees, and all the products performed well. However, Google did not have an office in Peru, so support would be limited to the web, which the team deemed unacceptable for such a large enterprise. Also, Google Mail was not as easy to use as Grupo Romero desired; the web interface was not as rich as employees wanted. They also worried about the loss of email access if the Internet connection went down.
||It is hard to find people who are familiar with Notes in our part of the world and they tend to be quite expensive. We were spending [U.S.]$400,000 a year maintaining Lotus Notes.
Chief Information Officer, Priox, a Grupo Romero company
The Grupo Romero team next looked at Microsoft Online Services—specifically, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite. This collection of finished services is hosted by Microsoft, delivered over the Internet, and licensed through a monthly per-user subscription. It includes Microsoft Exchange Online for messaging, SharePoint Online for collaboration, Office Live Meeting for web conferencing, and Office Communications Online for instant messaging.
The team graded Business Productivity Online Standard Suite superior to Google on all fronts. “The product functionality was very good, and by using the Microsoft Outlook messaging and collaboration client, employees could continue working offline even if the Internet was down,” Torres says. “The Microsoft services also integrated well with the other Microsoft solutions used by Grupo Romero such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint Server. But the big differentiator was Microsoft support—we thought that Microsoft had much more experience in the enterprise space and also had offices in Peru. Google came from the world of ads and banners; we did not want to be their guinea pigs. This was a complex project, and we wanted to be certain.” Straightforward Migration
In March 2010, Grupo Romero signed a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement to obtain good licensing terms for Microsoft Online Services and other Microsoft products. It licensed Microsoft Online Services for all 6,000-plus information workers. Employees already used Microsoft Office on their desktops, and the company simply deployed Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office Communicator. “Microsoft licensing is not only cost-effective but simplifies license maintenance,” Torres says. “At any time of the year, I can add Microsoft Online Services users, and I have just one license reconciliation date each year where I pay for everything.”
Priox coordinated the rollout of Microsoft Online Services across all the Grupo Romero companies. Microsoft Services provided implementation design services, and Priox brought in DATCO, a local Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, to provide implementation assistance. Once the actual migration began, Grupo Romero migrated 600 employees a week to the new service. Within three months, more than 6,000 users were migrated.
Grupo Romero provided both personal and online training for employees. It sent trainers to all major sites to help answer questions as users went live with the new services. The company also created a brochure that provided step-by-step instructions on how to log on, access, and use the various Microsoft Online Services. Modern, Flexible Email Solution
Grupo Romero is initially focusing on getting workers comfortable using Exchange Online, which has been hugely popular with employees. “For the first time, employees can connect to email from anywhere using just about any device, giving them a degree of flexibility and freedom not possible with Notes,” Torres says. “Users are also more self-sufficient because the Microsoft Online Services programs are so much easier to use and more intuitive than Notes.”
For example, when employees want to share their calendars with one another, they no longer have to call the help desk for assistance. The Outlook client provides far greater customization than Notes did, which enables Grupo Romero employees to configure their work environments the way they want. Email and calendaring functionality is much richer. By using Outlook, employees can flag email messages when they need a reminder to take care of something later. With Notes, they had to send email messages to themselves as reminders.
Grupo Romero uses Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, included with Business Productivity Online, which provides multiple filters and virus-scanning engines to help protect against spam, viruses, and phishing scams. It is evaluating Microsoft Exchange Hosted Archive, a service that is available with Exchange Online, to archive older email and instant messages.
Employees are eager to start using SharePoint Online to share documents and automate business processes. “There is a great deal of functionality that we can exploit between SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office, and our SAP applications,” Torres says. “We have an opportunity to simplify some of our business processes by moving them into SharePoint Online and providing one integrated experience.”Benefits
By switching from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Online Services, Grupo Romero increased employee productivity and email availability and reduced costs.
Three-Month Migration of More than 6,000 Users
Migrating more than 6,000 employees from one email program to another in just three months was a big accomplishment for Grupo Romero, especially considering the complexity of the company’s Notes infrastructure and its broad geographic reach. “We could have gone faster, but we wanted to make sure that we could support the users as they came online,” says Maricarmen Fedalto, General Manager of Priox. “Once we had an implementation plan and got rolling, the migration went very fast with no problems.”
Increased Employee Productivity
Employees are more self-sufficient and productive now that that have a richer palette of communications capabilities. “Employees are working much more efficiently without Notes replication issues and usability problems,” Fedalto says. “Plus, they have so many more features that they can use between Exchange Online and Outlook. They are saving time throughout the day in setting up meetings, organizing their email messages, checking email from their smartphones, and generally being fully productive when traveling. Employees don’t even need to have their computers with them because they can access email messages and work files from any Internet connection.”
||Microsoft licensing is not only cost-effective but simplifies license maintenance. At any time of the year, I can add Microsoft Online Services users.
Chief Information Officer, Priox, a Grupo Romero company
Grupo Romero continues to grow rapidly and acquire new companies, and training new employees on Exchange Online and the other Microsoft Online Services is easier and faster than training them on Notes. “Far more people are familiar with Microsoft software, from previous jobs and at home, so our environment is now easier for them to adjust to,” Torres says.Improved Availability
According to Torres, although Grupo Romero has only been using Exchange Online for a short time, the service has been very robust. “Employees are very happy to finally have reliable email,” he says. “Some were initially afraid that having email in the cloud would compromise availability, but they have seen completely the opposite. Email is more reliable than ever.”
Fedalto concludes, “We believe that all the new capabilities provided by Microsoft Online Services such as web conferencing, instant messaging, and SharePoint Online will increase the competitiveness of our companies within their respective markets.”Annual Savings of at Least $50,000
Additionally, Grupo Romero has trimmed its email costs with the move to Microsoft Online Services. “With Microsoft Online Services, we have eliminated the $400,000 annual cost of maintaining Notes, as well as the cost of Notes servers and storage,” Torres says. “When you subtract our Microsoft Online Services licensing costs, we are saving at least $50,000 annually on email costs, and we are also getting far more for our money than we got with Notes.”
Grupo Romero also anticipates support savings from the move to Microsoft Online Services, because employees are better able to figure out issues by themselves without calling the help desk. “With Microsoft Online Services, we were able to get all 6,000 employees on one consistent email program,” Fedalto says. “Microsoft Online Services are much more intuitive than Lotus Notes, which greatly reduces the requests we receive through our help desk.”
Microsoft Online Services
Microsoft Online Services are business-class communication and collaboration solutions delivered as a subscription service and hosted by Microsoft. With these offerings, customers can cost-effectively access the most up-to-date technologies and immediately benefit from streamlined communications, simplified management, and business-class reliability and security features. For IT staffers, Microsoft Online Services are backed by strong service level agreements and help reduce the burden of performing routine IT management, freeing up time to focus on core business initiatives.
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