D 7 Consulting wanted to tighten communication among its field, office, and customers. Several workers began using the beta version of Microsoft Office 365 to store documents in the cloud, access and edit documents simultaneously from anywhere, and communicate via instant messaging and videoconferencing. They’ve shown that, with Office 365, the firm can streamline report creation, be more responsive to customers, and reduce technology worries.
D 7 Consulting provides consulting services in building envelope (exterior), roofing, and waterproofing to the building and real estate industries. The firm’s customers look to D 7 to provide quality counsel, outstanding service, and prompt turnaround.
To continue increasing its responsiveness, D 7 knew that it needed to improve communication among its field and office workers and its customers. Thirty of the firm’s 45 employees are quality assurance workers who spend all day at job sites. They would send their inspection notes and photos to a D 7 office in an email message. Administrative staffers there would type up the report and hand it off to a consultant, who would then formulate a recommendation and complete the report. All this took three to five days.
“Our customers want our recommendations as soon as we walk off the job site,” says Terrell Woods, Design and CAD (Computer-Aided Design) Specialist for D 7 Consulting. “Handing documents from person to person was slowing us down. Plus, we were plagued with version-control problems. We had tens of thousands of documents sitting on a shared drive, which was unwieldy and confusing. The risk of sending the wrong document to a customer was just too high. We needed a way for multiple people to be working on a document at the same time and a better way to organize documents.”
||With Office 365, we’re able to smooth out our workflow and deliver final reports in one or two days instead of three to five days.
Design and CAD Specialist, D 7 Consulting
As a technology enthusiast, Woods thought that D 7 would benefit from some of the new communications and collaboration solutions available—cloud storage, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and screen-sharing—but his boss challenged him to show that the new technologies were safe and affordable.Solution
When Woods learned about Microsoft Office 365, he quickly volunteered to test the beta version. Office 365 is a set of cloud-based email, calendaring, collaboration, and conferencing services combined with web-based versions of popular Microsoft Office programs. “Because we don’t have a dedicated IT staff evaluating new products, we had not been good about keeping our software up-to-date,” Woods says. “Office 365 would take the pain and trepidation out of the whole upgrade process. Mostly, it would give us online document storage and access, which would help us speed our report production workflow.”
Woods and six of his colleagues tested Office 365 to see what it would be like to “live in the cloud.” Field workers posted notes and photos to team sites in Microsoft SharePoint Online, part of Office 365, where administrative staff and consultants could access and co-author documents—and work on them simultaneously. “Our workflow was so much more efficient,” Woods says. “The ability to upload photos to team sites was really important, because it was difficult to send large image files over email.”
Woods used Microsoft Lync Online in Office 365 to send instant messages between field and office workers, speeding communication. “Lync gives us secure instant messaging, but we also get video and audio conferencing and the ability to share computer screens and applications,” Woods says. “Combined, these capabilities will make Lync nearly indispensible to us.”
The D 7 evaluators found Microsoft Office Web Apps, the online companions to Microsoft Office programs, to be easier to use than Google Docs and more familiar. Woods even views Office Web Apps documents from his Windows Phone. “The integration between Office 365 and Windows Phone is seamless,” Woods says. D 7 plans to license Office 365 for all 45 employees. Benefits
In its evaluation of Office 365, D 7 Consulting has been able to improve productivity, meet customer needs faster, and reduce technology worries.
By using Office 365, D 7 employees have been able to work on customer reports simultaneously rather than one at a time. “With Office 365, we’re able to smooth out our workflow and deliver final reports in one or two days instead of three to five days,” Woods says. “We are no longer handing documents off in serial fashion or rummaging through file shares.”
Storing documents in the cloud also contributes to a better quality of life for D 7 employees. “People can get out of the office at 5:00 P.M. and then pop into Office 365 to do a bit of work later in the evening,” Woods says. “Plus, with Office Web Apps, there’s no need to fiddle with document formatting when you get back to the office.”Better Customer Service
With faster report turnaround, D 7 is able to deliver better service to customers. “The ability to get a document to a customer by close of business today versus tomorrow morning can speed up a project by two or three days,” Woods says. “A customer can submit a change-order so that architects can begin implementing a change that night. Shaving hours out of document delivery time is a huge game-changer.”
Fewer Technology Worries
The boss who was worried about putting documents in the cloud? “He’s now saying, ‘Why didn’t we do this before?’” Woods says. “We’re considered industry leaders now, and my boss feels like a rock star. There’s been no conversation about whether our data is safe. Once we had it up and running, it was business as usual. Our attitude has become, if you don’t move forward, you get left behind.”
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