Catapult Systems is an IT consulting firm that helps customers build business-critical systems with Microsoft technology. As a Microsoft National Systems Integrator, the company frequently deploys the latest available technology to understand how it will work in customer environments. With 90 percent of its employees working remotely at customer sites, Catapult Systems realized it needed to create a stronger employee community where people could share their expertise and collaborate on important company documents. The company decided to deploy a solution based around Microsoft technologies that would help employees build better relationships and provide a stronger sense of community. As a result, Catapult Systems found that employees worked better together and reduced document cycle time by 40 percent.
Catapult Systems is a national IT consulting company that provides application development, enterprise solutions, and infrastructure services. With offices in Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Washington D.C., Catapult Systems implements innovative technology solutions that enable its customers to achieve their business objectives while deriving the maximum value from their Microsoft technology investments. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, the company employs approximately 250 people.
||With Office 2010 and its interoperability with the Microsoft 2010 server applications, our employees improved their ability to work together from familiar tools they use every day.
Chief Executive Officer, Catapult Systems
At Catapult Systems, three employees make up a small IT team that supports solutions that the entire organization uses for daily business. Additionally, the team must deploy the latest technology for their consultants to help them support customers and maintain a competitive advantage. Because the consultants must remain customer-focused, the IT team must also ensure that it deploys new technologies as smoothly as possible to minimize downtime and administration. Joe Stocker, Director of IT at Catapult Systems, says, “Our customers expect us to know Microsoft technologies as soon as they are released. Our IT team also must keep our consultants up and running so they can focus on time-sensitive customer deliverables. So our small team really feels the pressure when we plan for deployment of core applications like Microsoft Office.”
Consultants at Catapult Systems spend 80 to 90 percent of their time working remotely at customer locations, so they needed a way to stay connected and productive even while they were at customer sites. Before 2010, the company deployed the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. For messaging, the company deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 email messaging and collaboration software. To provide unified communication and collaboration capabilities, such as document sharing, presence information, and instant messaging, the company deployed Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Sam Goodner, Chief Executive Officer at Catapult Systems, explains, “Office 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 R2 were game changers for our workforce. Features like presence and instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, and desktop sharing changed the way we communicated with each other.”
Although those solutions helped employees communicate better, the company still faced challenges. Executives were concerned with maintaining a sense of community for remote employees. Goodner says, “An important part of our service delivery model is based on our consultants working at customer sites. While this benefits our customer relationships, we are also aware that this model is challenging to our sense of community as an organization. We want our employees to know each other, learn from each other, and interact as a community of peers.”
In addition, account managers and consultants also experienced time delays when working together on time-sensitive customer documents, such as statements of work (SOW) and requests for proposals (RFP). Because employees are not often in the same location, they used Office SharePoint Server 2007 as a central repository to work together on documents. People responsible for adding content or feedback had to check documents in and out when it was their turn. As an alternative, employees would sometimes send documents through email for group review, but often they ended up with multiple versions or delayed responses. The company wanted a way for employees to build better relationships with their colleagues and collaborate more efficiently when producing documents.Solution
To strengthen collaboration and community in its organization and better support its customers with the latest technology, Catapult Systems decided to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010. To ensure a quick deployment once Office 2010 was released, the IT team deployed the Office 2010 beta within a pilot group to test new capabilities and explore potential solutions for the business. Within two weeks of the production release for Office 2010, Catapult Systems began deploying Office Professional Plus 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for all 250 employees.
||With co-authoring, Catapult Systems saves time and delivers SOWs and RFPs to our potential customers faster. This may give us an advantage over our competitors.
Vice President of Sales, Catapult Systems
The IT team also upgraded its communications solution by deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2010. Lync Server provides enhanced versions of the communications capabilities previously provided by Office Communications Server 2007 R2—presence, instant messaging, robust conferencing, and enterprise voice—as well as improvements in topology, deployment, and management tools. “With the updated look and feel and the new capabilities, such as application sharing and activity feeds, we get a more comprehensive communications solution,” says Stocker.Deployment
To keep employee downtime to a minimum during the Office 2010 deployment, the IT staff used different deployment techniques to cater to two separate groups of end users. For the consultants who work with the technology on a regular basis, the IT staff administered an internal file share for them to download Office 2010 on their own time. “This deployment technique was very effective for our consultants because they could work around their customer obligations and install on their own time,” says Stocker.
For back-office employees, the IT staff used Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) to deploy Office 2010. Stocker says, “App-V is how we will deploy and maintain Microsoft Office for our back-office employees from now on. It’s as simple as adding a user to the App-V user group. The next time an employee logs on, Office 2010 automatically installs in minutes without user interruption. When the employee opens a document, Office 2010 instantly takes effect. Employees do not have to click through manual installation steps. Security updates and patches are delivered in the same way.” Social-Networking Solution
To address its concerns with building a sense of community for its remote consultants, Catapult Systems provided several vehicles for professional social interaction and knowledge sharing. IT staff deployed the Microsoft Outlook Social Connector (Figure 1), which automatically appears below the reading pane in the Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging and collaboration client. Through one centralized view, employees can access up-to-date information about their colleagues, which includes everything from email threads, attachments, and upcoming meetings to status updates from colleagues located at other offices. The IT staff also connected Outlook 2010 to LinkedIn so that employees could also track contacts in their business networks.
|Figure 1. Employees view LinkedIn updates with |
With the Microsoft Lync 2010 client, employees use the Activity Feed to share status updates with colleagues, similar to social-networking sites. Employees also use the Rich Contact Card in Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 by clicking or hovering over a presence indicator to view a colleague’s details, such as office location, free and busy information, and organizational chart.
Through SharePoint Server 2010, employees can search for colleagues by skills identified in their SharePoint My Site. Stocker says, “I can type in ‘SharePoint’ and the Lync client will search the organization and show me my peers who have experience working with this technology.” (Figure 2)
Employees can also see a photo for each person in applications such as Outlook 2010, Lync 2010, and Microsoft Office Mobile 2010. Stocker says, “It might sound simplistic, but adding the photos helps us put a face to the name, which helps our remote employees get to know each other and work better together.” Co-authoring Solution
With the new co-authoring capabilities in Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010, account managers and consultants can manage the document-creation process more efficiently for customer documents like SOWs and RFPs. Employees avoid delays by simultaneously editing Office 2010 documents saved in SharePoint Server 2010. With Lync Server 2010, employees can also see presence indicators in documents to see other co-authors and know if they are available to answer questions. Mark Grimes, Vice President of Sales at Catapult Systems, says, “Co-authoring in Office 2010 is simple to use and helps us collect critical content from dispersed experts during document creation. Our account managers and remote consultants can add content on their own time or collaborate simultaneously in the same document or presentation.”
|Figure 2. Employees use Microsoft Lync 2010 |
to search for colleagues by skills.
With the early deployment of Office 2010 and the Microsoft 2010 server applications, Catapult Systems improved productivity and communication for its remote consultants, back-office employees, and IT staff. Goodner explains, “Our business is based on knowledge experts working together to solve problems for our customers. So the ability to demonstrate how our company uses the Microsoft technologies together to communicate and collaborate is an important selling point for us. However, just as important are the productivity improvements our consultants and back-office staff gain each time we upgrade.”
Helped Develop a Community
With the introduction of social-networking capabilities in Office 2010 and Lync Server 2010, remote employees communicate and collaborate better. Goodner says, “What makes a difference is the fact that the social capabilities are in applications that employees use every day. With these tools, our employees build better relationships with other knowledge specialists in the company, leading to a stronger sense of community. This not only benefits our customers, but also boosts internal morale and long-term employee retention.”
Shortened Cycle Time to Create Documents
With the co-authoring capabilities in Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010, account managers and consultants reported a reduction in the average cycle time for SOWs from five days to three days—a 40 percent savings in time. Grimes says, “With co-authoring, Catapult Systems saves time and delivers SOWs and RFPs to our potential customers faster. This may give us an advantage over our competitors.”
Reduced User Disruption During Deployments
With its new deployment strategy, IT staff reduced interruption for its employees during the deployment of Office 2010. The consultants downloaded Office 2010 on their own time, minimizing disruption of their customer responsibilities. The back-office employees logged on and App-V automatically installed Office 2010 in fewer than 10 minutes without any disruption. “The time it takes for App-V to automatically install Office 2010 represents a 35-minute improvement from the average time required for our Office 2007 deployment,” says Stocker.
Goodner adds, “This deployment seemed to be one of our smoothest and App-V played a significant role. Minimal disruption is especially important for our consultants, whose time, measured down to the hour, represents our revenue stream.”Reduced Deployment Cost
With the help of early access to Office 2010 beta and new deployment tools like App-V, the IT staff cut the time they spent deploying the solution from six weeks to three weeks. Stocker says, “We estimated a cost avoidance of [U.S.]$13,000, compared to previous deployments. With the time saved, we were able to deploy Office 2010 closer to the Microsoft release date. Because we can adopt technology earlier in the development phase, our consultants retain their trusted advisor role with our customers.”
IT staff also reported fewer help-desk tickets entered during the Office 2010 deployment. Stocker says, “We have had 60 percent fewer help-desk calls from Office 2010 compared to Office 2007. I attribute this to the File menu being added to the Ribbon, in addition to the improved continuity between file formats from Office 2007 to Office 2010.”
Goodner says, “With Office 2010 and its interoperability with the Microsoft 2010 server applications, our employees improved their ability to work together from familiar tools they use every day.”Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 gives your people powerful, timesaving tools to do their best work from more places. With new capabilities and insightful updates to Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook, Office 2010 offers the complete package—with familiar, intuitive tools. Now you can express ideas, solve problems, connect with people, and create amazing results—in the office, at home, or on the go.
For more information about Microsoft Office, go to:For More Information
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