Sometimes you need to step back and re-evaluate long held opinions. That's just what i3solutions, based in Sterling, Virginia did as mainstream Microsoft Gold Partner. i3solutions is a 65-person IT consultant
with both commercial and government-based customers. Though the firm is very customer-focused it needed to validate the best technology solutions for running its own internal business. The validation process included looking at Windows 7 OS, Microsoft Office
Professional Plus 2010, Office SharePoint 2010 and OpenOffice.org. The result was an overwhelming vote for Microsoft-based solutions that are saving the IT expert over $100,000 a month along with significant savings for customers as well.
i3solutions is a Microsoft Gold Partner located in Sterling, Virginia with 65 employees. The firm has an unusually comprehensive set of services that it provides to its growing book-of-business in the commercial (banks, insurance, financial services) and
government sectors (Federal Home Loan Bank and Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers).
||We estimate the overall effect of the Microsoft solution saved 30 of our technical staff up to two hours per day or over $100,000 per month because of increased productivity.
| Linc Williams
Director of Strategic Services
For example, the IT consultant not only provides basic IT solutions and support for its SMB and Enterprise-level customers, it also delivers strategic business consulting, application development, graphic design, e-business and full-time staffing solutions.
From a business perspective, i3solutions has three main areas of expertise: Portal infrastructures and knowledge management, business intelligence and reporting, and business process automation - the ability to automate and track business processes.
While the firm focuses on solving challenging customer issues, it has had some of its own.
Long Project Review Cycles
Project documents that needed review by a geographically dispersed team could often take a long time to complete the entire approval cycle. The delays were costly to the client and slowed the start of each project. Linc Williams, the Director of Strategic
Solutions at i3solutions, says:
“Because of the number of widely dispersed project team members, it could take up to 20 days to get a single document reviewed and approved. Someone was always losing in the time zone battle.”
Online Customer Engagement
If there was a way to post and manage documents online so each customer could see project progress, understand key milestones and more actively participate in the approval process, i3solutions saw it as a win-win for everyone. Williams says: “With remote
workers come two challenges: First, connectivity. Second, clear and consistent communications with clients and the team. It's not unusual to waste time with duplicated efforts.”
Numerous Project Emails
Traditionally, i3solutions relied on attaching large project documents to emails each time changes were needed and shared with a dispersed team. The result was a cache of emails and documents that consumed huge amounts of space on the server.
“A typical project could consist of documents 700 Mb or larger,” says Williams. “If the documents changed 20-30 times and were sent to six team members each time, the resulting email storage became massive. Version control was also a concern.”
Pursuit of Higher Customer Satisfaction
i3solutions carefully monitors its customer satisfaction levels with an automated ticket follow-up survey. This survey immediately captures the customer’s level of satisfaction while the project is top-of-mind. Though typical satisfaction levels of 90-92%
are achieved, i3solutions wanted to do better.
In addition, i3solutions needed to make sure it was in tune with the technology needs and directions of its government-based clients. Rumor suggested the government was seriously considering going away from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org, a free cloud-based
solution. The IT firm needed to evaluate this and other office-line offerings to keep pace with client needs.
i3solutions built a solution based on Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, Microsoft SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Workspace 2010 and Microsoft Office Web Applications. The solution provides efficient ways to manage and organize communications,
work collaboratively on client projects to complete them faster, and provides access to information while on the road. The solution enabled the i3solutions team to streamline operations, work together in new ways, and deploy cutting-edge solutions to clients
in less time and with higher levels of quality.
||Lack of true compatibility is the real, underlying problem with OpenOffice.org and similar online Office impersonators. Richly formatted documents either can't be created or don't keep formatting. Worse, some can't be opened. How can
you run a business based on unreliable documents?
| Linc Williams
Director of Strategic Services
One of the first things i3solutions did was to create a four-month evaluation test that compared Office Professional Plus 2010 to cloud-based offerings such as OpenOffice.org. Not only did the IT firm want to critically determine the best office document solution,
some of its Federal government customers were seriously considering migration to an OpenOffice.org environment. Half of the ten-person test used a specific application then switched after two months to provide a more objective evaluation.
Williams says: “Most of our organization was still using Office 2003 with Office 2007 sprinkled around so we wanted to carefully evaluate the move to the next level of office productivity tool. We devised an office software shootout to help make up our minds.”
After the test, i3solutions chose to close the door on OpenOffice.org. Williams says: “Lack of true compatibility is the real, underlying problem with OpenOffice.org and similar online Office impersonators. Richly formatted documents either can't be created
or don't keep formatting. Worse, some can't be opened. How can you run a business based on unreliable documents?”
They found that Office Professional Plus 2010 was the best and most robust office document solution because of its ease of use, familiar interface, easily discoverable features, universal compatibility and its non-reliance on unreliable Internet connections.
Overall Office Solution Savings $100,000 Per Month
With more than half of its 65 employees dedicated to IT consulting, i3solutions estimates it will save two hours a day because of increased productivity gains from Windows 7, Office Professional Plus 2010, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Workspace 2010 and Microsoft
Office Web Applications.
Williams says: “We estimate the overall effect of the Microsoft solution saved 30 of our technical staff up to two hours per day or over $100,000 per month because of increased productivity. Windows 7 and Office 2010 are better together because of features
like Jump Lists, Pinning and Snap that speed document finding and manipulation. Windows 7 Libraries makes it easy to manage each project document regardless of the type of document or where they are located on the server.”
Project Review Times Drop 90 Percent, Average $20,000 Savings
Long review times for projects taking up to 20-days to complete are now reduced 90 percent to two days thanks to Office Professional Plus 2010 and Office SharePoint 2010. Documents created in Office using Word, Excel, Visio and Project are easily posted
to the Office SharePoint site where a workflow template is used to manage the approval process efficiently. Customers and team members can coordinate workflow and deadlines with a common calendar
||The combination of Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus and SharePoint 2010 was a magical solution for us. We went from a 20-day review cycle to a 2-day review cycle saving an average of $15,000 to $20,000 per project.
| Linc Williams
Director of Strategic Services
In addition, for remote workers and geographically dispersed customers who used to have to work around time zones and intermittent Internet access, Office Professional Plus 2010, Office SharePoint 2010 and Office Web applications are a lifesaver. They can now
access SharePoint files and update documents using Office Web Apps offline, then sync as Internet connections are available. Real-time document collaboration is also very helpful to the team and customers.
With more than 80 projects a year and an average saving of $20,000 per project, the annual savings to customers is expected to be more than $1.5 million.
“The combination of Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus and SharePoint 2010 was a magical solution for us. We went from a 20-day review cycle to a 2-day review cycle saving an average of $15,000 to $20,000 per project,” says Williams. “When we save clients
this kind of money, it ultimately comes back to us because they trust us and because we can now tackle other projects and solutions that are meaningful.”
25 Percent Reduction in Email Space
The average project is over 700 pages in length and may require up to 25 email cycles to complete. File size can grow exponentially to bog down email functionality and create version control problems.
But because of Office SharePoint, the exponential build-up of large email file attachments has been significantly reduced, saving server space, eliminating version control and general confusion.
“Microsoft Office Outlook and SharePoint combine into an elegant solution we call the SharePoint Link Rule: Emails provide a specific SharePoint link rather than the document itself. We automatically avoid email threads that grow to gigabyte size in a single
day,” says Williams. “We have reduced our email attachment space by 50 percent.”
Customer Satisfaction Grows by 5 Percent
“Since we have implemented the Office solutions, customer satisfaction has increased 5 percent,” says Williams. “We are pleased but definitely not done pushing for excellence.”
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:
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Document published 03/18/11
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