Architectural firm adopts operating system, Runs CAD Software Easily
Based in London, Make is an award-winning international practice that designs complex and iconic buildings. The firm is 100 percent owned by its 134 employees and has seen continual growth by ensuring it had the best technology in place. It sought to create a stronger image and an enjoyable front desk experience for its clients. In May 2012, Make got the opportunity to use two tablets running the Windows 8 Pro operating system. It also ran Windows 8 Pro on two desktop computers. The receptionist replaced her iPad with a tablet, which made it much easier to accomplish daily tasks. The firm tested the operating system by installing its line-of-business software—including computer-aided design software—on it. Employees are delighted with the interface, speed, and reliability of the operating system. Make benefits from an enhanced reception area, an outstanding user experience, support for its architectural needs, and improved productivity.
Make is engaged in a broad selection of projects worldwide, including urban master plans, a state-of-the-art children’s hospital, and luxury private houses. The firm is 100 percent owned by its 134 employees, a successful business model that supports a collaborative working environment with a united sense of purpose and commitment, enabling it to attract high-quality talent.
““The benefits of Windows 8 Pro are great. It’s certainly got the ‘wow’ factor. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Mark Read, IT Manager, Make.
“We are passionate about delivering sustainable buildings and are currently working across all sectors in the United Kingdom, from mixed-use towers to commercial developments,” says Mark Read, IT Manager of Make. “We designed one of the largest straw-bale structures, the Gateway Building, for the University of Nottingham and the 2012 Handball Arena at Olympic Park in London. Everyone at Make shares in the profits, with no exception. This model has proved very successful. We all own the business and believe in it. It’s a fantastic and exciting place to work.”
Because the firm is small, it’s nimble and can easily adapt to new technology. Three IT professionals manage its technology infrastructure. It had previously outsourced its IT operations, but as of June 2012, it is bringing its operations in house. Its 125 PCs run the Windows 7 64-bit operating system. It also has a local area network and data storage facilities. The firm is about to migrate to Microsoft Exchange 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, and it uses Microsoft SharePoint 2010 team services and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software. Its designers use Macintosh computers.
The firm is engaged in many projects—including numerous projects in China—and is quite busy. Its London headquarters is growing so fast that it has almost outgrown its offices. As an architectural firm with a focus on the highest aesthetics, it sought to improve its reception area with technology that would impress clients and visitors with its power, mobility, design, and sophistication. It operates sophisticated design software and needs computers that start quickly and run flawlessly. It wanted to ensure that it had the most advanced technological infrastructure.
In May 2012, Make received an offer from Modern Networks, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, to use two tablets running a prerelease version of Windows 8 Pro. “As a young company, Make is keen to try the latest and greatest technology,” says Read. “When we got the chance to test the Windows 8 Pro operating system, we set out to use it with software platforms that we’re currently integrating into the company.”
One tablet is used in the reception area, and is connected to the company network through Domain join, a Windows 8 Pro feature that helps connect to business networks. Formerly, the receptionist had been using an iPad connected through the extranet; she had to use Microsoft Outlook Web Access to access email, which was slow. “When the tablet with Windows 8 Pro arrived, it connected instantly and wirelessly to our local area network,” says Read. “As soon as the receptionist opened the Windows Internet Explorer 10 browser, she was logged on to the firm’s domain. We had to set up Microsoft Exchange Server, but it downloaded quickly and now she can access her email directly. She doesn’t have to wait for pages to download in SharePoint. She can view all the meeting rooms, which are booked through the intranet, and easily view the appointment calendar.”
The Make receptionist carries her tablet with her at all times. She’s always connected to the network, and Windows 8 Pro is stable and reliable—unlike the iPad, which had inconsistent performance. She also has access to all the Microsoft Office 2010 applications. By using the tablet, the receptionist is able to acknowledge and guide each visitor. Clients and employees come to the reception area and notice the tablet. “It’s been a bit of a talking point,” says Read. “People say, ‘What is that?’ Everyone is used to the iPad, but they’re not familiar with one of these devices. The speed and design of the tablet makes a big impression.”
Make uses a second tablet running Windows 8 Pro during business meetings. They plug it in to the projector and install computer-aided design (CAD) software and other complex design programs. “Employees in meetings are freed from sitting behind a desktop workstation to operate the projector,” says Read. “They can move the tiles and do whatever they want to do by using the touch screen on the tablet.”
Several staff members at Make have experimented with the tablet. People have been testing it and sharing their experiences with colleagues. They interact with the tablet in multiple ways. “Some people like using the stylus to draw with—especially with design software,” says Read. “I like the touch keyboard because it’s easy, and I walk around with the tablet a lot.”
Users personalize the Windows 8 Pro Start screen and take advantage of tiles to get real-time updates and to stay organized. They’ve quickly become accustomed to swiping gestures that can be used to minimize or move applications. “When you first use Windows 8 Pro, you’ve got all these tiles in front of you and you think, ‘Oh, what’s this?’ But within an hour, you get quite used to it,” says Read. “It’s a simple matter to move things around, and you can set up the Start screen however you wish. At first, I wondered where the Start menu was, but basically, your desktop is your Start menu. I’ve got everything on it. Just click an application and off you go.”
Architects can run a three-dimensional model on the tablet and rotate it by swiping fingers across the screen. “We can zoom in and out of a model, move a model, rotate it, draw a line with a finger, and so on,” says Read. “It is quite exciting.”
The firm’s Business and Information Systems Coordinator plans to investigate the Metro apps available in the Windows Store, and develop an app that showcases the firm, its projects, and their locations. He is also creating an app for Windows 8 Pro that loads panoramic images of buildings or architectural models. By using the tablet’s gyroscope, the app makes it possible for users to explore 360-degree scenes by moving and rotating the device in any direction. “Imagine that you’re standing in the middle of a street and looking at an old building that’s due to be redeveloped or refurbished,” says Rob Thursfield, Microsoft Alliance Manager and Senior Account Manager at Modern Networks. “The application provides a 360-degree panorama of the existing building with the new designs carefully placed on top. You can physically look around the scene with the tablet in your hands and discover what the new building will look like. It presents a mobile view of what Make achieves in the design world. It’s very clever.”
Besides using the two tablets, the firm is running two other computers with Windows 8 Pro, and it has installed all the software that Make typically operates on those machines. “I didn’t want Windows 8 Pro with just Microsoft Office installed on it,” says Read. “I wanted Windows 8 Pro with everything that we use on it—to get the full experience. It’s working perfectly with our existing hardware and infrastructure.”
The Business and Information Systems Coordinator runs Windows 8 Pro on his portable computer, and he has installed proprietary line-of-business applications on it. On another HP desktop computer used by architects, Windows 8 Pro interoperates with our CAD software and other third-party software. “It’s fundamental that any operating system that we use work with our CAD and visualization software,” says Read. “Windows 8 supports all of our applications, which means we can do our jobs with even greater speed and flexibility.”
By using Windows 8 Pro on tablets and other computers in its offices, Make benefits from a revitalized front office in which clients ask to see the device. The firm’s employees have embraced the intuitive interface. The operating system is stable and easily interoperates with sophisticated line-of-business software. Make plans to standardize on Windows 8 Pro because of the fast performance and mobile capabilities that have resulted in productivity improvements. For Make, Windows 8 Pro represents best-in-class technology. “The benefits of Windows 8 Pro are great,” says Read. “It’s certainly got the ‘wow’ factor. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Adopting the tablet has dramatically changed the front office environment at Make. The receptionist now has a reliable computer that is always connected and gives her access to everything she needs, no matter where she is in the office. “Our receptionist has really gotten used to the tablet, and she’s swiping quite happily between pages,” says Read. “Visitors are taking a look at it and playing with it, which is what we want. It’s a really impressive device. It’s quite an eye-opener.”
Provides User-Friendly Experience
Staff members adapted very quickly to the Windows 8 Pro interface, and everyone noticed how fast and stable the operating system is. Even after installing all the firm’s line-of-business applications on the tablets, Make experienced no problems with the performance. “We’ve installed our entire standard build on Windows 8 Pro, and it has really impressed us,” says Read. “The experience has been delightful for all of our staff, and it has changed the way our whole office works. The applications are familiar and the interface is quite easy to use. Our people just ran with it.”
Supports Architectural Applications
By using tablets running Windows 8 Pro, Make can perform architectural modeling in a way that previous technology did not allow. “We were quite happy—overwhelmed, actually—when we installed the CAD software on the tablet and it worked straight away,” says Read. “Windows 8 Pro has made it possible to do architectural workloads on a tablet. This gives us tremendous freedom to do what we need to do.”
The firm is also realizing business efficiencies by running design software on the tablet. “What we can do with Windows 8 Pro we can’t do with anything else,” says Read. “We can’t do it with an iPad. It’s not powerful enough. But Windows 8 Pro is very, very fast. The ease with which it connects to the network, runs software, and accesses information off the network is quite something. We’re achieving significant productivity advantages.”
After trying Windows 8 Pro on tablets, the firm plans to adopt the solution companywide. With Windows 8 Pro, Make can offer the right kind of technology infrastructure to support its goals. And because most everything that runs on Windows 7 also runs on Windows 8 Pro, it will be easy for the firm to transition. “The more staff members who are using Windows 8 Pro, the better it is for Make,” says Read. “It’s outstanding how robust the operating system is. It’s just as fast as a desktop computer and it’s mobile. It’s the way to go.”
Built on the solid foundation of Windows 7, Windows 8 couples familiar Microsoft solutions with modern devices. Windows 8 helps people unleash their full potential by enabling a seamless connection to information. With full-screen immersive apps, built-in endpoint protection, strong authentication, and data encryption, Windows 8 provides a great user experience along with a more secure and manageable IT environment.