The California Strawberry Commission (CSC) needs to deliver IT services to employees and several hundred member growers, shippers, and processors—despite an IT department made up of only one technical employee. To address this challenge, the CSC deployed Microsoft Office 365, offering highly scalable, enterprise-class IT capabilities for a minimal investment. IT staff are now more productive and can focus on projects that provide strategic value.
The California Strawberry Commission (CSC) is a resource for the California strawberry industry. The CSC works with growers, shippers, and processors of California strawberries, and other agencies to promote a stronger market by providing tools, support, and information for food safety training, marketing, and production research.
|By moving to Office 365, we can access the same feature set and provide the same enterprise-level of commitment as a much larger IT organization.|
| Stan Massat|
Information Systems Manager, California Strawberry Commission
Most CSC staff are mobile and rely on advanced communications technology to support them. However, the CSC has only one technical IT employee supported by one non-technical assistant. “Our department is responsible for developing, managing, and maintaining the CSC’s business technology, including our network infrastructure and client hardware and software,” says Stan Massat, Information Systems Manager for the California Strawberry Commission. “We also oversee the electronic gathering of crop data and business intelligence around strawberries and related commodities for our industry. That’s a lot for one IT person to take on.” This is especially true because the CSC extends its IT services to many external members. To support so many people with so few resources, the CSC has long recognized the value of cloud technologies.
An early user of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, the CSC was excited for the opportunity to upgrade when Microsoft Office 365 was released. It also saw a chance to use Office 365 to address two key business issues: the ability to scale computing resources to support as many new users as needed, and to create a common, easy-to-manage user platform based on the Microsoft Office system that would include up-to-date Microsoft Office applications. Solution
The CSC is meeting these goals by using Office 365, which unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online into one connected, online solution. The commission’s Office 365 subscription also includes Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010. “Office 365 addresses not only our immediate need to create a standardized environment that encourages collaboration but also our goals to create a unified communications system that encompasses email, instant messaging and conferencing, and document sharing and workflows,” Massat says.
In February 2012, the CSC began the migration to Exchange Online and integrated Office 365 with Active Directory Domain Services. The process required only a few weeks. The CSC plans to deploy Lync Online, including telephony integration (by working with a third-party provider), to achieve unified communications throughout the organization. The CSC will also migrate its on-premises deployment of Microsoft SharePoint Server to SharePoint Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, which it uses for customer relationship management.
Office 365 complements the commission’s existing cloud solutions, including Windows Azure SQL Reporting, which it uses to publish business intelligence to CSC members, and Windows Intune, which it uses to manage employee computers. A key goal is to move as many applications to the cloud as possible, ensuring IT scalability while minimizing IT infrastructure costs. Benefits
By adopting Microsoft Office 365, the CSC gains the following benefits:
Improved productivity. By using Office 365, the CSC greatly reduces its IT maintenance time and cost, compared with on-premises solutions. Massat notes that he was previously limited by time and budget in how effectively he could maintain the commission’s server environment. “Budgeting is always a challenge, especially for a small organization,” he says. “And I was committed to regularly upgrading our critical solutions for the bug fixes, security updates, and new features, but with just me to do the work, keeping that commitment was difficult. Cloud solutions like Office 365 are both cost-effective and always up-to-date.”
Consistent, stable pricing is also an important budgetary benefit. “With Office 365, I get the latest and greatest tools at a fraction of the traditional cost—a cost that I’m now able to predict, and having that predictability is critical for a fast-paced organization.”
Greater risk management. Office 365 helps minimize risk for the CSC in several ways. First, hardware and software are maintained in Microsoft data centers with guaranteed service level agreements. “Office 365 and online services in general are a blessing to us—a saving grace in terms of being able to keep systems up and running,” says Massat. Office 365 complements Windows Intune, which manages other security and software updates. This results in a more secure, easier-to-manage environment. “IT professionals get a lot of peace of mind when everyone is running on the same platform,” says Massat. “Having Office Professional Plus means everyone is using the latest Office applications and taking advantage of the latest features. Our staff deserves the best possible desktop user experience.” He adds that, with Windows Intune, the CSC is able to save US$30,000 annually by providing in-house desktop support for CSC users instead of using a previous outside vendor.
Advanced IT services. The CSC describes itself as a small organization with an enterprise mission, and gives Office 365 credit for helping to accomplish that mission and for giving Massat the time he needs to focus on a strategic IT vision.
Massat summarizes the challenge that the CSC faces supporting the more than 700 members who access its services. He notes that if the commission were a 700-employee company, it would have a correspondingly larger IT department. “That’s not an option for a small organization with limited resources,” he concludes. “By moving to Office 365, we can access the same feature set and provide the same enterprise-level of commitment as a much larger IT organization. That’s a success for us and our members.”
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