4-page Case Study - Posted 4/22/2011
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IT Firm Boosts Lead Generation by 30 Percent, Eases Updates with New Website
Avanade, a technology consulting firm, needed to improve its website to better reflect its brand image. The firm relied on outsourcing and a highly manual process for content updates. Avanade chose Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites as the foundation for a new website that provides prospective customers and potential employees with current information about the firm’s services and solutions. Avanade has deployed 23 country-specific sites and publishes content in ten languages. Content owners update the sites easily, keeping information fresh and relevant. The firm saves 20 to 30 hours each month on web content management tasks. Avanade has also seen a 30 percent increase in the number of sales and recruiting leads that are generated through its website. Situation
Avanade is a business technology services consulting firm that specializes in helping enterprises implement Microsoft technologies to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve customer relations. With deep expertise in Microsoft technologies, the firm offers a range of IT services and solutions, including business intelligence; collaboration; customer relationship management; enterprise resource planning; outsourcing; application development; and technology infrastructure. Avanade was founded in 2000 and over the past 11 years has become a global firm with more than 10,000 employees working in more than 60 locations worldwide.
Between 2000 and 2009, Avanade grew from approximately 10 to 20 percent each year and also significantly expanded its expertise. In 2008, the firm realized that it needed to update its website to successfully communicate the skills, services, and business solutions it offers to a global audience. “We had to position ourselves better in order to reflect the breadth and depth of our expertise in this highly competitive market,” says Michelle Faust, Director of Integrated Marketing at Avanade.
||With SharePoint Server 2010, we are confident that all our sites are publishing locally relevant, timely, corporate-approved content.
Director, Integrated Marketing, Avanade
“The previous site architecture and model was quite static,” says Faust. “It was more of a product brochure library.” The Avanade web content management system was custom-built and difficult to use, site navigation was cumbersome for users, and the site also did not achieve high rankings in search engines because content wasn’t tagged with descriptive metadata. “Instead of relying on navigation, which was very challenging, visitors would try to find what they were looking for by entering a term in the site’s search field,” says Faust. Avanade also measured the bounce rate for the site (that is, the number of visitors who leave the site after viewing only one or two pages) and it was high—“approximately 60 percent,” says Faust.
Avanade needed to ensure that prospective clients could easily find the information they needed. “We knew from our research that we needed to appeal equally to technology and business decision makers,” says Faust. “We wanted a visitor to be able to navigate the site based on a business need or on a particular solution or technology that could fulfill a business need.” It was also crucial that the site cater to potential employees. Avanade prides itself on the insight, innovation, and deep technical knowledge that its employees offer its clients and the firm wanted to continue to add high-caliber employees to its roster. “We look for a breadth of employees from entry-level college graduates to managers and senior executives. Having the right talent is key to meeting our growth targets,” says Faust.
“We need to attract new employees who possess a passion for technology,” adds Kevin Dana, VP of IT Enterprise Applications at Avanade. “The best way to connect with people who have this passion is to demonstrate our own technical capabilities. But our web platform was outdated and it made it difficult for us to effectively showcase our leadership and expertise.”
Avanade also relied on an external vendor to maintain its website, which further complicated its marketing efforts and drained its budget. Without a web content management system, updating content was time-consuming and expensive. “Even the simplest updates required that we work through the agency,” says Faust. The lack of powerful collaboration, editing, and workflow capabilities was especially daunting because Avanade had 14 country sites publishing websites in seven different languages. Simple but essential capabilities were missing. For instance, content owners were not able to preview content before it was published to the external website. “If a country site used the wrong font or stretched a logo out of proportion, we could not catch the mistake until after the fact,” says Faust.
Dana adds, “We needed to adopt a web platform that supported the marketing department, could be managed in-house, required little IT intervention, and could be expanded to meet other needs within the organization.”Solution
In early 2009, Avanade chose Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 as the foundation for its new website. “SharePoint Server 2010 offered a great combination of out-of-the-box features and support for application customization,” says Dana. Avanade especially liked SharePoint Server 2010 support for multilingual websites, integrated workflow, and managed metadata. Plus, the solution had “many other features we felt we could take advantage of over time.” Avanade is also in the process of deploying an intranet based on SharePoint Server 2010. “Using SharePoint Server 2010 as a foundational platform, we can standardize our content and application delivery—for both customers and employees.”
GreenRubino, a Seattle-based integrated marketing agency, created the user experience design for the new site and provided information architecture guidance. “GreenRubino is a very strategic partner for us,” says Faust. “The firm provides essential information architecture, user experience design, and creative support.” The new Avanade site features streamlined navigation and an uncluttered interface. Developers used the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development system, SharePoint Server 2010 out-of-the-box Web Parts, Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010, and Microsoft Expression Blend 4 to create a rich, interactive user experience. The home page features animated short scenes that take advantage of the Microsoft Silverlight 3 browser plug-in. Each animated scene culminates in a call-to-action such as viewing Avanade job openings or learning more about the firm’s expertise in cloud computing (see Figure 1).
|Figure 1. Avanade home page with Silverlight module.|
The firm also customized an out-of-the-box SharePoint Server 2010 component for displaying video with a stylish, Avanade-branded appearance, and used a third-party user interface control to customize drop-down navigation menus. “We took the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint Server 2010 and customized them to meet the exact requirements of our design,” says Chris Dressler, Chief Technology Officer at GreenRubino.
Streamlined Web Content Management
Avanade also took advantage of out-of-the-box SharePoint Server 2010 web content management features, such as master pages and page layouts, to create site templates that include the Avanade site design and style guidelines. Using a web-based text editor that includes the familiar Ribbon feature, part of the Microsoft Office Fluent interface, content owners can add or edit site content. The Ribbon supports a range of native languages, and changes can be made in real time, without help from the IT department. “The Ribbon provides a consistent authoring experience,” says Chad Berg, IT Program Manager at Avanade. “This is imperative for training our global content owners.”
Avanade uses out-of-the-box SharePoint Server 2010 workflow to initiate updates and to ensure that content is published in a consistent manner. When an authorized user (who is validated through the system’s out-of-the-box claims-based security model) edits a page on the site, changes are routed to a series of approvers, including copywriters, editors, designers, and marketing managers. The core marketing team, which is based in Seattle, receives an email notification each time a country site modifies website content and the team must approve the update before it is published.
With the site variations feature of SharePoint Server 2010, content is disseminated from the main site to individual country sites. “We use SharePoint site variations extensively to make content available to our country sites,” explains Berg. Global changes (such as modifying site navigation or adding a description of a new Avanade service offering) are automatically propagated to all the sites. Some content, such as a job posting or the results of a research study, are published in English and individual site owners can choose to translate and publish the content if it is pertinent to their location.
Tools to Connect with Visitors
||We had to position ourselves better in order to reflect the breadth and depth of our expertise in this highly competitive market.
Director, Integrated Marketing, Avanade
Avanade also uses managed metadata in SharePoint Server 2010 to centrally define taxonomies for its website content to help users find information quickly. Avanade can easily manage and apply tags to website content, and deliver more context-sensitive information. Managed metadata also helps increase search engine visibility, which in turn helps attract visitors to the Avanade site.
The solution also includes tools for managing leads. When a visitor sends an email to Avanade through the Contact Us feature of the website, the message is sent to a SharePoint list and an Avanade employee is notified. Using a dashboard interface based on SharePoint Server 2010, the employee can view the leads and forward the information to the appropriate department, for example, sales or recruiting. Avanade has begun to integrate the website with its customer relationship management system, to further enhance the Avanade response rates.
Lead generation is also propelled by the site’s connection to popular social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter. Avanade used configurable SharePoint Web Parts to connect to these third-party social networking sites and plans to soon add more social media capabilities. “We’ve helped Avanade integrate some first-phase social networking,” says Dressler. In an upcoming phase, Avanade will extend the site’s blog capability to expand the community-centered aspects of the site. Comprehensive IT Architecture
Avanade relies on a comprehensive IT architecture for its SharePoint Server 2010 solution that incorporates a number of Microsoft products and technologies. The environment includes three server farms: an authoring farm, a publishing farm, and a disaster recovery farm. The IT team uses the content deployment feature of SharePoint Server 2010 to schedule and manage the publishing of content across all three farms. Avanade created a virtualized environment using the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology, and protects its SharePoint servers from viruses, malicious software (malware), and other unwanted Internet content with Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint and Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010.
Finally, Avanade monitors, manages, and backs up the IT environment using Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007, the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Products Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager 2007, and Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010. “Microsoft System Center products provide us with monitoring and escalation capabilities that help our support teams respond quickly and accurately to incidents, and maintain the tight service level agreements we’ve established for our Internet solution. We also benefit from a broad set of recovery options that allow us to provide responsive recovery support to our global content owners,” says Berg.
The new Avanade website was launched in September 2010 with content management support from 18 offices around the world supporting 23 country sites that are published in 10 different languages.Benefits
Avanade used SharePoint Server 2010 to create a compelling website that attracts prospective customers and potential employees. Content owners can update the site quickly and the solution is highly scalable. The IT department can easily deploy new country sites as Avanade grows.
Stronger Image, 30 Percent Higher Lead Generation
Avanade used SharePoint Server 2010 to tailor its website to prospective customers and potential employees who are seeking a highly experienced technology consultancy. The firm keeps its site up-to-date in many different languages using SharePoint Server 2010. “The country sites can now look to the main English language site and pick and choose the content they want to publish to keep their sites fresh,” explains Faust. The system automatically notifies members of the core marketing team in Seattle when a country site publishes new content. The team reviews the changes to ensure that any changes meet corporate brand and marketing guidelines. “With SharePoint Server 2010, we are confident that all our sites are publishing locally relevant, timely, corporate-approved content,” says Faust.
||We took the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint Server 2010 and customized them to meet the exact requirements of our design.
Chief Technology Officer, GreenRubino
Avanade also can easily post news and announcements on any of its country sites—almost instantly. In December 2010, the firm’s Nordic region offices launched an advertising campaign for recruiting new employees. Avanade developed a promotional graphic that featured the creative design of the print ad and posted it to the home pages of its Nordic country sites, so that visitors could easily find featured job opportunities.
Fresher, more engaging and effective website content and calls-to-action like this have helped Avanade boost the number of leads—for both prospective customers and potential employees—that it generates from its website. “Since launching our site on SharePoint Server 2010, one of the most dramatic improvements we have seen is that the number of leads we generate through the website has increased by 30 percent.” Avanade has also decreased the bounce rate on its website since implementing the new solution.Streamlined Content Management
The new web content management solution has helped Avanade significantly streamline website management and maintenance. The firm has transferred management of the website from the external agency to its internal IT team, which has reduced outsourcing costs. Content owners now perform most updates themselves, so there is no added burden on the IT department. Says Faust, “The amount of time that our IT and marketing staff spends on content-related changes is dramatically less costly than what we were paying the agency to do. Each month, we are saving approximately U.S.$5,000 on agency fees. But all told, we are also saving approximately 20 to 30 hours per month on content updating tasks with SharePoint Server 2010.” Faust also says, “We completed and posted the ad for the Nordic regions in just a few days. With our previous site, an update like that would have taken a few weeks.”
Keeping costs low is important to Avanade, but of even greater importance is the fact that streamlined web content management frees time for Avanade to focus on strategic work. “Thanks to using SharePoint Server 2010, we are able to spend less time updating content and more time on bigger things like deploying a new country site. And now, we can deploy a new site, end-to-end, with translated content, and including training for content owners, in two to three weeks instead of months,” says Dana.
Berg adds, “Using SharePoint Server 2010, Visual Studio 2010, and SharePoint Designer 2010, we provide a web content management environment that enables content creators to focus on their content and not the process.”
Standardized, Flexible Environment
From a design perspective, the new solution offers the flexibility Avanade needed to bring the vision it had for its website to life. “With SharePoint Server 2010, designers can create a great user experience without worrying that technology limitations will impede their design,” says Dressler. “We are able to be broad and creative with SharePoint Server 2010 and not have to continually tap our developers on the shoulder to see if they will be able to implement certain aspects of our design. With SharePoint Server 2010, we save at least 25 percent of our time because we can avoid the back-and-forth between designers and developers. There is so much available out-of-the-box in SharePoint Server 2010 that we really can be creative without making tradeoffs.”
Further, because Avanade uses SharePoint Server 2010 for its website and its intranet, “we have become very standardized in how we create and deliver applications,” says Dana.
Avanade uses SharePoint Server 2010 in conjunction with other Microsoft products and technologies, such as Microsoft System Center and Microsoft Forefront solutions, to ensure top performance and easy manageability. “Using the complete Microsoft stack has been a tremendous benefit for Avanade,” says Berg. “Microsoft products work well together and this has resulted in a very straightforward experience. This SharePoint Server 2010–based website showcases our firm’s expertise in implementing solutions that use the latest Microsoft technologies. We’ve really increased the Avanade value proposition with this project.”
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the enterprise and the web.
For more information about Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, go to:For More Information
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