All Saints’ Isleworth wanted to enhance communication with its congregation and collaboration among employees and volunteers. Through the Microsoft Office 365 beta program, it is gaining the ability to share documents using a searchable, centralized repository, along with new calendaring capabilities and better tracking of email addresses. The church expects to improve efficiency, communication, and overall service while conserving costs.
All Saints’ Isleworth is a vibrant, family-oriented church that serves a community located on the Thames River in West London, England. The church serves people of all ages through baptisms, weddings, and other services; it has a special emphasis on youth programs.
The church works hard to maintain smooth operations, but that is not always easy. Its vicar, parish administrator, youth worker, and others need to ensure that all church publications, email communications to parishioners, legal documentation, and the website are kept up-to-date.
All Saints’ Isleworth had no one place for storing relevant documents; document authors kept drafts on their personal computers and shared them by sending them through email or by physically exchanging a USB drive. “If someone were on vacation, we would have no access to his or her documents, even if those documents were intended for use by multiple people,” says Mo Johnson, Parish Administrator at All Saints’ Isleworth.
||We certainly believe that adopting Office 365 will save us money, which is especially important as a church because those are resources we can instead use to support our community.
Parish Administrator, All Saints’ Isleworth
The church faced a similar problem when it came to maintaining an accurate contact list for parishioners. “Everyone kept his or her own list—there was no master list,” says Johnson. “When a member’s email address changed, a few people might make the change on their personal email lists, but we had no real way of ensuring that a message reached all the right recipients.”
All Saints’ Isleworth also sought to improve collaboration. This was especially critical for the Parochial Church Council, a 12-member group of trustees who are responsible for maintaining the legal documentation for the church. “We had version control issues because it was difficult to track who had the most up-to-date draft of our legal documents,” says Johnson. “If I wanted to read and edit the annual church report, for example, I needed to determine who ‘owned’ it and then ask that person to email it to me. I’d edit it and send it back through email or print out, edit, and hand back a paper copy. It wasn’t an efficient process, and we worried that important information would inadvertently be omitted.”Solution
All Saints’ Isleworth opted to participate in a beta program to test the features of Microsoft Office 365, a subscription service that provides cloud-based tools and hosted services for communication and collaboration. “We’re excited about being able to share information across staff and congregation with ease,” says Johnson.
In addition to the email functionality in Office 365, which is provided through Microsoft Exchange Online, the church is seeing value in the results of its testing of Microsoft SharePoint Online, which gives it a central location for easily sharing and finding documents. Although using a collaboration service represents a cultural shift for church employees, they are pleased with the ease with which they can share and maintain important information.
All Saints’ Isleworth plans to subscribe to Office 365 upon its release, after which time the church will move its existing public-facing website to Office 365 and begin using the calendaring capabilities in Microsoft Exchange Online as a reservation system for booking church rooms for community functions, a process that is currently handled manually.
The church also will display its communitywide documents by using Office Web Apps—online companions to Microsoft Office programs—so that parishioners will be able to read Microsoft Word documents or Microsoft PowerPoint presentations without needing to install those programs on their own computers.Benefits
For All Saints’ Isleworth, adoption of Office 365 will result in many positive changes, all of which will enable it to serve its community better. “By adding Office 365 capabilities, we’re going to relieve a lot of pressure and speed up our work while trimming costs,” says Reverend Anna Brooker, Vicar at All Saints’ Isleworth.
The benefits of using Office 365 include:
Increased efficiency. All Saints’ Isleworth expects that its newfound abilities to share documents, collaborate more effectively, and track room reservations will help employees be more productive and spend more time with members of the congregation. “We’ll also be able to show a level of professionalism that we feel our community will appreciate,” says Brooker.
Cost savings. The church anticipates that the benefits of moving to Office 365 will more than cover the costs of the service. “We certainly believe that adopting Office 365 will save us money, which is especially important as a church because those are resources we can instead use to support our community,” says Johnson. “We have been paying approximately [U.S.]$400 a year for website hosting, but, by using Office 365, we’ll get not just web hosting but also email, collaboration tools, and other things to help us boost productivity for roughly that same amount.”
Improved communication. Having a single source for email addresses will help the church ensure that it is communicating to its entire congregation. For example, the church’s youth worker can reach out to the congregation’s younger population by using email and other current communication tools to stay close touch. “We are an inclusive community, and we want to make sure that everyone is privy to church-related information and that nobody is left out,” says Johnson. “By using Office 365, all of us will have access to accurate information.”
Enhanced security. Data security is another aspect of the church’s adoption of Office 365. “From a compliance standpoint, we’re going to be in a better position because our documents will be safeguarded in the cloud, rather than sitting around on someone’s computer, which can be lost or stolen,” says Johnson. “There’s a certain peace of mind in knowing that our sensitive personal and financial information is better protected.”
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