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"When we reviewed our options, Microsoft presented the best overall solution combination including ease of integration with our existing infrastructure, cost savings, and a short learning curve which allowed us to still reach our project goal date despite getting the servers two weeks before our deadline.”
Andre Thompson

Edulink is an initiative that funds cooperative projects between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the 15 EU member States that are signatories to the 9th European fund (EDF).
The University of the West Indies (UWI) and other ACP HEIs collaborated in a partnership arrangement to initiate the Edulink funded project entitled.

“Capacity Building for the Financial Sustainability
of ACP HEIs.”



The project entailed strengthening the capacity of the member universities in the area of financial sustainability through the design and implementation of a professional development programme (PDP) on resource mobilization.

This project was led by the University of the West Indies and involved all of its campuses and the other partners including - The University of Technology - Jamaica, The University of Mauritius, The University of Belize, The University of the South Pacific, The University of Guyana, The University of Warwick and The University of Suriname.


The University of the West Indies [UWI] through a winning proposal presented by the Business Development Office, (amidst international competition) secured this Edulink funded project, based on the system architecture and design of the proposed virtual office, and selected seven universities from the main ACP region to partner with in this exciting project.



In determining the requirements of the virtual office, the team first examined the components found in regular office environments keeping in mind that this office also needed to facilitate cross campus training.

In the design and implementation of the professional development program on resource mobilization, the team took into consideration the following:

  • Learning goals
  • Supporting trainers and trainee needs
  • Ensuring that both trainers and administrators worked together in the planning and implementation.


  • With technology advancing rapidly project designers wanted to take advantage of the technology available for communication including:

  • Email
  • Video conferencing
  • Teleconferencing
  • Instant messaging
  • Web conferencing and
  • A Data repository for both storing and sharing information





  • “Our major hurdle was the varying bandwidths within countries,” said Thompson. From the inception of the project, plans were carefully detailed and mapped out and all involved felt pretty comfortable that target deadlines would be met.

    Missing in every project implementation is the ability to see into the future and determine in advance what might happen. The team faced their biggest challenge as the servers arrived with only two weeks to deadline.

    However with the short learning curve, the chosen Microsoft solution allowed for ease of implementation and afforded the team the good fortune of STILL meeting the completion target date!



    The Microsoft virtualization solution was a key part of the UWI business strategy of „Best Cost Initiative‟. It was based not just on cutting costs for its own sake, but about looking at where the money was being spent and finding ways to leverage the investment to best serve all countries involved.

    With the cost savings, this project team was able to reinvest and further enhance the offering…yet another PLUS, considering the fact that cost overruns are common to technology projects!

    “Virtualization definitely helped us to maximize the value of our IT investments.” Thompson added.

    Microsoft.com also offered valuable information and because of the Microsoft Campus Agreement, Licenses were already available so very little had to be invested in obtaining additional licenses.


    UWI‟s approach to Integrated Collaboration utilized the stack of Windows server 2008, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.

    The Microsoft Office System, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 provided a level of advanced collaboration and workflow features that were unmatched in terms of functionality and integration.

    Combined with the Microsoft Office productivity suite and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, users had access to the data gathered within a familiar interface.



    The team is definitely going to take a look at Mr. Thompson reflected that everything Microsoft said with regard to their offerings was lived up to.

    “The appeal of Microsoft‟s solutions stack was not just the functionality and scope of the total solution but the ability to take key elements of the stack and integrate them into our existing communications environment,” Thompson added.

    • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 gives organisations an advanced messaging solution based on a reliable server system renowned for scalability, reliability and low management costs.

    • The unified messaging capabilities built into Exchange Server 2007 offer organisations a chance to boost productivity and reduce management effort.
      Exchange Server 2007 opens the door to advanced presence-based collaboration with instant messaging and click-to-call functionality.

    • Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 is a powerful, secure and highly scalable solution that provides not only instant messaging and presence but also conferencing and VOIP capabilities, all accessible from the Microsoft Office Communicator interface.
    Customer Profile:
    The University has expanded to four campuses that serve diverse communities across the Caribbean region - Cave Hill in Barbados, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Mona in Jamaica and the Open Campus - all of which deliver high-quality education, research and services to all 15 contributing countries that support the University, as well as the Turks & Caicos Islands.

    Situation:
    Setting up a fully equipped virtual office to facilitate cross campus training.
    Solution:
    Microsoft Exchange Server and Office Communication Server 2007 , Windows Server 2008
    Benefits:
    Anywhere access to email, voice and chat, messaging protection, data repository for storing and sharing, train the trainer capabilities.
     
     

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