Guardian Industries—connect, collaborate and innovate from anywhere

Today’s post about Office 365 was written by Chuck Wiggins, infrastructure director at Guardian Industries Corporation.

Chuck Wiggins pro pixGuardian Industries and its family of companies employ 17,000 people and operate facilities throughout North America, Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Our vision is to create value for customers and society through constant innovation using fewer resources. We pride ourselves on pulling together as one team to make the world a better place.

Operating as one team with three business units across diverse product lines (glass, automotive and building products) and so many locations is not always easy. Microsoft Office 365 is turning out to be a critical asset in bringing employees together in real-time to help us out-innovate our competition.

We recently added Skype for Business Online PSTN Conferencing to Office 365 and find the simplicity, convenience and cost savings a real benefit. We’ve always used third-party web conferencing products, but employees are increasingly mobile and can’t always get to an internet connection to join a call. We provided an audio conferencing alternative, but this product wasn’t well integrated into our environment, and employees often forgot their conference IDs. There’s nothing more frustrating than fumbling for a number when you need to jump on a call.

When we first deployed Office 365 to more than 6,500 knowledge workers, almost immediately they started using Skype for Business Online for instant messaging, point-to-point telephony and meetings. But when PSTN Conferencing came out, we saw it as a way to further streamline our IT environment, reduce our web and audio conferencing costs and simplify life for employees.

With PSTN Conferencing integrated into Skype for Business Online, employees can join calls using Android and iOS smartphones, the Skype for Business client or a landline and collaborate with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It’s very easy with Skype for Business Online to fire up an ad hoc meeting, have an audio or video conference call, share a screen. Real-time collaboration is always more effective than emails. When you improve collaboration efficiency, you speed up whatever you’re working on—designing a product, finalizing a report, resolving a customer issue.

In addition to enabling greater real-time collaboration across a global workforce, we’re reducing our conferencing costs by 75 percent by replacing our third-party conferencing providers with PSTN Conferencing. And we expect travel costs to continue to drop as the use of Skype for Business Online becomes the default option for getting together with colleagues.

There’s less configuration and management work for my staff, because employee setup on PSTN Conferencing involves simply clicking one more box in the Office 365 admin portal. No more password resets, either. Once an employee’s Office 365 account is enabled for PSTN Conferencing, he or she can access that service with no additional account and password to maintain.

Employees just plug in their USB headsets and they’re good to go. We’ve distributed Plantronic speaker phones and headsets to all our PSTN Conferencing users and have experimented with Polycom phones and video systems. The Microsoft-certified hardware really complements the Skype for Business Online experience.

Since we began using Office 365 we’ve been amazed at all the new functionality that Microsoft has rolled out. It’s exciting to see, and even more exciting to see the creative ways our employees are using it. We’ve seen Yammer grow organically on its own, and there’s a lot of interest in Microsoft SharePoint Online, which delivers a level of availability that we can’t achieve with our on-premises SharePoint Server infrastructure.

We’ve enabled 6,500 employees for Skype for Business Online meetings and have eliminated third-party products. In addition, we’ve enabled 600 employees for PSTN Conferencing, and I see that number growing. Our employees continue to find new ways to use Office 365 services to create, connect, collaborate and innovate at a faster pace. And that helps Guardian Industries be more successful.

—Chuck Wiggins