Lekker Food Distributors Ltd. is a supplier of fine food products, including an extensive selection of cheese and specialty meats, to retailers and restaurants in British Columbia and Alberta. Present owner, Richard van Wiltenburg, purchased the family owned and Vancouver Island operated business from his father in 1985, and is proud that, 50 years later, the company maintains its family values and philosophy to be the best at whatever they do. This attitude made his decision to upgrade the company’s technology a clear one for Richard.
The company was using an in-house single Microsoft Small Business Server with Exchange 2007, SharePoint WSS3 and Office 2003. Microsoft’s announcement that they would no longer support Office 2003 as of April 2014 introduced a host of security concerns that the company was not willing to risk. As a long standing proponent of using technology to save time and streamline processes, he recognized his existing technology infrastructure was fast becoming a barrier to his company getting ahead of the curve.
Richard wanted a long-term solution that would allow his company to stay current going forward without incurring costly hardware or software upgrades every couple of years. In addition to Office 2013, he was keen to access Exchange 2013 to support Outlook 2013 and leverage SharePoint 2013′s functionality to upgrade and manage their internal business processes. Based on these requirements, Office 365 became an obvious choice to meet his needs. The company was able to upgrade to the newest version of Office and SharePoint – and stay current in the future – without having to lay out a significant portion of cash flow up front. The monthly per-user cost provided a plethora of value, including eliminating the need to host Exchange and data on their servers. Like investing time and money to acquire up-to-date software, hosting their data off-site was “another thing the company doesn’t have to worry about anymore,” explained Richard.
Office 365′s ability to remove time-consuming business activities, and thereby streamline processes stands at the epicentre of Lekker’s decision to shift to the cloud. Another time-consuming task that small to medium businesses like Lekker face is accessing up-to-date, accurate information quickly. Remote functionality was already available on Lekker’s old system. Yet the previous method, using an SSL-VPN to access files on the file server, often felt like more of a barrier than a solution from a user perspective. Remote access was a multi-step process that Richard found was challenging to explain, and difficult for some people to remember. Office 365′s ability to make information and tools accessible remotely via an uncomplicated process worked for Lekker. “Instructing a person to visit a web portal and type in their login credentials is easy to explain, and even easier to remember,” says Richard.
Setting up and populating shared calendars and contact lists in Office 365′s SharePoint platform provided Lekker with “one version of the truth” in the office and out in the field. If a workstation blue screens or a laptop charging cord is left behind at the office, staff can still open and edit documents using web tools available on multiple devices – including tablets, and even smart phones. “And the fact that my sales people can access information from anywhere, even from an iPad on the road, using a website, is huge.” And if a device is lost, there is peace of mind knowing that security is not compromised.
“SharePoint is a better way of sharing of files. It looks nicer, is more visual and better organized,” explains Richard. Lekker staff also expressed relief that they do not have to learn a whole new program with a brand new interface, as SharePoint integrates with familiar Microsoft Office tools like Microsoft Outlook. With that said, Richard acknowledged there were concerns amongst the staff with migrating to the new Office 2013 software from Office 2003. Understandably, a decade worth of changes to the programs may prevent the team from hitting the ground running on their first day back in the office after the migration was complete. As the migration was taking place on a weekend, a plan needed to be in place for the Monday morning to run smoothly.
Richard recognized the value of training and the return on investment that would result from providing his staff with exposure to the new Office 2013 interface before Deployment Day. On the Friday before the migration took place, four presentation-style sessions were arranged at the Lekker office for the staff to attend. The two-hour live demo provided an introduction to the Office 2013 Interface which included a detailed overview of the Ribbon interface. Additionally the sessions were designed to clarify that the changes to the interface were significantly less challenging than general hype suggested. The sessions also allowed staff to see the new bells and whistles that would be available to them in Outlook, Word and Excel 2013, and pick up a handful of tips and tricks to make their jobs easier. Finally, each session concluded with a ten minute overview of what to expect on Deployment Day – from how to login, access the programs, and work with the lead tech support for the project to ensure their environments were configured to meet their needs.
For the migration process, itgroove’s in-house Office 365 specialist and Exchange whiz, Jeremy Dahl was able to use the built in Exchange migration tools in Office 365 to copy all their mailboxes from their Exchange server into Exchange Online without interrupting mail flow or traffic. When the time came to go flip the switch and move completely to Exchange Online, mail MX records were pointed to Office 365, and users began receiving email in their newly migrated mailboxes within several hours. At the same time, the migration wizard kept synchronizing any email that ended up on their Exchange servers during the transition, so nothing was missed. Because all of the users accessed email through Terminal Services, Jeremy reconfigured each user’s Outlook profiles over the weekend, and then went onsite Monday morning to make sure that staff were able to access their email, and deal with any glitches or hiccups that cropped up.
The end result was a smooth transition where the client felt supported through every step of the process. Richard and his team looks forward to moving into the next phase of the process – which involves further training on how to harness the full functionality of SharePoint via setting up document templates in the system and designing workflows to automate existing business processes. They are already beginning to use Lync to communicate easily and quickly with each other in the office, as well as (and maybe most importantly) with their staff who are accessing the systems remotely.