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John Keells Holdings was looking for a platform that it could use as a launch pad for an enterprisewide adoption of anytime, anywhere computing, in addition to a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy. It chose Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based solution, to help the company achieve these goals. We recently spoke to Ramesh Shanmuganathan, Executive Vice President and Group Chief Information Officer at John Keells Holdings PLC, to learn how the company is benefiting from Office 365.
Q: Please tell us about John Keells Holdings PLC.
Ramesh Shanmuganathan: John Keells Holdings PLC [JKH] has been in operation since 1870. We began as a tea broking business, but today we are the largest listed conglomerate on the Colombo Stock Exchange. JKH companies, about 80 across four geographies, manage the largest number of hotel rooms in Sri Lanka, own the country’s largest privately-owned transportation business, and hold leading positions in all of Sri Lanka’s key industries. In fact, JKH’s business interests are so widely diversified in Sri Lanka that our stock price is sometimes used by international financial analysts as a benchmark of the country’s economy.
Q: Why did you want to move to cloud-based services for messaging and collaboration?
Shanmuganathan: We had been using a Lotus Notes-based email and collaboration solution since 1996, but it was no longer able to support our requirements for a collaborative platform to serve a diversified conglomerate. With more than 80 companies and an increasingly mobile and diverse workforce of 12,000, we needed to provide better communication and collaboration tools. Our 3,000 executives wanted to bring their own devices and they needed a full-featured mail service to stay connected to work while on the move. However, it was not feasible for us to provide a mailbox bigger than 100 megabytes. We faced additional difficulties with our existing solution, such as poor interoperability with other platforms, usability issues, and lack of forward-looking features and functionality. We needed a fresh approach and out-of-the-box thinking to support our growing enterprises and enable business to move at the speed our users wanted.
Q: Why did you choose Microsoft Office 365?
Shanmuganathan: Having dealt with the inefficiencies and expense of fragmented, on-premises IT solutions, and the challenges of scalability and performance, we looked at cloud-based communication and collaboration services as a preferred option. After performing an in-depth comparison between Microsoft Office 365, LotusLive, and Google Apps for Business, we chose a Microsoft solution. Office 365 is robust enough to support the needs of a large and complex conglomerate like John Keells Group. Email archiving and legal hold, customizable data retention policies, integration with Active Directory Domain Services, and Information Rights Management: these were not as as well integrated and available with the other offerings unless we purchased add-on services and/or solutions. Microsoft also had a more well-defined roadmap. We liked the option to purchase Yammer Enterprise social networking to help our diversified groups build social and business connections. We also felt that staff would have to work harder to learn a new user interface with the other offerings, and Office programs are more familiar to everyone. JKH promotes a BYOD work environment, and Office 365 supports more of the devices that we use than the others solutions we considered. Also, Office 365 suited our needs for different levels of service for executives and non-managerial staff through more flexible licensing options.
Q: How has Office 365 changed the way that people work at John Keells Holdings PLC?
Shanmuganathan: JKH employees are more mobile today. Office 365 has a superior offline work experience. Office Web Apps make it easy to work with Office files from a browser, and we can use SkyDrive Pro and Microsoft SharePoint Online sites to store data in the cloud. Forty percent of our employees work outside of the office. Now they can access their files, contacts, and colleagues-no one has to get back to the office to get something done. Office 365 is driving our work forward. Now that we have a platform for networking, we’re excited about the potential for social connections within the business. We are using instant messaging, web conferencing, browser-based real-time document collaboration, and searchable My Sites within SharePoint Online to showcase employee talents and expertise. Uncovering the huge knowledge capital that we have at JKH is a lasting benefit of Office 365.
Q: What other benefits are you seeing from Office 365?
Shanmuganathan: Now our employees in diverse organizations are working at maximum efficiency using the latest business productivity software-and we automatically receive the latest versions of the software with minimal IT administration on our part. The subscription model and interoperability with Active Directory means that we can quickly provision and retire employees, while easily tracking costs. We have been able to save a sizeable amount of capital expenditure that we otherwise would have needed for annual investments in additional compute and storage capacity. Soon, we’ll be integrating Lync Online voice capabilities to our existing voice platform; by comparison, voice capabilities in the other cloud-based offerings didn’t provide a seamless experience and presence in our opinion. With Office 365, everything is built to suit the needs of the enterprise. Adopting Office 365 was a great move for John Keells Holdings PLC, and we’re looking forward to adding more services and capabilities going forward.