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The Walsh Group: Construction leader builds in flexibility and streamlines IT with Office 365 ProPlus

Today’s post was written by Patrick Wirtz, Innovation Manager for The Walsh Group.

Picture of Patrick Wirtz, Innovation Manager for The Walsh GroupWhen most people think about the construction industry, they picture steel beams, huge cranes, and rivet guns. Although those are still some of the tools of the trade, they represent only a fraction of what we need for a successful project. For example, today at the Walsh Group, we trim days off construction schedules by using laser scanning instead of traditional surveys and by using GPS to ensure that our pavers produce the right slopes and angles.

Those advancements aren’t the only game changers for us. In fact, one of the most important technology decisions we made was to adopt Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, which is a version of Microsoft Office delivered as a service through Office 365 but installed on your desktop or device. You might not think that having cloud-based versions of productivity applications would make a difference. But it gives our engineers and tradespeople the ability to easily work from anywhere, and it nearly eliminates the time and energy that our IT staff has to put into upgrades and updates.

Perhaps the most helpful ProPlus feature for us is Click-to-Run, which helps us get the latest and greatest version of Office out to the field right away. With it, we can turn on new feature sets and push out updates with one quick step. Because there’s no environment for us to set up, we can be more nimble in giving employees efficiencies that help them every day.

Picture of Walsh Group logo

Chicago, Illinois–based general contracting, construction management, and design services firm that builds airports, highways, stadiums, bridges, and other large-scale projects.

Nobody wants to wait for their PC or mobile device to install huge updates—the incremental updates we get with ProPlus mean no waiting. In this new scenario, our employees always have up-to-date tools, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back in time. We now can use Click-to-Run to keep earlier versions of Office alongside the new ones. That side-by-side capability helps employees avoid compatibility issues and be faster and more efficient as they work.

For our initial deployment, we used not only ProPlus support for Group Policy but also telemetry support, which we’d never done before. It was helpful to get insights into how our employees like to work and business needs before we deployed. That gave us the opportunity to proactively identify a handful of files that would be incompatible and provide workarounds in advance. As a result, employees experienced far fewer frustrations as we made the transition. I appreciate features that empower our IT team to increase employee acceptance and adoption the way that these do.

Employees here at the Walsh Group love that they can use the same ProPlus account on up to five devices, giving them the same Office tools on their work and home computers, tablets, and mobile devices. And it doesn’t matter if those devices are from Microsoft or not. I use a Windows Phone and Surface tablet, but the majority of our project managers have their own personal iPads. Regardless, they can work however and wherever they naturally want to work, whether it’s at a job site or at home with the kids. It’s nice for all of us to avoid dealing with versioning issues and to have Office look and feel the same no matter what you use. That doesn’t even take into account the cost savings for our employees, since they don’t have to buy separate software for personal use.

The way I see it, the bring-your-own-device phenomenon is here to stay. People expect to be able to use their own devices whether the IT department sanctions it or not, and that line between work and personal lives has become blurred now that we can work from anywhere. It’s a relief for us in IT that we can support employees in whatever ways they want to work without worrying about security and manageability.

For me personally, Office 365 ProPlus makes it possible to work when I want to. I can pull up a project plan to answer a question, troubleshoot problems when colleagues need me—all at my convenience. There’s no need to wait until I get back to the office because I always have a device of some kind with me. But I’m certainly not the only beneficiary of our move to ProPlus. The IT department saves a lot of time now that updates, upgrades, and other tasks are so quick; the firm saves money because of the per-user licensing; and our 5,000+ employees get a consistent, up-to-date user experience across their devices that lets them focus on the job at hand.

Technical Summary: In addition to using Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus for its productivity software, the Walsh Group is making the most of multiple Office 365 products to improve communication and collaboration. For example, Wirtz and his colleagues store and share their work files across multiple devices using OneDrive for Business and Microsoft SharePoint Online. They access those files on their mobile devices using Office Online, and they have streamlined communications across their distributed work force using Exchange Online and Lync Online.

See The Walsh Group video and case study for more detail.