Today’s post was written by George Estrada, Vice President for Technology, Online Communications at Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans. Our goal is to shape the national debate by critiquing existing policies, developing new policy ideas, and challenging the media to cover the issues that truly matter. To achieve these goals, some of our staff is tasked with helping develop legislative ideas and driving their deployment. Some are expert witnesses for congressional hearings and meetings, some create training programs on policy, and others release reports and messages to the media and to executive, legislative, and state agencies. For all these tasks in our “need to know everything and be everywhere” world, communication and collaboration under high pressure is a daily reality.
When I came on board as VP of Technology, I had big ideas for how I wanted IT to support this organization. I wanted IT to do more than keep systems and machines going; I wanted it to have a positive impact on our organization’s goals.
The situation I inherited wasn’t going to make that easy. For an organization like ours, driven by constantly shifting political discourse and communication, email is the air we breathe. But I inherited a shaky IT platform with email that was going down every month for hours at a time.
Then the country started heading into the presidential elections. That’s when I got a very bad feeling. Politicians, the media, and the public look to us to help shape the national conversation about issues like energy, national security, and economic growth. Living up to that reputation takes a lot of collaboration and communication. So email going down during that time was not an option. I started looking for a solution.
When I took my detailed cost-value analyses to the decision makers, they easily chose Office 365 over Google. From there, migration was painless, especially with the help of our partner, New Signature.
Office 365 has had a powerful impact. Our users now have a stable, feature-rich, easy-to-use collaboration platform. And instead of constantly putting out fires, my IT staff can now train teams of researchers, analysts, legal counsel, program managers, fellows, and executives to use Office 365 to do their most critical tasks in the most efficient way. For example, our staff can create, edit, and share documents from any device, which frees them to work from home or on the road. This new level of efficiency is having a tremendous impact on our ability to generate and share the most current information across the organization, with all our constituents, in real time.
I joined Center for American Progress to help the organization shift from a start-up to a professional enterprise. My team is no longer patching email. We are spending our time delivering high-value work, including continuously improving our main source of communication: our public websites.
Yes, Office 365 has helped me achieve what I set out to do: We now have a stable, “invisible” platform that gives staff uninterrupted communication and collaboration tools and my small team is able to concentrate the important stuff.
The Technologies Involved
The Center for American Progress moved its 400 staff and interns from an on-premises email environment to the Office 365 Enterprise E3 plan more than a year ago, and now runs Windows 8. The organization is excited about the stability of Microsoft Exchange Online and the efficiency of its streamlined email capabilities. It also relies on Microsoft Lync Online for instant messaging and online meetings, SharePoint Online for project collaboration and information sharing, Office Online to create, edit, and share spreadsheets and documents, and OneDrive for Business for personal document storage.