Today’s post was written by Damir Tejic, IT director for the International School of Stuttgart.
How many K–12 school IT managers have CEOs of Global 1000 companies looking over their shoulders? That’s my life as IT director at International School of Stuttgart in Germany. Many of our parents are executives for big corporations like Porsche, Daimler-Mercedes and Bosch, which are all headquartered here. They are used to fast response and cutting-edge communication technologies in their businesses, and they expect nothing less from their children’s school.
Further, about 20 percent of our families change every year due to work transfers. So it’s imperative to have communication tools that are easy to learn, so families can get up to speed quickly and participate immediately in the school community using a range of devices.
That’s why we decided to standardize on Microsoft Office 365 for communications and collaboration among staff, students and parents. We were using an on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server for staff email and Google Apps and Google Mail for students, but our on-premises email environment was old and in need of an expensive and urgent update, and we had security and privacy concerns about Google. Also, we found that Google Drive wasn’t well suited to our file sharing needs, nor did it have the flexibility for collaboration and communication that we found in SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Yammer and Delve.
To help us deploy Office 365 quickly and take full advantage of its features, we turned to Microsoft FastTrack.* We were in a terrible time crunch. I joined the school as its IT director on August 1, 2015, and I determined that in order to ensure the school would be standardized on Office 365 within the school year, we needed to start strong and have all of our 180 staff members and half of our 800 students migrated to Exchange Online before the school opened its doors in August—just three weeks away. During that time, I also had to deploy Office 365 ProPlus to 400 students, so they could access the educational tools they need from a range of devices.
FastTrack was a lifesaver. The FastTrack team first worked to understand our needs and help plan out the deployment. FastTrack engineers then helped execute the deployment, first migrating student accounts to our Active Directory service and migrating mailboxes from Gmail. I don’t speak German, so they also served as a go-between to facilitate communication with the local ISP that hosts our servers—and even advised us on setting up a firewall.
With the help of FastTrack, we were able to migrate almost 600 staff and student email accounts to Office 365 email and 400 students from Google Apps to Office 365 ProPlus in just three weeks. If only all IT projects were this easy!
Our work with the FastTrack team continues, as we roll out additional Office 365 and Microsoft Cloud services. We recently launched Yammer to provide a safe and secure environment for students grades 6–12 to learn how to use social sharing tools; and we have plans to set up Yammer accounts for the parent community as well. We are also planning to roll out SharePoint Online as our collaboration platform for staff, students and parents, and OneDrive as our central file storage and sharing mechanism. Our head of schools and the school leadership are eager to use Power BI to analyze student data, and we intend to use Skype for Business to replace our phone system. We also plan to move to Microsoft Azure, beginning with Microsoft Azure Active Directory, to enable single sign-on and self-service password management.
This is a lot to take on and roll out cohesively so that staff, students and parents know how to use these diverse services. That’s where FastTrack will continue to be a huge help. Microsoft can guide us on envisioning usage scenarios, prioritizing projects, building enthusiasm and speeding adoption. The FastTrack team can also help us adopt best IT practices in terms of managing our cloud environment.
It’s all about getting the best possible value from our Microsoft Cloud investment—and there’s a lot of value to be had.
To learn more about FastTrack, visit FastTrack.microsoft.com and become familiar with what our customer success service has to offer.
*FastTrack is available to customers with 50 seats and above with eligible plans. Refer to FastTrack Center Benefit for Office 365 for eligibility details.