Minnesota school district starts the school year right with the help of Microsoft FastTrack

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Today’s post was written by Burke Egner, director of technology at Austin Public Schools.

Austin, Minnesota, is more than just a rest stop on Interstate 90 a couple hours south of Minneapolis. It is home to a major multinational company (the Hormel Foods Corporation) and its community is committed to progress and innovation. For the Austin Public School District, technology in education is a top priority. So when its teachers asked for more flexible tools, easier network access and better communication with their colleagues and students, the district decided on a move to Microsoft Office 365.

“We wanted to give teachers remote network access and create email accounts for students, but to do it on-premises would have required significant infrastructure upgrades,” says Burke Egner, director of technology at Austin Public Schools.

A race against time

The decision to adopt Office 365 was made in June 2015, and district leadership wanted network accounts and email addresses for all 4,800 students and 650 faculty and staff to be up and running by the start of school on August 28. “The superintendent wanted every student and staff member to start the year with these great new collaboration, storage and access capabilities,” says Egner. “It became a race against time.”

Austin Public Schools body

That was when Austin Public Schools engaged the Microsoft FastTrack* team for support. “FastTrack immediately helped us assess our internal systems and identify hurdles,” says Egner. “They gave us the resources and tools that we used to build a complete migration plan.”

To give students and staff a seamless single sign-on experience in Office 365, Tony Campbell, network administrator at Austin Public Schools, first worked with FastTrack to deploy Microsoft Active Directory Federation Service (ADFS). “Setting up ADFS added complexity to the project,” says Campbell. “But FastTrack helped us get the information and resources we needed to streamline and simplify the process.”

FastTrack helped Campbell’s team update an outdated Exchange Server 2007 messaging environment and then migrate 650 existing email accounts with almost no trouble. “We could not have done it in time without the help we got from FastTrack,” says Campbell.

More than just onboarding and migration

The district’s engagement with FastTrack didn’t end with migration—FastTrack connected Austin Public Schools with the Microsoft Education team and other Microsoft product teams to help the district train users and adopt additional tools like Skype for Business, Yammer, OneNote and OneDrive.

For example, Campbell’s team created an IT support Yammer group where teachers and other employees can download pre-made training materials available at the Office 365 Training Center. Freed from having to create these materials and deliver training themselves, the district’s IT staff can now spend more time working in direct support of the teachers, and average Help Desk response times have dropped from 72 to 24 hours.

“The FastTrack team didn’t just cut us loose when the migration was over,” says Egner. “They helped us plan our entire project, pointed us to the right deployment tools and provided training and adoption resources that helped us realize the full potential of Office 365. We still go back to FastTrack even now for more tools and resources.”

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.

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