The Key to Our Success: Building a World-Class IT Environment with Microsoft Office 365

Today’s post was written by James Rischar, vice president of event operations and IT, BidPal Network. Read more Office 365 customer stories here.  

Office 365 Customer Bid Pal NetworkWhile infrastructure is important to every business, it is of utmost importance to BidPal, Inc. The company has experienced explosive growth since it opened its doors, challenging the organization to stay on top of new product development, manage a rapidly growing staff, and effectively serve our growing client base. BidPal’s infrastructure must maintain pace with the growth of our business. Office 365 has been integral to that process.

BidPal helps charitable organizations raise funds by providing them with the software and services needed to effectively host fundraising events. These event services include data management, branded websites with online bidding capabilities, onsite event management, and payment processing. This mountain of information would require a massive IT infrastructure to maintain but, with the assistance of our IT partner Cloud Strategies, BidPal easily made the transition to Office 365-relieving us from the IT infrastructure maintenance business. This has allowed us to focus our IT resources on implementing applications that better support our customers, keeping us ahead of our competitors.

Microsoft SharePoint Online has proven to be the most valuable component of Office 365. We previously used Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. It did not have the extensive search capabilities of SharePoint Online. That feature is an indispensable tool for BidPal because it allows us to create a wide range of internal applications. Our company directory is a good example. We now have a company directory complete with names, photos, bios, and job responsibilities. With a rapidly expanding staff, this is extremely helpful as staff roles, positions, and responsibilities continuously change. Each department has its own library complete with much-used templates, announcements, team calendars, and communications. This allows employees, new and seasoned, to quickly search for the most up-to-date documents and gives them a central storage and sharing point to collaborate on projects with team members. Being able to easily create these departmental websites is especially important as we continue to expand, restructure departments, and add new responsibilities.

Another great addition is Microsoft Lync Online, which we use for internal online meetings and instant messaging. We’ll soon be transitioning to Microsoft Exchange Online for email and rich calendaring. The result will be an information-sharing, highly collaborative work environment that’s more productive. Although it’s difficult to pin a number on our productivity gains so far, they are qualitatively real because we are able to create, update, maintain, and share information faster and easier than ever before.

No discussion of Office 365 would be complete without mentioning its significant cost savings. Creating an infrastructure internally that could do what Office 365 does in the cloud would have cost us $25,000 up front plus nearly 1,000 labor hours in the first year, followed by ongoing maintenance costs. In contrast, we were able to switch from SharePoint Server to SharePoint Online and start Lync Online in just three weeks. A key objective of the IT department is to protect the company’s limited and valuable labor and financial resources, using them to promote business growth. Office 365 is helping us do that by taking away high up-front IT investment costs and letting IT staff focus on building great business applications. Key to our success is a world-class IT environment, and Microsoft Office 365 is now a critical part of that environment.

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