Taking construction to new heights with Office 365

patrickToday’s post was written by Patrick Wirtz, Innovation Manager at The Walsh Group.

The chief innovator at a large-scale construction company untethered himself from his desk and now keeps the lines of communication open, regardless of his location. Read about how he uses Office 365 and Office 365 ProPlus to share ideas through easy access to information and resolve issues from anywhere.

I didn’t set out to get involved in construction. As a technologist, I could have ended up in just about any industry, but I took an internship at The Walsh Group 13 years ago and have never looked back. The Walsh Group is a Chicago, Illinois–based firm that handles general contracting, construction management, and design services for large-scale projects like airports, bridges, and highways.

As Innovation Manager, my job is to implement new processes and technologies in a continuous effort to improve quality and trim timelines. My role includes identifying opportunities for improvement, researching and selecting the solutions that best fit our particular needs and business culture, and supporting my colleagues as they incorporate the innovations into their work practices.

The efficiencies I strive to achieve may come from advanced building materials and computer-assisted construction techniques. They also result from providing ways for employees to work smarter, which is what we did when we adopted Microsoft Office 365 and Office 365 ProPlus.

The move to Office 365 about a year ago transformed my daily work experience. There’s no such thing as a typical day in my line of work, and that’s what makes Office 365 so important. It gives me the flexibility to leave my desk behind and be out where I need to be, because wherever I am my tools and data are there, too. Of course, people say that about other cloud-based tools, but nothing else I saw provided the same enterprise-class capabilities, service, and security as Microsoft. We knew about Google’s offerings, but they seemed subpar to us. Aspects like authentication just weren’t where we needed them to be, and Google didn’t provide the integration with cloud-based Microsoft Office tools. I mean, did we really want to take Word and Excel out of employees’ hands? It just didn’t make sense to go with Google.

I need to communicate with our 5,000+ engineers and tradespeople who work on approximately 150 job sites to learn about their current work processes and where there is room for improvement. It used to be difficult and disruptive to get in touch with them because they had to leave what they were working on and return to a trailer or regional office for email. Today, we’ve condensed those communication lag times because everyone in the field has Office 365–enabled mobile devices that give them access to email from anywhere on a job site. I like using presence functionality to see who’s around and how they want me to touch base—email, phone call, instant message, conference call, etc.

With Office 365 and ProPlus, I have a consistent work experience, whether I am checking email from my home computer first thing in the morning, using my Windows Phone on a building site to get a quick answer from an available resource, or contributing to project plans from my Surface tablet in an airport terminal. I now can be on job sites or visit universities to see what innovations they’re working on about 30 or 40 percent of my time. That’s where things have really changed for me. But even though I’m away from the office nearly as much time as I’m in it, our new tools have made me more accessible to everyone in the firm.

Information is more accessible now, too. I can be face-to-face with construction crews or researchers and still have secure access to all my data. That’s saying a lot in our firm, because our data includes really sizable designs, drawings, proposals, and other mailbox-clogging files. Everyone wanted to continue to share those files electronically, but they started to use Dropbox as a workaround and that rang IT alarm bells because it wasn’t managed or secure. It was a relief for me to offer them OneDrive for Business instead, which lets them still work the way they want to work but do so in a secure, sustainable way. It’s made a real difference for us.

Whether my day calls for meetings at our central office, job site investigations, or information-gathering business travel, I am more efficient and effective thanks to the new options in my communications toolbox. For the Walsh Group, Office 365 is certainly one innovation that’s helping us build a brighter future.

For more success stories about people like Patrick Wirtz, read other real-world testimonials on the www.whymicrosoft.com website.

Watch the Walsh Group Engage video series.