Engineering success in the cloud

Today’s Office 365 post was written by Daniel M. Horton, chief information officer at Michael Baker International, a leading global provider of engineering and technical consulting services

Michaer Baker Intl 1Pushing the technology envelope brings innovation and mobility to clients—that’s real value that we add to help them achieve strategic objectives. The engineering and development projects that our company performs position us to better understand what global companies need to succeed in the twenty-first century. To that end, we recently began to move our own infrastructure into the cloud.

Making any major technology transition requires diligence, focus and a deep understanding of alternatives. For example, facing a messaging system upgrade in 2014, we carefully reviewed our options, one of which was to adopt Microsoft Office 365 cloud services.

After evaluating the pros and cons, it clearly made sense to move to Office 365 because we would save between 20 and 35 percent on our IT costs, just by switching to the components of the solution that are related to messaging and productivity software. Doing effective due diligence opened our eyes to other benefits of such a move, and the decision quickly became apparent.

Consider that refreshing and provisioning hardware is one of the most challenging tasks for just about any IT staff. By moving to Office 365, we reduce our technology footprint and free up resources and talent to do what we are here to do—provide solutions and efficiencies for the business.

As a value-add, we realize scalability on demand. Over the last five years, our company has grown significantly—through both organic investment and acquisition—with no sign of slowing anytime soon. In the past, this level of growth presented the challenge of figuring out how to fold new employees and their technologies into our environment, a process that could take months. Now that many of our IT services are cloud-based, we are able to fully integrate new employees in a matter of weeks. The onboarding experience is more pleasant for everyone, and it enables new employees to contribute more quickly.

Since the move, we have been introducing our workforce to the new capabilities available in Office 365, which is resulting in ongoing efficiency improvements. We want employees to embrace Microsoft OneDrive for Business to change the way that they share files. It benefits everyone if we eliminate one-off personal Dropbox accounts and file shares and instead establish a centralized place for data that is accessible from any device and on the web. For example, while at a customer project site our engineers can jump on any computer there and get to the right information. That not only impresses clients, it is handy for employees because it speeds timelines and eliminates frustration.

What employees are most excited about, though, is Yammer, our new enterprise social network. We have let the use of Yammer grow organically, and it has spread like wildfire. After just a few months, nearly one-third of our employees use it to keep current on announcements and blogs, stay informed about specific projects, get feedback on initiatives, and quickly resolve problems with help from colleagues around the company. For example, our business practices—including Transportation, Surface Water, Bridge Design, Architecture, Aviation and Geospatial Information Technology, among many others—regularly build Yammer groups for collaboration and storage of reports and files. And those employees post relevant reports so that all stakeholders can see them and provide centralized comments.

What I find particularly gratifying is that we are bringing so many new capabilities to our employees while decreasing the IT budget. Giving them enhanced features with a familiar computing experience helps them do their jobs more effectively, which makes the company more competitive and produces even better results for our clients. Moving to Office 365 is only the beginning—I look forward to the great things ahead.

—Daniel M. Horton