Nuance global communication and collaboration transform with Office 365

Today’s post was written by Craig Preston, IT vice president of Infrastructure and Operations at Nuance Communications.

Picture of Craig Preston, IT vice president of infrastructure and operations at Nuance Communications.You might not know it, but our technology is embedded in a whole lot of devices and products that folks use every day. There’s a good chance that Nuance developed the predictive texting feature on your smartphone and smartwatch. Our speech recognition software is used by most automakers to transform a voice command into driving directions or to ask your TV remote to change the channel.

What we develop here is people-focused and empowering. Once you start using it, you don’t realize how easy and effortless it can be, nor can you imagine living without it.

Just like Office 365 cloud computing.

We have more than 8,000 employees who need to communicate and collaborate across 63 global offices. When we got to the point where we could put our on-premises solution out to pasture, we wanted something different that simply worked, that employees would use because it was easy and not tethered to certain devices and technologies.

We did a cost modeling exercise comparing Office 365 against our on-premises 2010 Microsoft Exchange, Office, and SharePoint platforms, as well as our Skype for Business solution. It wasn’t hard at all to sort out that Office 365 would save us a lot of money over the next five years. We even considered Google at one point, but we really liked Office 365’s integrated services as part of Microsoft’s cloud offerings.

All employees’ distribution lists and public folders from our on-premises environment were moved over to Office 365 in just 90 days. We used Office 365 ProPlus to acquire the latest Office apps. We deployed Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, and Planner. We’re also using Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business Online, and Yammer.

We planned ahead thoughtfully for deployment and training. As a result, the process was low-impact and practically a seamless migration. In fact, migrating from Exchange and Skype on-premises to Office 365 Exchange Online and Skype for Business Online was so transparent that most users didn’t even notice it happened.

Our Office 365 deployment is just the first phase of moving to the Microsoft Cloud. We are checking out other Microsoft Cloud offerings to see what makes sense and when.

For Nuance, Skype for Business is one of the most popular Office 365 services. We had been using an audio and web conferencing system patched together from multiple vendors. It wasn’t easy to manage, it didn’t always work that well, and compared to Office 365, it cost us several million dollars more a year to operate.

Skype for Business conferencing, with real-time collaborating and screen sharing, is incredibly simple to use. The interface is intuitive and familiar in its design. We’ve had very few requests for help using it, and we are far from nostalgic for what we used to have in place.

Team collaboration and mobility have noticeably improved. I hardly ever use my desk phone anymore. Skype for Business plays nice with other technology in our IT infrastructure. Its telephone and desktop video conferencing are super quick and simple to initiate.

With just one click, I am on a conference call with my colleagues in our office in Germany. There’s no lag time; the connection is clear. And it eliminates a good amount of our former third-party costs. We’re now planning to evaluate our on-premises PBX solution for replacement with the Phone System feature in Office 365.

With this great experience under our belts, we are proceeding to eliminate the need for personal and departmental on-premises file shares and SharePoint sites. We are moving all personal data to OneDrive for Business, and all departmental file shares and SharePoint sites to SharePoint Online.

I don’t even get charged for additional storage or clients to use SharePoint Online because it’s all included in Office 365. We can make it better and easier for employees to access data from anywhere, on any device. I won’t miss on-premises storage and backup costs. I have so many other things to spend my IT budget on.

Folks from around the company have been using SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Microsoft Teams to stay productive when they’re on the road. Some employees even prefer to use Office 365 Portal when they are at the office. The other day, I co-authored a document with a colleague from a different office. The content was targeted to a group of employees who travel a lot for work. As soon as we were done with the document, I saved it to a shared team site, which made it immediately accessible from mobile devices. Things like this are really big productivity gains for us.

If something were to go wrong with our email and collaboration systems, I’d be the first to hear about it. I needed something that just works as advertised and won’t make the hair on my head turn prematurely gray. I place a lot of trust in the Microsoft Cloud for good reason—it has earned it. The folks at Microsoft are forward-thinking and built a cloud that IT folks like me will use with confidence.

Here at Nuance, the security of our networks and systems is absolutely critical. As part of our Office 365 subscription, we’re taking advantage of advanced security features that support compliance requirements. Microsoft’s security roadmap is solid and smart. And that’s not very common these days.

Back when we started, we talked about the transitional aspect to the Microsoft Office 365 platform. Now that we have been using it for a while, I’d say it’s been more like transformational.

—Craig Preston