Accountancy services firm The Wow Company has saved money and improved its operations with a hosted file management platform and an improved messaging system.
The firm decided to upgrade its IT infrastructure to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.
As a result, employees benefit from a consolidated file management and collaboration environment that simplifies daily tasks, improves business efficiency and enhances client service.
The Wow Company was established in 2004 and employs 15 people. It offers accountancy, investment planning and business growth consulting services to a variety of organisations.
Initially, Wow was managed as three different business units. Each had its email system hosted by three separate companies using Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) to help users retrieve emails from remote servers. But the lack of cohesion between the hosts resulted in frequent service downtime, without any single company accepting responsibility.
Also, employees could not collaborate easily because all client information and work was stored on their individual computer hard disks. As a result, business processes became unnecessarily complicated.
Peter Czapp, a director at The Wow Company, says, "No one could access anyone else's information. Setting up a meeting, for instance, was often a lengthy and frustrating process involving multiple telephone calls and email messages.
"Similarly, because documents were shared by email, version control complications arose, with different people working on different versions of documents or spreadsheets."
The unconsolidated system also hindered client service, as employees couldn't respond to customer queries promptly because the information they required was located in different places and held by various people. This also made it difficult for management to keep track of key performance indicators and formulate an effective organisational strategy.
Another issue facing management was the cost of maintaining the outdated system. Employees had to back up their portable computers online every night, but because multiple computers stored the same information, the company was paying for unnecessary copies to be saved.
Czapp decided to restructure the existing system and sought the services of Microsoft partner Perceptive Online. There were two options: a hosted service or an in-house solution.
The latter option proved to be 50% more expensive and unmanageable because employees did not have the IT knowledge required to maintain an in-house system. Space was also an issue. "We didn't have the space to install the necessary hardware," says Czapp. "We also wanted the security and maintenance looked after by people with specialist expertise."
Wow chose to implement an integrated Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 system hosted by Perceptive. By outsourcing to a host, Wow ensures it is using the latest versions of the software and covering all licensing costs as part of its monthly payments.
The first task was to transfer all company data on to Office SharePoint Server 2007. The application provides a single, integrated interface where employees can collaborate efficiently with each other and access information on any customer.
They can use the system anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. The accountants use a personalised intranet with separate folders for each client, which are split into three sub-folders representing Wow's three departments.
The offering also has extensive document management capabilities, assigning version histories to documents and storing them all in a structured archive.
Next, Wow migrated users to the Exchange Server hosted by Perceptive. It allows Wow employees to share calendar information with colleagues and clients. They can also read email messages on the move due to integration with Windows Mobile devices.
The combined system integrates fully with Microsoft Office 2007, simplifying document management.
Employees now have a consolidated, reliable IT infrastructure that improves their work rate and collaboration, and supports company growth.
All maintenance, backup and disaster recovery is handled by Perceptive, leaving Wow staff to concentrate on business objectives. Without upgrading to the new IT infrastructure, Czapp says Wow would have needed new and larger premises.
"We're now able to provide a better service to our clients because we can collaborate more effectively and find information at the touch of a button from anywhere in the world," he says.
Czapp said future IT upgrade plans at the company could focus on areas such as improved email archiving, mobile integration based on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), and Microsoft unified communications technology to support instant messaging, voice over IP calls and conferencing, for instance. New versions of Sharepoint and Exchange are also being considered.
Benefits of the upgraded system
- Wow saved a large amount of money and time by avoiding a move to new premises.
- Company saved 50% of monthly costs with a hosted rather than in-house solution.
- Business operates economically with less paper used in the office.
- Users can access all information from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Employees provide better client service by having a single information repository accessible to everyone.
- Accountants collaborate efficiently using advanced calendar features and document management capabilities.
- Wow finds it easier to work with one hosting partner rather than three. It gets a quick response to its queries and simplifies billing.
- The firm can focus on core business objectives rather than IT by using a hosted solution.
- The scalable solution easily accommodates new users.
Source: The Wow Company