Microsoft 365 in practice - An implementation case study

05 November 2020

Not all SME and mid-market organisations recognise the benefits they could derive from a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation, and those that do often lack the technical and project management expertise to accomplish the transition from outdated, on premise applications to cloud based services.

In this article, Nigel Morris from BDO’s Technology Advisory Services (TAS) team looks at how the TAS team guided a client from the IT past to the IT future, by executing a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation project, helping a Reluctant IT Director, the non-technical Director responsible for IT, improve business efficiency and resilience.

Our client

The company is a mid-market business, with approximately 450 IT users, that had grown through acquisition, resulting in a disjointed IT landscape. The client lacked an internal IT team, and a dedicated IT Director. Responsibility for IT rested with the finance director, for whom IT management was a secondary function, and a burden he could do without.

Five years previously, the finance director had commissioned BDO’s TAS team to provide advice on IT strategy. Having accepted our recommendations the client enquired if BDO could provide project and operational services to implement the strategy. The proven capabilities of the TAS IT Outsourcing team met the client’s extensive requirements, and we have been delivering IT support, helpdesk, management and hosting services to the client ever since.

The challenge

As with many organisation that have grown organically and through acquisition, Microsoft licences had been acquired over time, leading to numerous different versions of the same application, several of which were approaching end of support from Microsoft.

Perpetual licences and on premise servers had reached end of life and needed to be replaced, and application incompatibility was stifling productivity.

The client knew they needed to invest in productivity applications but was unclear of the options available and how to maximise its return on investment.

Our role

Initially, the client had considered a like for like replacement of outdated on premise hardware and perpetual licences. However, to ensure they made the correct decision for their business we reviewed and guided them by:

  • Advising on the impact of hardware and application end of life issues, and setting out the options available to overcome them.
  • Conducting a cost/benefit analysis for the next 5 years, comparing perpetual licence costs against a subscription model, and determining the cost of acquiring, hosting and managing new server hardware.
  • Presenting a proposal to manage a Microsoft 365 transition project.
  • Producing a project plan incorporating the project scope, resources required, an achievable timetable, risks and their mitigation, and detailed costs for licencing and BDO fees.

TAS used its detailed knowledge of Microsoft 365 licencing to assign each user to the most appropriate subscription level, making cost-effective use of existing perpetual licences, and assigning application functionality by role.

Having considered our detailed analysis and recommendations, the client decided to proceed with a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation, in which TAS would manage the transition and provide ongoing support.

The transition project

A carefully staged project plan was developed to ensure operating systems and applications were replaced in good time prior to them reaching end of life and losing support, while new functionality was introduced at a rate end users could readily consume. This all minimised the risk to the business and safeguarded success.

The high level stages included:

  • Configure the Microsoft 365 environment, including a granular security structure.
  • Migrate desktop and laptop users from Windows 7 to Windows 10.
  • Migrate users from perpetual licenced desktop versions of Office to Microsoft 365 desktop Office applications.
  • Replace on premise Windows 2008 Server and Exchange Server 2010 email management with cloud based Microsoft 365 Exchange services.
  • Replace on premise Windows 2008 Server home drives and file shares with cloud based Microsoft 365 OneDrive and SharePoint services.
  • Migrate users from Skype for Business to Microsoft 365 Teams.

Given the phasing of the project, and the quantities of data (emails and files) to be migrated, the transition project was planned to take place over four months. This required a hybrid Microsoft 365 solution, whereby local and cloud based Active Directories were synchronised, users were configured to use on premise server applications and cloud based services concurrently, and data was synchronised between the two.

During the transition weekly calls were held with the client to discuss progress, address any questions or issues, and advise the client of any potential risks.

A successful outcome

The UK Microsoft 365 transition has been completed successfully and the client now benefits from:

  • All Microsoft desktop and server productivity application versions being current, appropriately and cost-effectively licenced, and secured with the latest updates and patches.
  • No additional investment required for recurring physical server, operating system and productivity application upgrades.
  • No hosting costs for productivity server applications.
  • Improved resilience, with productivity application access available from virtually any location, using a wide range of devices.
  • Improved efficiency from users employing common versions of productivity applications, and benefitting from access to the latest collaborative technology, such as Teams.
  • Known, recurring operational expenses that can be flexed up and down to meet changes in circumstances.

Following the success of the UK Microsoft 365 transition, the client has requested us to carry out similar projects in North America, Europe and the Far East.

We continue to provide support for the client’s Microsoft 365 environment, managing day to day operations such as processing joiners and leavers, as well as providing application support for end users via its helpdesk, and in-depth technical support from its qualified technicians.

We work in partnership with our clients and routinely discuss their current performance and future requirements to ensure they continue to improve their return on technology investment.

For many organisations a comprehensive Microsoft 365 implementation is a ‘no brainer’, however, choosing the right partner to manage the transition and provide ongoing support is critical to achieving a successful outcome.

The BDO difference

Here at BDO, we understand the challenges that the non-technical board member faces when they become responsible for IT. Our TAS team has an extensive hands-on track record of delivering strategic, operational and technical IT advisory services. We’ve developed our services with the non-technical board director in mind and we provide management and support services to suit each client’s needs.

To find out more about our practical independent advice and IT support services contact Nigel Morris.