Microsoft Case Study: Staffing Firm Integrates Acquisitions 70 Percent Faster by Using Online Email Service

Published by: Microsoft Case Studies

DeployHRStaffing Firm Integrates Acquisitions 70 Percent Faster by Using Online Email Service

DeployHR, a fast-growing staffing firm, wanted to quickly integrate acquired companies so the new additions could become profitable parts of the company sooner. To provide new employees with email services immediately and eliminate the expense of managing an on-premises email infrastructure, DeployHR subscribed to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, part of Microsoft Online Services. The company’s 25 corporate employees gained instant, web-based access not only to the latest Microsoft email messaging program, but also to conferencing, instant messaging, and collaboration team sites. By using online messaging and collaboration services, DeployHR has accelerated acquisition integration by 70 percent, reduced email management time by 60 percent, and made messaging costs predictable and affordable. Employees are more productive, and email is significantly more reliable.

DeployHR is a contract staffing firm that provides staffing services for the manufacturing, shipping, supply-chain, and technical markets in the eastern and midwestern United States. From the moment DeployHR was formed in 2009, it has grown by acquisition. In its first two years, DeployHR acquired several small staffing companies in four states, going from zero employees to approximately 1,000. Only 25 employees have corporate responsibilities; the rest are contract hires—ranging from forklift operators to engineers—that DeployHR places with customers.

With each acquisition, DeployHR took on a new, disparate IT infrastructure. The company focused on integrating critical line-of-business (LOB) applications, such as resumé databases and payroll systems, into DeployHR corporate systems. But due to a lack of time and resources, it left other applications alone. One of these was email messaging. Most of the small companies acquired had simple Post Office Protocol (POP) email systems, but some used Lotus Notes and other applications. “These systems had a range of virus and spam protection,” says Marcos Barrera, Director of IT for DeployHR. “Managing this mixed messaging infrastructure was a nightmare, and it was only going to get worse as we grew.”

Not only was it difficult for Barrera to manage the various email systems, but it was difficult for the company’s 25 corporate employees to communicate with one another. Employees had a diversity of email addresses and no central address list or calendar system. “It was difficult and time consuming to reach a colleague in another part of the company,” Barrera says. “The mix of email addresses resulted in lost mail messages and many calls to the corporate office asking for help in reaching people.” Email service was also unreliable without a consistent and up-to-date antivirus capability protecting all email accounts. Clearing out spam (that is, unsolicited commercia
l email) consumed valuable time every day, and some email systems stopped responding for days at a time.

DeployHR also desired a way to improve the productivity within groups of employees that had been melded together through acquisitions. “Our success comes from quickly integrating acquisitions, making our new people productive immediately, and providing new value to our customers with enhanced capabilities,” Barrera says. “However, we did not have an efficient way to share corporate forms, processes, and policies with each new group of employees because we had no central portal. We ended up sending forms around as email attachments, and this took time and resulted in process inconsistencies.”

Barrera knew that he needed to standardize DeployHR on a single email messaging program, but with the rise of “cloud” computing services—running applications such as email over the Internet in third-party data centers—the question for Barrera was: cloud or on-premises? Incidentally, Barrera also provides IT support for a sister company, which also grows by acquisition but has an established, on-premises email infrastructure. For this firm, Barrera spent about 20 hours per new employee connecting them to the new company—leaving him little time to integrate the more important LOB applications.

Barrera’s experience with the difficulty in extending the sister company’s on-premises email system and its high maintenance cost helped him make his choice for DeployHR. “We briefly considered creating on-premises email services for DeployHR, but we pretty quickly abandoned that idea and decided that cloud computing would give us much greater business agility and much lower costs.” Subscription-based cloud email services would also give DeployHR a predictable per-employee cost of messaging so that it could better project the cost of each acquisition.

Which Cloud?
ERGOS, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that provides IT consulting services to DeployHR, introduced Barrera to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite. The suite includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Communications Online, and Microsoft Office Live Meeting, all hosted at Microsoft data centers and delivered online. 

In addition to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, part of Microsoft Online Services, Barrera evaluated other cloud offerings, too, namely, Google Apps and Intermedia. “The thought of hosting Microsoft Exchange Server with someone besides Microsoft didn’t make sense to me, so I quickly discarded Intermedia,” Barrera says. “I signed up for a test account with Google Apps and didn’t have much luck with calendar synchronization. Also, all of our users used Microsoft Office productivity programs, and giving them a completely different interface for their email client would be a big ‘disconnect’ for them. The Microsoft service provided better integration with their day-to-day operations.”

Powerful Online Communications Programs
In May 2010, DeployHR worked with ERGOS to set up Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, and Barrera quickly migrated the 25 corporate employees to the new system. DeployHR contract employees use the email services and addresses of the customer companies to which they are assigned.

All DeployHR corporate employees now use Exchange Online as their common email program, which is accessible from any browser. “Our employees love Exchange Online,” Barrera says. “Most come from basic POP email systems and have never had features such as a global contact list, global calendaring, meeting scheduling, and built-in virus protection.”

DeployHR licensed Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, which provides layered technologies that help protect inbound and outbound email from spam, viruses, phishing scams, and email policy violations. “Forefront Online Protection for Exchange was a big reason that Microsoft Online Services appealed to us,” Barrera says. “It removes most email dangers before they ever hit our inboxes and gives me administrative insight into our email environment.”

DeployHR is evaluating the Microsoft Exchange Hosted Archive service, which provides email and instant message archiving. “With so many contract workers at so many customer locations, it’s important for us to have a record of all email communications,” Barrera says. “It’s better protection for us, our employees, and our customers.”

DeployHR plans to use SharePoint Online as a convenient online meeting place for project teams and to share notifications with all employees. It is moving corporate processes and documents to a SharePoint Online site and also creating a SharePoint Online site for specific teams. “Because there’s so much variety in the types of staffing we fulfill, from manufacturing workers to engineers, it would be impossible to have one standard set of forms and processes,” Barrera says. “With SharePoint Online, we can provide access to the standardized forms used by all employees, but also give each team the freedom to post its own documents and processes in one place for easy online access.”

Next, DeployHR plans to use Office Live Meeting—PC-based web conferencing—for training. Instead of traveling to different offices, Barrera and other managers can deliver training over the Internet.

By subscribing to Microsoft Online Services, DeployHR has increased its business agility, reduced costs, raised employee productivity, and improved email availability.

Acquisitions Integrated 70 Percent Faster
By offering employees subscription-based online email services, DeployHR can integrate acquisitions 70 percent faster, which supports the company’s rapid growth goals. “Microsoft Online Services has allowed us to be fluid in our aggressive growth strategy,” Barrera says. “There’s no way we could maintain this pace of growth without a cloud-based messaging service.”

Sixty Percent Less Email Management Time
Since migrating to Microsoft Online Services, Barrera has dramatically reduced the time he spends setting up and managing messaging services, which frees him to work on other initiatives and better support users. “The on-premises messaging infrastructure for our sister company took many years and many people to develop,” Barrera says. “I am basically building a company with the same market revenue with just one IT person. I spend 60 percent less time managing messaging for DeployHR than for the sister company. I have more time for training users and for integrating each new acquisition’s data into our LOB systems, which is significantly more important to our business.”

Barrera says that he most certainly would have had to hire at least one more full-time IT staff member to help manage messaging for DeployHR had the company not moved to Microsoft Online Services. “It now takes me two hours at DeployHR to connect a new employee to our systems, as compared to 20 hours as at our sister company,” he says. Barrera simply sends each new employee an email message that contains their user credentials for Business Productivity Online Standard Suite and a web link. When they log on, Microsoft Online Services automatically configures their email account.

Predictable Operating Costs
DeployHR management also values the predictable costs the company gets with Microsoft Online Services. “Before, we had to look at how a new acquisition would affect our IT infrastructure in terms of storage and other on-premises infrastructure,” Barrera says. “Now, I don’t have to worry about those costs. We’re spending [U.S.]$30 per user per month on Microsoft Online Services rather than $55 per user per month for an on-premises infrastructure. Plus, these costs are operating expenses rather than capital expenses. It’s a ‘no-brainer.’”

Increased Employee Productivity
Features such as global calendaring and address lists help DeployHR employees work together more efficiently, as do SharePoint Online sites. “With so many offices spread out across the country, these enhanced communications and collaboration services help create a common culture and knit employees together,” Barrera says.

Employees can now send email messages with confidence that they will arrive, set up meetings without making multiple phone calls, and send colleagues web links for important documents rather than sending large email attachments. All these conveniences save time throughout the day and accelerate the overall pace of business at DeployHR and the company’s ability to fill customer staffing requisitions.

Higher Reliability
Another productivity boost comes from higher email reliability. “Many of these companies that we’ve acquired are established firms whose names have been on spam lists for years,” Barrera says. “It’s been a huge problem for them, but it completely went away with Microsoft Online Services.” Microsoft Exchange Online, together with Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, provides multilayer spam and virus protection, email encryption, and other message protection features.

Having its email infrastructure running in a Microsoft data center with 99.9 percent scheduled uptime and financially backed service-level agreements also gives DeployHR management peace of mind. “We would never be able to afford to create an on-premises, high-availability infrastructure equivalent to what we have with Microsoft Online Services,” Barrera says.

“Having a cloud-based infrastructure also helps in the Midwest with thunderstorms,” he adds. “Now, when a storm knocks out power in one of our offices, employees can work from home, with easy access to email and needed documents.”

Based on the resounding success of Microsoft Online Services at DeployHR, its sister company is also charting a path to Microsoft Online Services. “That will be 100 additional employees for whom I do not have to spend time managing email,” Barrera says. “It’s going to be a great move for them—and for me.”

Microsoft Online Services
Microsoft Online Services are business-class communication and collaboration solutions delivered as a subscription service and hosted by Microsoft. With these offerings, customers can cost-effectively access the most up-to-date technologies and immediately benefit from streamlined communications, simplified management, and business-class reliability and security features. For IT staffers, Microsoft Online Services are backed by strong service-level agreements and help reduce the burden of performing routine IT management, freeing up time to focus on core business initiatives.

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