Mobility is a key function in Provident Financial Romania’s success. With a mobile workforce of more than 3,000 agents and 600 field- and office-based employees, the company required reliable and instant communication to keep on top of sales. Spotty reception made it challenging for mobile employees to send and receive emails in a timely manner; and at headquarters, IT professionals were constantly juggling licenses and budgets to cover the myriad of mobile devices.
Provident Romania also sought to eliminate the need for employees to travel to sales and training meetings, and to make it easier to share files among its satellite offices. The short-term loan provider found the cost-efficient solution it needed with Microsoft Office 365.
Collaboration among workers at Provident Romania’s 20-plus offices was limited by the lack of a high-quality videoconferencing tool and instant messaging system. “Our employees thrive on immediate and mobile communication, and email just doesn’t work efficiently enough to meet our needs,” says Eugeniu Iacob, IT Systems Manager at Provident Financial Romania. Another challenge employees often faced was using FTP sites to exchange large files, which required IT staff to spend several hours each week setting up and troubleshooting alternative sharing methods.
Provident’s travel budget included mobile users calling in from the field to attend training and performance meetings. “It’s not just travel costs we worry about. Productivity stops when an employee has to drive to a meeting site,” says Iacob. “We needed a way for our users to connect from anywhere so they don’t lose momentum.”
Employees were already familiar with Microsoft products, having used Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office at its headquarters and satellite offices. When the time came to choose an IT solution to improve productivity and collaboration, simplicity and cost were the top priorities. “We looked at various options, but in most cases the migration process was too complicated and training too costly. We wanted an easy solution that didn’t require a huge investment – in time or money,” states Iacob.
Following a market analysis, Microsoft partner PRAS Consulting was selected to implement the solution. This was because PRAS Consulting had relevant cloud services references, and Provident felt that the company presented the most coherent approach to the project.
Because Provident was using multiple versions of Microsoft Office, a process for standardization of the programs used by the employees was needed. After the inventory and software standardization, the process continued with email migration from the former platform to the cloud.
IT staff was eager to implement a solution that made collaborating and communicating simple for mobile users. Microsoft Office 365 emerged as the best solution for Provident Romania because it enabled users to access and share information from any device at any time. “Our users are constantly on the go, and Office 365 has familiar programs built in and ready to use. We were already using Exchange for email, so migrating to Microsoft Exchange Online was very easy. And the additional security and storage that comes with it is a huge bonus for us,” says Iacob. By not hosting a solution on site, Provident Romania saves up to $500 a month in maintenance, security, and by eliminating dependencies on other solutions.
Provident employees also hailed the introduction of Microsoft Lync Online. Email and conference calls were the only ways to collaborate with employees at dispersed sites, and employees were eager to try videoconferencing that enabled them to also share presentations on screen. “Lync Online gives us added mobility, flexibility, messaging, videoconferencing – we really get it all!” exclaims Iacob.
An intranet system will be a welcome addition for employees, as well. Microsoft SharePoint Online enables employees to easily share files from a centralized location in the cloud, eliminating the need for FTP sites and IT assistance. “We expect significant savings—in time, resources, and money—with this new cloud-based document storage. Our mobile users will be able access documents in the field with Microsoft Web Apps, too, and that’s a whole new capability for us,” says Iacob.
“Office 365 won us over with the familiarity of Microsoft programs we were already using, but once we moved to the cloud, we realized it offered us more functionality than we thought we needed,” states Iacob.
An analysis concluded that an on-premise solution which would provide email, production tools, video conferencing, and increased security would have cost the company more than €150,000 for hardware, licenses, and deployment and maintenance services.
In Office 365, Provident Romania found a cost-efficient solution that quickly gets employees up and running on their smart phone or tablet, and eliminates the need for IT infrastructure on site.
Employees can collaborate on documents from their dispersed locations, which increases productivity and limits unnecessary trips to the office.
“Many of our field employees do not have a PC, so ensuring they can communicate on their smart phone or tablet from their home office is critical,” says Iacob. Provident Romania employees use Exchange Online to send and store email, but that is no longer their only form of communication. “Instant messaging was an immediate hit because there’s no waiting for an email reply or wondering if your question was buried in someone’s queue. Now, our employees can make faster decisions,” states Iacob. “We also cut our email and digital maintenance expenses with the move to the cloud.”
The Lync Online videoconferencing capability has provided a new way for employees to interact and work on projects. “The share screen feature is great for us because there’s no guessing or trying to interpret what someone is describing on the phone. Everyone can see the presentation at once, so there’s no confusion. Discussions are more focused and productive,” says Iacob. Companywide, employees have gained back significant time and are more productive thanks to the centralized document storage and file-sharing capabilities of SharePoint Online, in addition to the communication features of Lync.
Slashed travel costs
Iacob says the company is estimating it will save about 20% each month in travel for its mobile employees—and Lync Online usage is still ramping up. “We expect our travel expenses to decrease further with our move to the cloud,” explains Iacob. “We now have the alternative to hold successful training and performance meetings virtually, so employees no longer have to drive to their home offices, which also cuts their mileage.”
“We were looking for a simple solution that increased collaboration and made communication a little easier, but we gained a lot more with Office 365. It offers so many cost- and time-saving features that we could never have realized without it,” says Iacob.
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products—Microsoft SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—with the latest version of our Office desktop suite and companion web applications for businesses of all sizes.
Office 365 helps save time and money, and it frees up valued resources. Simple to use and easy to administer, it is financially backed by a service level agreement guaranteeing 99 percent reliability. Office 365 features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the business-class privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.