A leading Not for Profit (“NFP”) currently uses a mix of different tools to provide a minimum level of collaboration. While the NFP handles the email flow through its US mail server, document sharing is done via Google®/Yahoo® Groups, Email and Google® Docs. Video conferencing is via free accounts set up on tools such as VSee® or Skype®, or through Webex®, if it involves senior leaders who have Webex accounts.
Employees are expected to raise their own support, and Regional Offices maintain employee accounts where donations are credited after necessary deductions. Currently all employees from the US Office have access to these personal financial statements through a login provided on the accounting software managed by the NFP’s US Office. Employees from other Offices do not currently have updated access to their financial statements.
The only intranet and internet sites currently within the NFP are those that had been set up and managed by the US Office. All content changes and updates have to be sent to the US office and then updated manually. With the current workload that the US team is under, this causes delays, often leading to reports in obsolete formats and urgent information not going to the field.
An initial survey has proposed the need for a system that can provide the following functions:
- Forms – Online forms for reporting, with approval workflows. Data from forms must be stored such that it can be retrieved for analysis.
- Financials – Employees from all Regional Offices to have access their own personal financial statements.
- Employee Directory – contact persons and teams securely within the intranet; people and groups manage their own profiles; search for people and teams, analyze search stats to improve user experience.
- Teams – ability to set up work groups for teams and share documents, tasks, contacts and resources within the team.
- Calendar – ability to set up group calendars; set organization-wide reminders for repetitive events or tasks.
- Communication – ability for specific people to send messages to membership (various mailing groups) with a link to read full message online and post comments.
- Conferencing – ability to initiate conference calls/video conferences with people inside and outside of the organization, including hosting training webinars.
- Documents – post, for example, the Policy Handbook and other policy documents.
- Resources – downloadable articles, papers, publications, presentations, videos, graphics, pictures, webinars created by our own people.
- Email – people can set up personal email accounts, access via multiple devices.
- Newsletters – Facility by which each member on the field can update his/ her sponsors of what’s happening with them on the field.
As the first step in a program to implement a solution Stylus conducted a study to look at various off the shelf options that could be used to provide a solution. Four solutions that were considered were:
- Microsoft Office 365®
- Google Apps®
- Microsoft SharePoint Foundation® + custom built application.
- A bespoke application
After considering all the advantages and Disadvantages of each of these solutions, Stylus and the NFP agreed that Microsoft Office 365 is the best overall option for the following reasons:
- Integration with Microsoft Office®.
- Integration with the NFP’s accounting system
- Availability of Team Sites, Shared calendars.
- Facility for individual members to set up personal websites and share it with people outside the intranet.
- Uploading and sharing MS – Office® documents online
- Videoconferencing using Microsoft Lync.
- Sync with Windows Active Directory® to provide Single Sign On facility.
- Facility to select the Data Centre where the data would be located.
- Mail management using Outlook® and Microsoft Exchange® online.
- Ability to customize using code written on Microsoft.NET®.
- Special Charity pricing available to the NFP.
Within 4 months of this decision, the NFP had a fully functional intranet portal set up with email and user accounts set up for over 350 users, 80 Team sites, 16 automated forms with approval workflows, and all content ported and ready for roll out.
- The Office 365 solution now connects over 350 members in over 50 countries across the world, allowing for unprecedented level of collaboration, reporting and access to information and resources, all within a secure environment.
- Members now update their personal websites and blogs to keep their sponsors up to date on what’s happening. Personal account statements for each member are made available, so that they know their financial income and expenses wherever in the world they may be.
- All data is stored in Microsoft’s® Data Centers in the US, the preferred location for most members.
- Email management is centralized and simplified, even for the member working in the most remote location.
- Email alerts and online approvals has improved report submissions, and reduced the approval time for most expense reimbursements.
- New policy updates are now updated on the site and available to members within 24 hours of the policy being decided.
- The centralized member directory has led to substantial savings in time and cost as administrators no longer have to answer emails and long distance calls asking for member contact details.
- The availability of the latest version of Office web apps allows users to upgrade their Microsoft Office experience without having to worry about buying and upgrading to the latest versions in their desktops.
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