When NTUC Unity Healthcare IT head Chong Nai Min was looking at his organisation's e-mail set-up, he quickly discovered from the users that the system was inflexible and unsuitable in an era where workers bring their own devices to office.
"We were coming into a BYOD age with users coming in with iPhones, iPads and Blackberries," said Chong. He is director, information systems and technology at NTUC Unity Healthcare.
"The old e-mail was not a server based e-mail and messages could not be synchronised across multiple devices at work and home. It was a problem when you had different messages on each device," he added.
Another gripe was that documents stored in the company's file server were not accessible remotely and this was a problem when users had to deliver work from home over the weekends. The alternatives were either for them to return to office to work, or copying files onto thumb drives or mobile devices.
During mid-2010, Chong began looking for replacement systems, with the requirements that include fast, reliable document sharing and access to employees.
"In addition, we wanted a solution that would enable employees to efficiently communicate and collaborate with each other. Lastly, we wanted a highly available and scalable system with disaster recovery capabilities," said Chong.
After evaluating an on-premise Exchange model and Google Mail and Apps, Chong went with Microsoft Office 365.
"The employees at NTUC Unity Healthcare were familiar with Microsoft applications, therefore making the transition to Office 365 smoother for everyone, as compared to a case if we were to choose another solution with unfamiliar programs," he added. The cloud model also provided high availability and disaster recovery capabilities which were costly to Chong's team to execute.
After a successful two-month pilot for 50 users in November 2010, implementation partner Chass Asia helped install the Office 365 which includes Microsoft Sharepoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online.
It was a smooth transition onto the new cloud productivity suite, according to Chong. "For e-mail, we merely saved the old e-mails into an archived data file and then attached it to the new system via MS Outlook."
When Office 365 was full implemented in January 2011, Chong described the new platform as one that offered the organisation a better communication and collaboration infrastructure that users were familiar with.
The key benefit from the users' standpoint is that they are now able to see their e-mails on all their devices. "Other users have highlighted that Office 365 has made so many of their daily tasks easier, especially as a collaborative platform for internal communications," said Chong.
"They have also noted an increase in productivity and responsiveness, as much less time is spent trying to retrieve documents," he added.
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