A New Year, New Tools

What do you do when your boutique virtual PR and marketing firm has multiple email domains to move and a big client launch coming up? You ask Wellington Street Consulting (WSC) to move you to Office 365.

The challenges included: an unstable cloud-based email provider, multiple domains to be consolidated into a single o365 tenant, and DNS records hosted by multiple providers. In additional, there was geographic diversity with individual users spread out across the nation, each using different operating systems and email clients. The discovery process also uncovered several “mystery” mailboxes and a review of these allowed the team to eliminate them and save the agency from paying for them on an ongoing basis.

The Carlton PR & Marketing (CPRM) team is a virtual team with most working from home and co-working spaces in the Boston region. One member of the social media team lives and works in San Diego. Company founder Bobbie Carlton (who also runs local Boston startup showcase Mass Innovation Nights and recently started Innovation Women, a speakers’ bureau for entrepreneurial, technical and innovative women) personally had an incredible 28 GB of mail stored in a PST on her laptop, an amount that was straining her old version of Outlook (2010) as well as astounding our team. A decision was made to preserve the archive as she utilized the mail in her archive regularly and needed access to it.

The company is a “bring your own device” (BYOD) shop and each member of the CPRM team had a different email set up. We had Macs and PCs, a Microsoft Surface, and a wide variety of phones and tablets. Sharing documents with CPRM clients happened over a combination of Google Docs, Dropbox and Cubby. Each member of the team had many of their documents on their own laptops. Some were backed up with Carbonite, others with Mozy. The team talked frequently over Skype, Slack and Google Hangout.

It was time to bring some order to the chaos. CPRM asked Wellington Street Consulting to help transition the team over to Office 365 and look at ways to make the team more efficient. But the team couldn’t afford to be offline, even for a few hours, even over the holidays. (An important client announcement was in the works so the transition had to run smoothly – even with the addition of a surprise hardware failure mid-migration.)

“I don’t know what we would have done without Wellington to guide us through this transition,” said Carlton. “While we work with high tech companies, we don’t have any internal help desk or technical support, aside from a single tech savvy intern. We knew we needed professional help.”

WSC started with a quick diagnostic of the environment and the highest priority tasks.

WSC was able to automate and monitor the process in order to speed up as much of the email transition as possible. Each member of the CPRM team received an email and detailed directions on how to log in and register their mail. The senior team received daily updates and Wellington kept them informed of the progress of getting everyone’s email collected.

This process worked well for everyone on the team except for Carlton. Since the majority of her emails resided on her laptop in a very large file, these had to be manually offloaded. To make it a little more complicated, in the midst of the process, Carlton’s laptop suffered a surprise hardware failure, a broken hinge, a symptom of her on-the-go lifestyle. It was time for a new laptop for the boss – this time a shiny new solid state Asus Zendesk she could easily slip into her bag.

While user registrations were being collected and initial synchronizations running, we began deploying Office 2016 – not forgetting the phones and tablets, important tools for a team on the go and constantly on call. Once 2016 was installed, we pushed the final sync. And then scheduled the final cut-over for 2:00 am, building in a cushion in the event of any emergencies. When the cutover was complete, all email flowed directly into Microsoft data centers and mail servers, and we disabled the GoDaddy accounts.

Almost immediately, Wellington started to demonstrate the use of various parts of Office 365, jumping on Skype for Business to have a conversation with various members of the team and using OneNote to share notes from a team meeting.

Along the way, we also introduced several of the team to LastPass, a password manager owned by LogMeIn. In addition to productivity benefits, LastPass enables secure sharing, so the team could securely receive and use access to client accounts on platforms like Constant Contact, Twitter and Facebook.
Now we’re looking at consolidating calendars, sharing contact info and better document organization before we move on to major productivity enhancements. More to come!

Helpful hints:

  • Communication is very important — tell everyone on the team what is happening and when.
  • Preparation is key – review the list of accounts to be moved.
  • Automation makes it easy, but there are outliers in every organization.
  • Work a step-at-a-time and check in constantly.
  • Don’t forget the ancillary devices – people depend on their phones and tablets.
  • A transition to a new email service is a great time to remind people about security – strong passwords and security processes – and introduce additional security tools.

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