Office 365: Car Dealer Revs Up for Growth with Microsoft Cloud Service

Here's a look at how and why the Hendrick Automative Group is using Microsoft's Office 365 cloud service to relieve an overburdened staff, scale the company and save money.

Wed, July 06, 2011

CIO — In many ways, Hendrick Automotive Group of Charlotte, NC, is an ideal cloud customer — a growing midsize company with a lean IT staff.

And lean it is. Hendrick's IT group of 13 people serves all of its 7,000 employees at 75 car dealerships across the U.S., which includes people in sales, accounting, service technicians and the auto parts department. (Hendrick is the seventh largest Automotive Group in the U.S. and sells every kind of car except Ford) (F).

"We're running a multi-billion dollar a year company with 13 IT people. You can't get much more trim than that," says Robert Taylor, Hendrick's Director of IT.

A Microsoft (MSFT) shop, Hendrick has been running all its Office 2007 email, collaboration and productivity apps on-premise (Exchange, SharePoint and OCS). Of its 7,000 employees, 4,500 of them are on the corporate network at any given time, and as the Hendrick dealerships have grown over the past few years, an on-prem model began to stunt IT's ability to help the company grow.

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"If the Mr. Hendrick walked in tomorrow and said I just bought 20 car dealers, how would we accommodate that?" says Taylor. "The lead time for something like that is months, but with a cloud service, if you need to scale you push a button."

An Out-of-the-Box Cloud Candidate

Taylor and team realized the best decision was to reallocate resources toward a cloud model for email and productivity apps and recently approached Microsoft about moving to Office 365. In addition to simply having an overburdened IT staff, Hendrick is also a good fit for the cloud because they don't do much customization within Exchange and SharePoint.

"We operate pretty much out of the box," says Taylor. "There's not much additional value we add to Office 2010 by managing it ourselves. It makes us a good candidate for the cloud."

Hendrick's goal is to migrate to all features of Office 365 (Exchange, Lync and SharePoint) eventually. But the more immediate goal is the messaging components, says Taylor.

"By the end of next year all of Exchange and Lync will be in the cloud for us. If it can go to cloud, it should go."

SharePoint the Laggard

SharePoint, however, may take a little time, says Taylor.

Hendrick's dealerships are mostly autonomous and IT serves them as if they are 75 different businesses. Each dealership has its own SharePoint intranet and MySites for individual employees, and are free to use them in their own way — whether it's managing documents, tracking the paperwork that went with the "Cash for Clunkers" program or simply gathering relevant news articles and videos on a MySite page.

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