RSM, the world\u2019s seventh largest audit, tax and consulting network, prides itself on its \u2018one-firm structure\u2019. In October last year, the group\u2019s network of member firms in 120 countries united behind a singular global brand \u2013 RSM. \u201cThis now means that in 730 locations around the world you can see the RSM name [under] one single, unified brand,\u201d explains CIO of RSM in Australia, Paul Joseph. The real change, however, is not taking place on the surface. Behind the rebrand, a five year IT transformation programme is already underway. When complete, RSM\u2019s 1,000 plus staff in Australia will be working and collaborating in the cloud, assisting clients via a web based portal. \u201cThe aim of the project is to create efficiencies for our staff and simplify information for our clients,\u201d says Joseph. It will also allow RSM gain insight and find workflow efficiencies in its own business. \u201cBeing a centralised system our team of dedicated engineers will be able to spend less time managing the system and more time in working with the business to extract as much functionality and value as possible," he adds. "From an IT perspective, our reach means that we need to have access to the information, systems and infrastructure to support our business needs.\u201d Breaking habits So far three of RSM\u2019s 29 offices in Australia have been migrated onto the cloud-based central enterprise content management (ECM) system, iManage. Though the change from an IT perspective was no small feat, there\u2019s the added challenge of changing the ways employees work. \u201cRather than having free rein of being able to locate or store a document, having that structured approach of where to put a particular file is probably the biggest challenge so far,\u201d says Sam Mannix, RSM\u2019s business engagement and architecture manager.\u201cIt doesn\u2019t sound that major \u2013 instead of saving your document onto this file server, you save it onto this system. When you go down into a detailed level \u2026 you\u2019re trying to break a routine that dates back 15 or 20 years \u2013 it\u2019s not something that will change overnight.\u201d In order to enhance the search capabilities of the ECM, staff are required to provide additional data when saving documents. \u201cOnce we demonstrate this to employees, it becomes much easier to see the need to change work habits,\u201d says Joseph. \u201cIt\u2019s about showing them, through the search capabilities, they\u2019ll be able to search through that data much quicker,\u201d adds Mannix. \u201cThere\u2019s no magical channel to get the message out. Until someone says \u2013 \u2018I\u2019m sick of you telling me that\u2019 \u2013 then we know we\u2019ve achieved the objective of getting the message out!\u201d Centralised in the cloud RSM explored the best ways to centralise their ECM and considered setting up their own data centre, but opted for the cloud with Microsoft Azure. \u201cWe were able to stand the infrastructure up in a fraction of the time it would take to procure, configure and stress test hardware on premises,\u201d says Joseph. \u201cOver a four year timeframe we estimated a minor cost saving by going to Azure however that didn\u2019t take into account any costs associated with running local infrastructure.\u201d \u201cWe didn\u2019t even have to get to cooling and power and maintenance,\u201d adds Mannix. \u201cNot only would it have cost us far more, but from a disaster recovery perspective, we would have also been susceptible to power fluctuations and outages which meant we\u2019d essentially need two data centres. So we were able to take that complexity out and have a higher level of disaster recovery by hosting it into Azure.\u201d Every second counts With accountants charging in six minute units, there is no time to waste. Throughout the programme, including the migration to the cloud and centralising the ECM, maintaining speed is essential. RSM executives mandated that performance during peak periods had to be, at a minimum, the same in the cloud as it had been on-site. \u201cFrom the outset, our number one concern was speed. For our accountants to sit there and have to wait for a document to download would have been unacceptable \u2013 the project would have been a failure,\u201d says Mannix. The company adopted the Riverbed Application Performance Platform, including a new controller and appliances. Riverbed\u2019s Steelhead CX was also used to optimise documents going in and out of the cloud. \u201cIt gave us the metrics we needed to see how frequently documents were transferred between the offices. We were able to use these insights from our local servers to scope our future planning,\u201d says Mannix. Crucially, there\u2019s been no degradation in performance. \u201cNot only have we been able to maintain the same performance, but we have lowered our operational costs because we\u2019re seeing a two times reduction in traffic,\u201d he adds.\u201cStaff have noticed the change in how they work, but not a change in speed from a local file server at local speed. By maintaining the same speed I think we\u2019ve done a tremendous job.\u201d Exciting futureAs the peak end-of-financial-year period approaches, the team will be closely monitoring performance in the offices already migrated.\u201cHaving a single, structured approach to storing information will allow our teams to store, recall and search client information in an efficient manner,\u201d says Joseph.\u201cExtending this with our collaboration and automation phases will allow us to work more closely with our clients and ultimately deliver an outcome to the client in a shorter timeframe. The future looks exciting!"