by Shane O'Neill

Productivity Tools in the Cloud: Real World Best Practices

Mar 24, 2010
Cloud ComputingMicrosoft OfficeOffice Suites

Moving applications to a cloud service is a disruption to any business, but in Ron Markezich's experience as Microsoft's VP of Online Services, a well executed cloud migration can redefine a company. Here are three best practices he's gleaned from Microsoft's largest BPOS customers, including Coca-Cola and GlaxoSmithKline.

If you’re an enterprise deciding whether now is the time to migrate your e-mail or SharePoint environment into a cloud service, there is a method to all this cloud madness. And if done right, it could transform your company’s identity.

Certainly, there are pros and cons to moving applications and data to a cloud service provided by a big vendor like Google, Microsoft, or Amazon. For every benefit of a cloud-based service such as cost savings, application accessibility and ease of use, there are understandable fears about security, privacy and data loss.

Moving to the cloud is a disruption to any organization and will change how IT works. But companies that do their due diligence will not only save money, but also see a boost in productivity and morale as a well timed and executed migration to cloud services can redefine a company, said Microsoft Online Services VP Ron Markezich in a recent interview with

Markezich highlighted large Microsoft BPOS (business productivity online suite) customers such as Coca-Cola and GlaxoSmithKline that were able to get C-level support for cloud migrations that ultimately changed the companies’ cultures. BPOS includes Exchange Online with Hosted Filtering, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Here are three cloud deployment best practices that Markezich gleaned from the experiences of enterprise BPOS customers.

Launch SharePoint Online with a New Company Portal

Companies should create a company portal in SharePoint (basically an Intranet) and launch SharePoint Online and the portal at the same time, and then drive employees to the portal, Markezich recommends.

What that allows a company to do is end the dependency on the old technology the company was using, and get people up to speed on the new portal quickly without a lot of one-on-one training. You can rebrand an entire company by using social networking features in SharePoint Online, says Markezich.

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A good example of this approach, he says, is Aviva, the largest insurance company in the U.K. Aviva went through a rebranding exercise a few months ago and the CEO kicked it off by starting his own blog using SharePoint Online. He also did a set of videos for the kickoff and created a wiki for the company so employees could post and share information.

The CEO still uses the blog today and employees use the wiki extensively across the various business units that Aviva has acquired.

“They used a move to BPOS as a defining moment to rebrand the company,” says Markezich.

Convince CEO the Cloud Is the New World

Similar to Aviva, pharmaceutcal giant GlaxoSmithKline is driving employees to a Sharepoint Online portal for better collaboration. But the company also used a move to BPOS to convince the CEO that its productivity tools were outdated.

“When a new CEO came in the CIO said we need to change the culture here, we need to get off Lotus Notes and get out of the old world,” says Markezich.

Even before they deployed BPOS, there was a marketing campaign within GlaxoSmithKline — called “Be a Leader, Not a Follower” — to emphasize the change that BPOS could bring. It was marketed as not just a new productivity tool, but a culture change where users can get at e-mail from any Internet connection, blog and use wikis inside the company, and connnect with partners through social networking tools.

“But it took a mandate from the CEO for this movement to work,” says Markezich. “They made it a business and culture initiative instead of just an IT initiative.”

Give the Company an Identity

Although the CIO of Coca-Cola Enterprises was in charge of its BPOS deployment, Markezich bets that if you asked around inside Coke they would say their chief marketing officer was just as responsible.

“She used BPOS as a tool to help create more brand awareness of Coke Enterprise among the employees,” he says.

Because Coca-Cola Enterprises is only partially owned by The Coca-Cola Company and in a separate location, many Coca-Cola Enterprise employees felt like they didn’t have an identity.

The Web-based e-mail and social networking tools within BPOS helped establish more of an identity for Coke Enterprises within the overall company, says Markezich.

“BPOS allowed the people who work in the warehouses and distribution centers and who drive the trucks to have quick access to online productivity apps. It helped reach all 70,000 users in the company, not just the 30,000 knowledge workers.”

Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at Follow him on Twitter at Follow everything from on Twitter at