Conservation nonprofit leverages Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams to address long-term technology goals while solving COVID-19 challenges
The coronavirus and subsequent economic lockdown forced organisations to immediately adapt to a new reality. For many, that has meant harnessing digital solutions to a larger degree than ever before, whether launching e-commerce solutions to facilitate orders for curbside pickup or conducting virtual board meetings.
Many companies were caught off guard. But some enterprising executives, rather than simply seeking to temporarily solve immediate problems, realised they could use the emergency to accelerate broader digitalisation strategies.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a nonprofit organisation whose mission is to foster partnerships between private companies, federal agencies, other nonprofits and individuals to advance conservation efforts in the United States, had just such a revelation when it was forced to move a large volume of communication with its employees and partners, typically conducted in person, online.
Transforming to a Digital Workplace
NFWF relies heavily on face-to-face collaboration within its local offices. The personal connection is an important part of the organisation’s culture. In the earliest days of the lockdown, with the transition to remote working, employees struggled to communicate effectively and maintain the personal connections valued across the organisation. Exacerbating this challenge was an assortment of calling plans, web meeting platforms, file sharing tools and other disjointed systems that many employees were adopting and learning on the fly.
“Digitalisation was our main goal for 2020, but when the world was hit with the global COVID-19 pandemic, we had to expedite our digitalisation process,” says Dave Radomsky, NFWF’s chief information officer. “Our organisation is highly collaborative and needed a way to connect and communicate remotely without losing the face-to-face interaction and employee engagement, immediately.”
NFWF executives understood the urgency of the situation and tasked Protiviti, a long-time consulting partner to the organisation, with implementing a solution. The company was maintaining its applications through its Microsoft Exchange on-premise infrastructure, but it had redesigned its public-facing website and had recently begun to review its legacy systems with an eye toward upgrading applications and incorporating some cloud-based infrastructure.
At the time, NFWF was utilising Microsoft 365 Office, but because its team members primarily conducted business face to face, few licensed services were extended to them. When the pandemic hit, Microsoft offered a free six-month trial of Microsoft Teams. The opportunity caught the attention of Radomsky, and Protiviti and NFWF began exploring together how the nonprofit staff could leverage Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams to enhance collaboration and communication.
Expanding the Scope
Radomsky outlined NFWF’s goals and strategies to help guide the transformation. Still, the organisation initially envisioned using Microsoft Teams to simply supplement its established face-to-face meetings and collaboration. What’s more, it envisioned returning to the on-premise systems once team members returned to the office.
This vision evolved after a few weeks when NFWF realised that, if properly aligned with Microsoft Teams, the implementation of Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Online and OneDrive for Business could greatly enhance the nonprofit’s larger digitalisation strategy by providing a broad suite of cloud-based email, scheduling, real-time file sharing and other services across a variety of devices. As a result, what began as an initiative focused on enabling Microsoft Teams evolved into a company-promoted effort to permanently move Exchange on-premise users to Office 365.
“Migrating to Microsoft 365 has modernised our services, enabling our organisation to work in the cloud,” Radomsky said. “As our first step to move to the Microsoft cloud, Protiviti’s team implemented Microsoft Teams and fully trained our staff in just a few weeks, with interactive workshops and dedicated ‘office hours’ to answer users’ questions. Microsoft Teams has greatly improved collaboration and communication across our organisation, allowing us to keep our face-to-face interaction while working remotely.”
Migrating to Microsoft 365 services provided NFWF with a modernised cloud communication platform that not only improved collaboration by allowing face-to-face interaction in a remote working environment, but also hastened and expanded the organisation’s longer-term technology plans to create a more efficient organisation.
Focus on Training
In addition to configuring the system, Protiviti set up recurring virtual training workshops attended by Radomsky, IT team members and end users to support the transition. These planned virtual trainings were supplemented by multiple webinars with various key personnel as needed. Together with NFWF, Protiviti focused on developing full awareness of the technology’s capabilities to enhance interaction and drive adoption.
All sessions were recorded and uploaded to Teams for reference, and Protiviti and NFWF constantly communicated with team members about the scheduling of events. “Office hour” sessions allowed employees to ask questions, discuss capabilities and work through problems in an open forum. To track implementation, NFWF logged the progression of the new system’s adoption, including rollout, onboarding of business functions and mastery of the technology.
Thanks to NFWF’s focus, the entire assignment lasted less than six weeks. The solution ultimately replaced an outdated system and provided the client with a modernised cloud communication platform. The new technology not only improved collaboration by allowing face-to-face interaction in a remote working environment, but it also hastened and expanded the client’s longer-term technology plans to create a more efficient organisation.