Pilot Studies to Measure Product Effectiveness

Michael James, Interim VP-IT & CIO, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
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Michael James, Interim VP-IT & CIO, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Limited Space—No More a Concern

We are running MS-Exchange 2010 and Office 365 for our e-mail services in addition to our site licenses for MS-Windows and MS-Office. Limited space and an unappealing interface for our students and faculty/staff was a concern but after moving the students to Office 365, they have been greatly alleviated. A lot of students were dissatisfied with the limited storage space. Presently, our students’ e-mail accounts are on MS-Office 365 and have 25 GB storage space. Additionally, the interface of Office 365 is intuitive. Faculty/staff e-mail accounts were recently upgraded to MS-Exchange 2010 with increased storage capacity.

Microsoft Products Create Value for Customers

Windows Azure platform has added value for customers seeking Platform as a Service (PaaS) for Microsoft products such as Active Directory and SQL server, and for customers who value ease of use vs. amount of control in their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, compared to other cloud providers.   

Effective Strategies to Overcome Issues

A lack of adequate planning and testing prior to implementing projects are typical mistakes, and not unique to Microsoft Solutions.  During new implementations and upgrades, it is also important to include training, operational support after go-live, and adequate license count and cost over the life of the project  (including projected annual increases) while budgeting total cost.  Training and testing costs are sometimes minimized or under calculated for Microsoft Solutions, because of the expectation of familiarity with the suite of products among the typical office user base.

“Rolling out new implementations with a pilot group can assist in measuring effectiveness, triage potential problems, and incorporate lessons learned”

For example, while recent versions of Microsoft Office introduced features such as the ribbon interface, as well, the release of Windows 8 introduced the Metro user interface, in both cases, users would benefit from additional training to take full advantage of these changes.   An effective strategy to overcome these issues is to roll out new implementations with a pilot group (if possible), which can assist in measuring effectiveness, triage potential problems, and incorporate lessons learned that can be applied during the final implementation.

 Consulting with Stakeholders Essential

As enterprise technology has been moving away from client desktop applications, and towards cloud based, ubiquitous web applications accessible on an ever-increasing number of devices, it is important to consider how each Microsoft solution or product fits strategically within this vision. Aside from typical evaluation criteria such as cost, percentage of market share (in general and specific to your industry), feature list, etc. that is used to rate different vendors during product selection, interoperability with other products and open standards are becoming important factors to consider. In today’s environment, there is an expectation that data will be shared and accessible between multiple systems instead of being kept in silos. Before choosing, always consult with the key stakeholders to determine their needs and keep them apprised. Keep in mind the familiarity of your customers with Microsoft solutions so that training costs are estimated correctly and the project goes live as planned. A one size approach does not fit all the needs of your customers. Look upstream for cost reduction. IT should organize around key business processes so ensure you understand the needs and constraints of vital business processes of your institution.

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