IT Professionals Find Higher-Impact Role in Driving Business Success With Microsoft Infrastructure Technologies

ORLANDO, Fla., June 6, 2005 – When Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage today at Tech•Ed 2005 to detail the company’s latest investments and its commitment to the “New World of Work” — which involves providing IT professionals with tools and guidance that enable them to become more proactive partners within their organizations — the type of impact he was describing must surely have sounded familiar to audience member Ross McKenzie.

“That’s exactly what we’ve been aiming toward over the past 18 months,” says McKenzie, director of information services for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) in Baltimore, while discussing some of the key technology themes in advance of this week’s event.

In today’s keynote address to more than 10,000 customers and partners at Tech•Ed 2005, Microsoft’s largest annual technology education conference, Ballmer described a range of investments by the company that he said will enable IT professionals to better support end users, achieve operational efficiencies, reduce costs, boost security, and increase developer productivity (see Related Links). He also stressed that a critical piece of Microsoft’s vision for helping IT enable the New World of Work is helping to elevate the role of IT professional from routine task managers to strategic partners who translate their business goals into technology solutions.

At JHSPH, says McKenzie, “We’re also heavily invested in that vision. Our IS staff has definitely been moving from a ‘break/fix’ role and toward being more collaborative with the students and faculty. Instead of spending all their time installing software or resetting passwords, tech-support guys are out showing people how to get more value out of the technology that’s available.”

The Bridge to Business Objectives

That is an increasingly common trend among IT professionals, and one that Microsoft leaders view as compelling evidence that IT departments – traditionally viewed as cost centers – are becoming powerful catalysts for business innovation and transformation.

“IT decision-makers are the bridge between the business objectives of executive management and the practical demands of employees within organizations,” says David Thompson, corporate vice president of the Exchange Server Product Group at Microsoft. “That’s a vitally important position, and we’re committed to providing tools to help them be more prominent and successful in that role.”

Thompson cites a variety of workplace trends that are placing higher demands on IT infrastructures and teams. As businesses strive to compete in new markets, workforces have extended beyond the corporate boundaries requiring employees to have remote and mobile access to information sources like e-mail, corporate intranets, and work spaces. “Also, workers now rely more heavily than ever on collaborating and sharing information with others – not only within their own organizations, but among customers and partners – with the same immediacy as if they were together in one room,” Thompson says. “These expectations continue to stretch the traditional computing infrastructure boundaries and raise more complex issues for IT professionals, from security and regulatory compliance to cost containment and staffing priorities.”

In response, Microsoft has stepped up efforts to ensure IT professionals have access to a comprehensive front- and back-end solution that will enable them to meet the needs of end users while keeping the infrastructure secure. Microsoft’s efforts are focused on three main design principles:

Access without compromise, which involves balancing the need for users to reach the information and people they need – whenever and wherever necessary – without compromising the security of the corporate network

Self-service infrastructure, which encompasses ways of delegating administrative tasks to end users – such as client and user account provisioning and management – to simple device configuration and updating

IT fundamentals, which ranges from automating software deployment and update procedures to enacting stronger security protections to greater integration with both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies

A host of integrated Microsoft server technologies extend support across these infrastructure design principles. Thompson notes that Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and Active Directory – which provides IT administrators with a single point of control to manage users’ identity and access to network resources – are becoming central to many organizations’ initiatives for more effective collaboration and information sharing. In fact, he says, 86 percent of enterprise businesses in the U.S. have deployed Active Directory as their primary directory. Other important technologies that foster collaboration and increased security include Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2003, which provide a framework for extending collaboration through centralized workspaces; Microsoft Office Live Communication Server and Communicator client, which provide secure, enterprise-grade real-time communications; and Microsoft Windows Rights Management Services for Windows Server 2003, a means to prevent unintended sharing of electronic information.

Nissan: Built for Efficiency

Among the companies already reaping the rewards of this effort is Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., which has consolidated its infrastructure on Microsoft Windows Server System software over the past five years. By the end of the 1990s, Nissan executives began to recognize that decentralized IT systems running independently in Asia, Europe and North America were impeding global collaboration and mobile access. As part of an initiative called WIN – Workforce Integration @ Nissan – the IT staff has extended remote and mobile access to network resources for all users who need it throughout the company, reduced its e-mail servers from 36 to 18 in North America, achieved greater overall system reliability and security, and drastically reduced administrative demands on its support personnel.

“We expect to save at least US$135 million over the next few years thanks to the efficiencies that Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server are helping us to achieve,” says Toshihiko Suda, a senior manager at Nissan. These efficiency gains include increased employee productivity, less travel and lower IT costs. Also, better communication and collaboration among Nissan product engineers through Exchange Server 2003 has enabled the company to reduce the number of unique parts used in its various vehicle models by 60 percent, and the total parts by 50 percent, significantly contributing to the rapid delivery of their final products to market. Regional sales and service representatives not only have greater mobile access to e-mail and other files on the network to provide more timely customer response, but also the ability to submit their own reports on a timelier basis via their Microsoft Windows Mobile Pocket PCs and Smartphones.

“Moving to Windows Server System was crucial to meeting WIN objectives,” says Steve Mejia, senior manager of Information Systems for Nissan North America. “It gave us the ability to provide anywhere, anytime access to our mobile work force in a way that was almost identical to being in the office.”

Brooklyn Brewery: Self-Sufficient Mobile Workforce

Microsoft infrastructure technology is also bringing comparable benefits to much smaller companies, such as Brooklyn Brewery in New York City. “All but five of the brewery’s 27 employees are sales representatives spread across a half-dozen Eastern states, so efficient communication and mobile connectivity to the central office IT systems are critical needs,” says General Manager Eric Ottaway.

“We’ve been striving to make our mobile workforce as self-sufficient as possible by giving them access to as much information and as many tools as they need to do their jobs without having to come into the city or call someone at our office,” he explains. “We’ve succeeded at that, and much more, without increasing our administrative workload, by moving to Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003.”

With the help of Quality Technology Solutions (QTS), a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Brooklyn Brewery runs a Microsoft-based network that gives the sales force remote access to e-mail, up-to-date promotional materials such as company logos, and shared folders containing sales, inventory, accounts receivable and marketing information required for working with distributors and sales outlets. This technology also empowers other Brooklyn Brewery employees who telecommute.

“Going online from wherever they are to grab whatever information they need has increased our reps’ efficiency and responsiveness ten-fold,” Ottaway says. “They’re a better partner to our distributors, and each of them can now serve a larger territory with more accounts, which means our business can grow without adding more overhead.”

With the Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 infrastructure in place and QTS providing technical expertise and support, Ottaway and his employees – from the sales team to the finance controller to the brewmaster – can on focus on the brewing business instead of the technology running their business.

“Microsoft and QTS have made the kinds of things that we used to think were only possible for big companies with huge IT staffs a reality for us,” Ottaway says. “And the beauty of this system is that it doesn’t require a lot of support, which makes it even more feasible for us to use.”

Digital Dimension: Collaborative Workflow

Digital Dimension, an Emmy Award-winning visual effects studio in Burbank, Calif., also has seen the demand for collaboration and mobile access capabilities as its workload continues to double every year. The studio’s creative personnel are constantly teaming up on projects that require them to review, revise, finalize and deliver finished scenes under heavy time pressure as well as with greater accuracy.

To help meet these demands, Digital Dimension built a workflow system using Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Portal Services, the Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 information-gathering program and other Microsoft infrastructure products. The studio tracks all its projects using the SharePoint technologies, keeping up-to-date copies of related documents in shared workspace sites along with links to the production files associated with each project in development. Those involved can view the latest project status information through an individualized digital dashboard so team members know who is responsible for next steps and what stage of review or revision their work is in.

Since many of its project managers travel frequently to meet with clients, Digital Dimension also issued each of them a Tablet PC with wireless connectivity. They can now receive project update notices, review content online, and update information in a SharePoint site from any location that has access to the Web.

“The Microsoft-based environment can support every angle of our business, so it’s easy to create, manage, distribute and share information between offices, projects and applications,” says Ben Girard, president and founder of Digital Dimension. “With SharePoint Portal Server, we can put up a front end that’s organized and concise across all projects – and that yields amazing efficiencies and minimizes the learning curve.”

Meeting Faculty’s Off-Campus Needs

Similar needs for mobility, team collaboration, and information access – albeit in a much different setting – are transforming the IT environment at JHSPH. The school’s students and faculty not only travel broadly, but also collaborate extensively on research papers, coursework, book chapters and most other work they do. “At any given time, about 30 percent of our faculty is working off campus,” says McKenzie. “They require Web-based access to everything – from their e-mail accounts to document storage to shared workspaces. Those are the biggest demands that we see day after day.”

Meeting these requirements has become far easier as the school has standardized its infrastructure on Microsoft technologies over the past 18 months. For example, the school is deploying Windows SharePoint Services to enable users to quickly set up and manage their own collaborative workspaces.

“It’s allowing us to break down the technology barriers for people at the school to collaborate on projects, access information from anywhere in the world – all the things they really want and need to do,” he says.

Although his staff has been providing Web-based applications for nearly a decade and putting users in touch with their e-mail and documents through a Web portal for the last four years, McKenzie said collaboration was a weak area because various technology components lacked integration.

JHSPH has solved these and other issues by migrating its communication and collaboration infrastructure to Exchange Server 2003 and Outlook Web Access, which has opened more opportunities to deliver tools that help school personnel manage their own business requirements without the assistance of their IT department. Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000 handles security for providing remote access to the system, and the IT department manages user identities with Active Directory.

In addition to reducing hardware and software costs by more than 20 percent and spending 50 percent less time maintaining the Microsoft infrastructure compared to previous systems, McKenzie says the IT department has raised its profile among school leaders and end users.

“They trust us more because we’ve proved that these systems keep information secure and provide the access they need,” he says. “Especially with collaboration technologies like SharePoint and Exchange, we’re opening the gates for people to do a lot of things that no one realized they could – and that makes us real heroes.”

Beyond the current technologies that are helping companies like JHSPH, Nissan and Brooklyn Brewery to elevate the strategic value of their IT departments, Microsoft is preparing a number of new product releases and enhancements in the coming years that aim even higher. Focal points include improved mobile access, stronger security, simpler and more consistent programming tools, and better IT deployment and management capabilities.

Microsoft’s Thompson says one of the most important steps that IT professionals can take in building an infrastructure that is ready for the “New World of Work” is to deploy Active Directory for its single-point identity management solution. Also, Microsoft has assembled an array of related tools and guidance for IT professionals to download.

“We’re striving to equip IT professionals with tools that will help simplify their lives and free up more of their time to focus on amplifying the impact of their workforce and discovering new ways to bring value to their organizations,” he says.