REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 27, 2001 — When asked about intranets, corporate IT managers often cite several concerns: theyre costly to create and maintain, its difficult to facilitate employee collaboration, and relevant, dynamic business information is hard to find.
With the Microsoft Solution for Intranets (MSI), Microsoft is addressing these issues with a cost-effective, integrated solution designed to empower knowledge workers while improving employee productivity and increase communication within an organization. The MSI allows corporations to create a knowledge workplace by integrating SharePoint Portal Server, SharePoint Team Services, Office XP, SQL Server, Windows 2000 and Windows Media. These services enable knowledge workers to collaborate with each other effortlessly, and help employees find corporate business information easily. In addition, the Windows Media broadcast component enable employees to view live corporate communications directly from their desktops, reducing the costs associated with large meetings and travel.
H & R Block, a diversified financial products and services company and an early adopter of the MSI, is already reporting benefits in terms of improved employee productivity, improved operational efficiency and lower desktop support costs. As the market leader for tax preparation services and the U.S.’s seventh-largest accountancy, H & R Block employs an increasingly diverse and specialized workforce of financial advisors, tax professionals and other sales associates. As the company has expanded, its business has undergone rapid growth and transformation, and with it has come the need for new product development, increased training and regular corporate communication.
Prior to implementing the MSI, company employees were served by a variety of decentralized intranets containing silos of information, with no centralized search capabilities or aggregation of user systems. Also, escalating travel costs and a geographically distributed workforce opened up the need for IT-based tools for company-wide video broadcasts.
“Executive management recognized the value-added role that a flexible portal solution would bring to the company,” says Bernie Wilson, senior vice president of H & R Block Financial Advisors. “We needed a platform solution that enabled all of our financial advisors to easily and quickly search, access and manage information on our products and services yet also provide centralized administration and secure access. Using the Microsoft solution, we were able to get up and running quickly and have near instant functionality that enabled us to rapidly publish our existing content, thereby allowing our Financial Advisors to immediately apply it in client-facing situations.”
One component of the MSI is the broadcast capability, enabling delivery of audio and video communications to the desktop. The Windows Media Broadcast works with the portal to allow companies to use their intranets for broadcasting events such as live conferences, presentations and corporate training to every employee desktop. This approach to communications can significantly lower costs by eliminating the need for expensive meetings and travel.
“The Windows Media Broadcast component has allowed us to replace face-to-face meetings with online product and sales trainings as well as a simplified way to communicate with all financial advisors,” Wilson says “The speed of deployment and flexibility of the solution is already showing great return on investment. ”
Search and Information Management Capabilities Streamline Processes
SharePoint Portal Server acts as one of the primary hubs of the solution, enabling the creation of a customized knowledge workplace from which to facilitate centralized information management and discovery. As businesses continue to generate large amounts of data, employees often have to spend hours looking for relevant information on file servers or in public folders, and they cannot be sure that what they have found is the most current version available. Without centralized management of newly created documents, the problem of finding and sharing information in order to facilitate better business decisions becomes further muddled. SharePoint Portal Server addresses this issue by simplifying the process of finding and organizing relevant information across a business unit, division or enterprise.
There are many benefits of this approach for knowledge workers. Employees can make better decisions by more efficiently leveraging the intellectual capital stored within their organizations.
“One of our customers wanted to make sure that if there was a particularly successful manufacturing process in use in France, that people in the Philadelphia office could learn about those practices and employ them as well,” says Jeff Teper, general manager of the Portal Business Group at Microsoft. “That’s where the portal is really useful.”
SharePoint Portal Server, Office XP and Windows 2000 Aid in Team and Document Collaboration
SharePoint Team Services (STS) and Office XP work together to create ad hoc team collaboration Web sites that can be searched and accessed through the portal. The STS Services component of the MSI provides knowledge workers with the ability to share team documents and calendars, collaborate on tasks, store contact lists and conduct surveys and hold impromptu discussions.
“With an easy-to-use team solution, people are finding it much easier to work together,” Teper says. “The time required to improve productivity is drastically reduced, freeing employees to focus on more strategic projects.”
Due to the familiar UI and simplicity in creating ad hoc team workspaces, knowledge workers are empowered to create their own team sites without help from their IT departments, saving both time and money.
“A big part of our solutions offering is allowing people to buy something they can get running very quickly, instead of offering something that costs a lot of money to create and manage,” Teper says. “Customers tell us that the timing is perfect for this kind of solution, because people are focused more on fast, inexpensive solutions than they are on lots of custom development.”
The MSI also
delivers robust document collaboration capabilities
the combination of SharePoint Portal Server, Office XP and Windows 2000. Knowledge workers can easily create and manage documents with the familiar tools they use every day. Document creation, review and publishing to the intranet are made simple by features such as check-in/check-out, profiling, versioning
Providing Better Access to Information
Like H & R Block, Banc Nacional of Costa Rica was in need of better employee access to information. As Costa Rica’s largest bank, with over 1.5 million customers, Banc Nacional was grappling with decentralization and multiple silos of information prior to implementing the MSI. Their goals included centralization of information, a common user interface for all their employees, a common search engine, decentralization of publishing capabilities and improvement in employee productivity.
According to Warren Castillo, CIO of Banc Nacional, the MSI has met their goals handily by allowing them to set up one company-wide intranet with six divisional portals. “Now, employees can find and share information using a common place,” he says. “By using the intranet, they in essence have the whole bank in their hands, and have access to information useful for all internal bank projects.”
Four industry-leading systems integrators are now offering deployment services and added value solutions for the MSI: Avanade, Compaq, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Hewlett-Packard.
“We will provide a full range of services — anything from an initial workshop with customers to a more detailed assessment of customers’ actual computing infrastructure,” says Tony Redmond, vice president and chief technology officer, Compaq Global Services. “We will then evaluate how these technologies can be introduced into their infrastructure without causing disruption, through pilot and then full deployments. We’ll also provide customization services.”
“The focus of the solution is to give customers a dynamic intranet solution that can really impact worker productivity in the organization,” Teper says. “We’re taking several powerful technologies and integrating them together in a way that solves real business problems now. We’re also providing a comprehensive architecture guide with advice on how to get the solution up and running very quickly, as well as customized services and support.”