REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 3, 2005 — Hanebutt Consulting Group, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner based in Overland Park, Kan., today celebrates the grand opening of the Envisioning Center. Hanebutt Consulting Group, which specializes in serving businesses with five to 125 work stations, developed the Envisioning Center, which is housed at Hanebutt Consulting Group.
The Envisioning Center, which was developed with the support of Microsoft, is a classroom-like environment where customers can see first-hand how Microsoft technology could benefit their businesses. In addition to technology demonstrations, the Envisioning Center will also play host to seminars and workshops developed to address customers’ business needs.
In developing the center, Joni Hanebutt, owner and president of Hanebutt Consulting Group, worked closely with Microsoft.
“The Envisioning Center at Hanebutt Consulting Group is a prime example of how Microsoft’s business partners deliver an incredibly deep level of value to our mutual customers,” says Kim Tubbs-Herron, general manager in the North Central region for Microsoft’s Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners (SMS & P) group. “Always striving to discover new ways of better serving and educating customers is something that makes Microsoft’s network of business partners really stand out.”
Hanebutt says inspiration for the center struck her at Microsoft’s 2003 Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans. She recalls sitting next to a Microsoft employee who was affiliated with the Microsoft Across America van, which travels extensively throughout the U.S. showcasing Microsoft technologies and related services available through local partners.
“I was inspired by the Microsoft Across America van,” Hanebutt says. “I thought it was a great idea, and that it would be good to have a permanent resource for small and mid-sized businesses, a place where they could have a small group setting and a hands-on experience of the technology and the depth of consulting services available to them.”
A Healthy Dose of Mutual Education
The Envisioning Center was developed to infuse the sales process with a healthy dose of mutual education. “In the Envisioning Center, customers can experience the software and decide whether it’s right for them or not,” Hanebutt says. “We set it up to be a no-pressure environment with a focus on learning — both for our customers and for us.”
Less than a year and a half later, the center is ready to officially open for business. Physically, the center has an open, unrestricted feeling to it. It holds up to nine people in what Hanebutt calls “big, comfy chairs” arranged around a V-shaped conference table Hanebutt chose for maximum visibility. The center has laptops, a big-screen television and plenty of white boards.
In addition to showcasing technology, Hanebutt plans to use the Envisioning Center for working with clients to plan strategic technology projects such as deployments and upgrades and to offer seminars. She has already offered sessions on how to have the kinds of technology enjoyed by large companies but on a small-company budget.
Hanebutt says that it’s important to her that visits to the Envisioning Center are low-pressure experiences for her customers. And, so far, her customers say she’s hit the mark.
While the center’s official grand opening is today, it has actually been in operation for a few months.
Learning the Finer Points of File Structure
Karen McCarthy handles IT issues for the C & C Group, a contracting company in Lenexa, Kan., with approximately 90 employees, 50 desktop PCs and 50 laptops that technicians use when they’re out on projects.
Over the course of the last year, McCarthy has relied on Hanebutt Consulting for assistance with technical issues. “When I get in over my head they help me out,” she says. By the end of March, in fact, McCarthy expects to have Microsoft Exchange Server up and running.
And, thanks to her visit to the Envisioning Center, she has a good idea of what to expect. “We were considering Exchange Server but we were still considering other vendors,” she says. “At the Envisioning Center, they put everything up on the big screen so we could see it instead of just being told what it could do.”
The facility, according to McCarthy, was an ideal forum for learning more about things like public folders, Outlook Web access, and the finer points of file structure. “It was very relaxed,” she says. “They’re familiar with our environment and how we operate, so it wasn’t a huge sales pitch. They simply showed us what was possible with Microsoft Exchange Server.”
Rick Stephens, business operations manager with Croft Trailer Supply in Kansas City, Mo., had a similar experience. Croft currently has three retail locations and 39 employees. According to Stephens, the business has aggressive growth goals that include getting into e-commerce.
Stephens — who has 30 years’ of experience in IT — was not happy with the technology infrastructure at Croft. “The consultant simply made decisions about how the company would use the system,” he says.
To bring Croft up to date technologically — and to prepare for a growth-oriented future — Stephens invested in Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, antivirus software and consulting services from Hanebutt.
Which took him to the Envisioning Center, an environment he recalls as friendly and comfortable. “I never felt any pressure or that they were using sales tactics,” he says. “They were genuinely interested in our business, and they took the time to find out what was important to us. If we weren’t interested in something they simply dropped it. What sells the technology is the excitement it generates over the potential benefits it can provide.”
One of the most valuable aspects of visiting the Envisioning Center, Stephens says, is that he learned about features and capabilities of which he wasn’t even aware. “We learned a lot that day about remote access capabilities and about sharing calendars,” he says. “I learned more about Remote Web Workplace, which dramatically eases and speeds up working remotely. They also demonstrated how we can set up an Intranet for communications with employees.”
Stephens made his investment in December and deployed in January. Together with a Hanebutt consultant, the deployment process began at 4 in the afternoon and was completed by 1 the next morning. “The deployment went more smoothly than I could have ever imagined,” he says.
Looking forward, Stephens says he plans to continue absorbing knowledge from Hanebutt. “The knowledge the consultant brings to our company is very valuable,” he says. “It adds value to the technology.”