REDMOND, Wash. — June 15, 2011 — “Mission critical” is an everyday, real-life reality for Basic Black LLC, a Florida-based company that makes bullet-resistant gear for special-forces soldiers and law-enforcement officers.
With so many people relying on the company’s life-saving products, Basic Black counts on Microsoft Office 2010 to enable secure collaboration among its workforce across three continents, while saving more than $30,000 per year.
Microsoft News Center recently spoke with Basic Black founder and owner John Perkins about his company’s decision to use Microsoft Office 2010 and the impact the software has on the business.
News Center: Tell us a little bit more about your business and what you do.
Perkins: Basic Black is all about doing all we can to protect the men and women who protect us. Some of them protect us in the towns and cities of the United States; others in hostile places doing dangerous things every day. We make it our mission to improve their chances of making it home.
To build the best bullet-resistant products we can, in the tight timeframes we have, we have to find the best talent located in various places around the world. But given the sensitive nature of our work, we also need to coordinate this in a highly secure and reliable manner.
Our team and partner network is located all over North America, with associates in the U.K. and other parts of the world, including Afghanistan. Whether we’re working with various design, production, marketing, testing or fulfillment experts, our talent pool is distributed because we require the best people in our niche industry. At the same time, security is important; it’s central to the nature of the products we manufacture.
News Center: How did you choose Microsoft Office 2010, and how does it help you run Basic Black?
Perkins: Given the collaboration needs of our team and partners, and the requirement to secure our internal communications and documents, we looked closely at the various productivity options available.
We briefly considered deploying a competitive solution, when a company that bid on a proposal to replace all of our workstations offered it as a solution. We had been using Microsoft Office 2007. I saw that this solution would save us some money upfront, but I could also see it didn’t have the security and collaboration features we required. I also felt there were “hidden costs” that came with alternative products, including the time needed to learn how to use it, fix it when it crashes, and to maintain it.
So instead, we chose Microsoft Office 2010 for its ability to meet our company’s needs, right out of the box, and for its lower total cost of ownership.
News Center: What did deployment entail?
Perkins: Our deployment of Office 2010 only required a simple upgrade from Microsoft Office 2007; it took less than an hour to install. And it only took us a short time to become familiar with the new features and tools in Office 2010.
News Center: What is unique about the way you use Office 2010? How does it help you make a better product?
Perkins: Only a few select people at Basic Black have the rights to open, reply and forward sensitive conversations, along with the ability to read, edit and copy Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents that include information about prototyping, test results, sales presentations and pricing plans for our products.
The way we use Office 2010 to collaborate starts at the very beginning with an idea for a product, sometimes as a request from one of our associates in the field. As the idea begins to take shape, we rights manage it, giving the product design team read-only and edit-only access. Once that idea becomes an actual product specification, the document is then sent to the testing team, and depending on test results, the product specifications are adjusted as needed. Finally, when we are ready, the document is sent with read-only access to manufacturing. The document is then retired on our end until we received feedback from our associates in the field, and we either adjust the specifications some more, or build a new product altogether, using the same rights-managed collaboration.
Our workflow has allowed our products to exceed the National Institute of Justice Standards and meet the expectations of the special forces. Our use of Office 2010 has had a hand in that.
News Center: What about cost savings?
Perkins: The collaboration features in Office 2010, including information rights management, has saved us more than $30,000 within one year of deployment. Beyond the obvious cost savings, we’re also able to get feedback from associates who are field-testing Basic Black gear in high-risk countries who do not have the flexibility to travel out of those countries. Their time is money, and Microsoft Office allows us to put our work together without travelling. Instead, we rely on collaboration, and we’re able to trust how that collaboration works.
News Center: Are there any other benefits?
Perkins: We also have peace of mind that we’re using authentic software.
In our industry, counterfeit products can have a high correlation to fatalities. If I use something that is sub-standard, counterfeit — I have a big problem. If I use something out there that doesn’t meet the specifications that it should, somebody’s life can be at risk. If someone were to offer you a free bullet-resistant vest, you should take it and dump it in the trash. Which was what we did with free software in the end.
When it comes to technology, if someone in this line of work isn’t using fully licensed software, it means they don’t have access to updates and patches … which exposes their company to malicious programs lurking out there. We can’t afford any type of security breach, and our customers can’t either.
News Center: How does your use of Office 2010 relate to the “big picture” of what you do?
Perkins: To receive certification from the National Institute of Justice Standards, we have to produce our armor to exacting standards. We use authentic, genuine materials in our original, patented designs. This is just like using genuine Microsoft products. Microsoft Office products help protect us, so we can do the same for our customers.