Skype Connects Staff across the Campus
Who is the National Aquarium?
The 1.3 million people who visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore each year are captivated by its award-winning habitats and the more than 20,000 animals that live in them. Behind the scenes, CTO Sam Tawiah’s IT team creates an environment of security, collaboration, and process improvement for Aquarium staff.
Skype Connects Staff across Campus
Using Microsoft solutions in partnership with Enabling Technologies, the Aquarium provides secure access to information, Office 365, and collaboration tools. “Enabling Technologies has been very trustworthy,” said Tawiah. “We count on their counsel, and their ability to fill gaps for us.”Among the first solutions, Enabling Technologies deployed for the Aquarium was Lync (now Skype). “We use Skype for Business to allow our teams to quickly communicate across multiple facilities,” said CTO Sam Tawiah. “Most visitors see the Aquarium on Piers 3 and 4, but it’s actually a campus. Without good, solid technology, we would have trouble communicating. Skype really helps when a team in Pier 3 can quickly find and communicate with someone in marketing at headquarters, or at our Animal Care Center across town.” Enabling Technologies has managed multiple deployments, upgrades, and migrations. “Enabling Technologies runs projects very, very efficiently and makes us comfortable,” said Tawiah. “We have a small team, who needs to do things very efficiently. When Enabling Technologies does the heavy lifting, it frees our team to help internal customers and handle pressing needs of the business.” Enabling Technologies also supports Tawiah’s team if there are issues. “We have been operating with Enabling Technologies as a support arm and call when needed, which is very comforting.
Securing their Communications
Tawiah sees cloud services as an optimal way to scale. “I view cloud technology as my way to scale without spending on infrastructure,” he said. Enabling Technologies Tech set up Office 365 and Azure Active Directory, and the Aquarium uses several third-party SaaS applications.
Enabling Technologies Single Sign On to the cloud was an early initiative to improve security and management. “Using Azure Active Directory, users now have Single Sign On to Salesforce, Ultipro, and Intacct,” explained Tawiah. “Users log in from the Microsoft Office portal, so it’s very seamless. Users know if I need to get to these apps, I go to one place. That’s hard to quantify but provides real value.”
Tawiah relies on Enabling Technologies for new cloud security initiatives. “The SSO project is not something I would’ve entertained doing on our own,” he said. “You want to work with a provider that has been there before. Using Enabling Technologies made that seamless, and we knew they would meet their commitment when done.”
Securing Everything (Especially their Users)
Since its opening in 1981, the National Aquarium has consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top three aquariums. Such lofty recognition requires the organization to put a premium on protecting the data of its customers and employees.
“Selling security to management has been easy,” stated Tawiah, “because they hear news of all these breaches. The leadership team has embraced new behaviors like Multifactor Authentication (MFA).” The Aquarium uses MFA for IT already and will enforce conditional MFA to prompt users with a second factor only when off-campus.
Keeping Current on Trends and User Adoption
How does Tawiah’s staff stay so current? “It is all a function of finding a provider who is engaged, and close to the Microsoft community. We couldn’t keep up with all of this and do our day jobs.” Tawiah attends Enabling Technologies’ annual conference every year, and his team is active on a variety of topics with Enabling Technologies.
One of Tawiah’s big takeaways is his mindset about change management and user adoption. “Because of Enabling Technologies’s preaching, we’ve adopted and forced ourselves to implement user awareness and change management principles.” In an organization credited with educating approximately 150,000 students each year, the IT team is constantly engaged and educating the staff about the Aquarium’s multiple cloud deployments to ensure users are getting value. “I picked up little tricks at Enabling Technologies’s conference and we’re using it in practice. By managing user change in our environment, we’ve learned and adapted.”
At one of Maryland’s largest paid tourist attractions, success breeds success. Tawiah said, “I hear this all the time, like when we first rolled out SSO for the first application, users said, ‘Wow, I like that!’ and started demanding more. That’s when you know you’ve made an impact!”
Advice and Lessons Learned
In closing, Tawiah mentions how “I see Enabling Technologies as an extension of our team. It’s hard to put a price tag on that, but it’s like we have a private help desk to engage on any number of issues. Enabling Technologies’s not just a vendor, but a talent pool. They’re more like family than a vendor.”
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