Teams Sets the Standard at JMT

In the field of engineering, architecture & construction, standards are everywhere. From safety to sustainability, from cost to consistency, standards rule. The engineers, architects, and project managers at Johnson, Mirmiran, and Thompson strive to stay ahead of the demands of its industry. So when the time came to set a standard for a single collaboration and communication tool, CIO Bill Smith seized the moment with Microsoft Teams.

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“By 2018 and 2019,” began Bill, “the organization had accumulated too many collaboration and communications solutions. IT and business operations groups had become comfortable with solutions that have served them well, and consequently were not motivated to change to something else. Although our staff was frustrated and confused by having too many options, individuals advocated for their preferred solution and did not want to change.”

Often this is due to personal comfort factors, but in a customer-centric organization like JMT, it’s also because customers demand that their preferred tool also be used by both parties. “For example,” explained Smith, “for web meetings, JMT staff could elect to use GoToMeeting, WebEx, Skype for Business, Zoom, and a newcomer, Microsoft Teams. This caused obvious problems with a lack of consistency and different user interfaces. The majority of JMT staff were chatting on Cisco Jabber, but some were using Skype for Business, and some Teams.”

When evaluating and planning a new design project, JMT’s engineering, architecture and construction management professionals seek to fully understand the ecosystem factors during their design process. Extensive site surveys and modeling occur before critical decisions are made and permits are procured.

"Smith similarly ensured that all options were evaluated before settling on Teams. “We primarily conducted research from the perspective to validate and defend our hypothesis that consolidating Microsoft 365 for all workloads would improve operational efficiencies.”

Smith’s team already understood what they got from their existing tools, but also considered net new solutions as well. “For example, we researched Slack as a competitor to Teams. Although Slack was an excellent collaboration platform, it did not have the integration and interoperability with the entire Office 365 suite.”

When making its decision, Smith’s IT team noted the momentum of the various platforms that were being used. “Another factor was Microsoft Teams was enabled and the community of users was growing,” Smith explained. “Doing nothing regarding consolidating technologies was going to exacerbate the problem relative to confusion amongst staff. For example, a person could receive chats via Jabber, Skype, and Teams.

When JMT’s engineers and architects assess the requirements to bid on a project, many hours are spent researching client requirements and existing conditions and developing conceptual designs to develop competitive and innovative solutions. Planning the budget for Teams was much easier.

“Funding requirements were minimal,” stated Smith. “Our partner, eGroup Enabling Technologies, was adept working with us and Microsoft to secure some Microsoft Business Investment Funds. These partially funded eGroup Enabling Technologies' services to assist us in planning, communicating, and implementing the transition to Teams and decommissioning the older competing technologies.”

eGroup Enabling Technologies, a 30-year Microsoft Partner, handled the scoping, bidding, and funding approval process with Microsoft. By conducting nearly

2,000 Microsoft voice and collaboration projects, eGroup Enabling Technologies has a standardized process that clearly lays out the responsibilities and costs that customers can expect.

Overall, summed up Smith, “JMT’s investment was within our planned budget.”

While it’s simple to turn on Teams and let people start using its capabilities, a more pragmatic approach to governance, change management, and support was important to JMT. The partnership began with eGroup Enabling Technologies years ago and continues to pay dividends.“eGroup Enabling Technologies was and continues to be a strategic partner and advisor to JMT,” claimed Smith. “Our IT staff had many questions, and while our staff of bright individuals could figure out what to do if they had sufficient time, we had a sense of urgency.”Smith engaged eGroup Enabling Technologies to assess JMT’s current situation and environment, to recommend plans to achieve agreed-upon outcomes, and to transfer knowledge to JMT staff for them to own the projects and implementation.

Future-Proofing through Change Management

JMT delivers ground-breaking and innovative engineering and architecture projects for state and local government agencies, federal agency airports, , universities, and K12 education clients. JMT works very hard to create client excitement and satisfaction. Smith was compelled to make Teams’ adoption exciting and satisfying as well, so that the change would be welcomed and last well into the future.

Smith explained the team’s process. “First, we recognized that as IT professionals, we are not experts at organizational change management. We asked eGroup Enabling Technologies for assistance and to make recommendations. eGroup Enabling Technologies’ Organizational Change Management professionals made numerous suggestions based on what has worked well at other organizations.” eGroup Enabling Technologies’ Prozci-certified change professionals assisted in the conception, construction, and coordination of a multifaceted campaign to excite and educate the JMT community.

Additionally, IT partnered with JMT’s internal Learning and Development Team to take the lead in organizing, scheduling, and conducting a series of campaigns to introduce Microsoft Teams and to educate staff on critical features. Campaigns included webinars, lunch and learn sessions, email communications, Teams Live Events, and others.

Smith’s catchphrase summarized the quick work and can-do attitude of the JMT team in 2020. “Prior to the pandemic,” he explained, “stakeholders did not want to change for many reasons. Some did not want to consider new solutions and technology. They said they were overwhelmed by change. Others were just comfortable with the status quo. Leadership was conflicted between there being no stated need to change, and recognizing the need to improve operational efficiencies and collaboration.” While his team had been planning a more gradual rollout, the pandemic altered the course. “When the pandemic hit and employees needed to work from home,” explained Smith, “management agreed to a rapid deployment and training. Everyone was receptive and appreciative of the technology that enabled them to collaborate and work effectively remotely.”

The nimbleness Teams provided while working from home proved the value to JMT’s business. “Leadership was gladly surprised how smoothly the transition went,” said Smith. “Leadership was able to leverage Teams Meetings and Teams Live Events to collaborate and communicate with their staff.”

“When the pandemic hit, people were asking ‘what are we going to do?’,” recalled Smith. “We took advantage of the opportunity. We had done planning. We were prepared. We acted.”

Benefits Keep Compounding

The efforts in planning and careful communication are paying off. “Benefits have been universal throughout the organization, stated Smith. “Our community has been very happy and appreciative of the rapid deployment and adoption of Microsoft Teams.”

Another major success story was JMT’s HR organization. “For years,” explained Smith, “HR relied on a network file share for storing their content. With the pandemic and sending everyone home to work, use of the network file share was going to be problematic. The CHRO and CIO collaborated and literally converted the HR staff to Teams overnight. They are delighted and were advocates to other groups regarding the benefits of life with Microsoft Teams.”

Smith relayed some silver linings of the sudden standardization of Teams. “Responding to the pandemic crisis provided an opportunity to retire some legacy applications,” he said. “There had been some staff that never fully adopted OneDrive for document sharing and co-authoring. With staff working virtually, the peer pressure to non-adopters increased and drove higher adoption.”

Advice from the Top

In final advice to those who are seeking to standardize on Microsoft 365 tools, Smith suggests “If your organization is struggling to effectively implement Microsoft’s current technologies or struggling to move fast enough or just challenged to keep current based on Microsoft’s rapid pace of change, you don’t need to go it alone. There are qualified organizations that can assist.”

Organizations enlist Microsoft consultants from eGroup Enabling Technologies for multiple reasons, where secure, productive cloud solutions are concerned. Smith succinctly summarized his by saying “I have relied upon eGroup Enabling Technologies as a trusted partner and advisor. They have continued to earn our trust and confidence through each engagement. They have both depth and breadth. eGroup Enabling Technologies can assist with assessments, strategic advice, planning, deep subject matter experts, and Organizational Change Management professionals.

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