A cloud migration in three parts, with a “twist in the plot”
Part 1: preparation and choice
Safire is by no means a standard organization. It is a partnership between Strukton, Heijmans, Engie and ISS who united to perform various management tasks within a Public Private Composition (PPP) for a large government institution. This includes tasks such as building maintenance, catering and landscaping. The personnel are supplied by the four companies. Several employees work part-time for Safire. Looking at their situation, it’s really no wonder working in the cloud is a big deal to them, it gives employees access their Safire mail and files at any time and location. Until recently that took place in a Citrix environment, but that was about to change.
Time for change
Ruud de Haas, IT project manager at Safire from Strukton explains: “Last year, the service contracts we had in place expired. In addition, the thin clients were now six years old and had to be renewed or changed. Thus we had to make a choice: will it be replaced or do we switch to another cloud service? Since the requested cloud environment is fairly standard at Safire, switching to Microsoft 365 turned out to be the best option.”
“When it go to decision time we had to make the next difficult choice,” Ruud continues. “The Citrix environment was implemented by LINKIT, which means we had an excellent working relationship with them. However, setting up a Microsoft 365 environment was also fairly new territory for them. On the other hand, there was another company who had a lot of experience, but worked with more standardized solutions. In the end, after several consultations, we decided to choose LINKIT. They approached the solution more from the needs we had in mind. In addition, they had previous insight into our business needs, making them an experienced party that would support us in the implementation process.”
So far nothing special. The contract was signed, the hardware was pre-ordered and a date was also chosen for the rollout: April 2020
Part 2: Implementation
March to May 2020
From LINKIT, Sai Hin Sin (project leader) and system administrator Oscar Meertens of LINKIT were appointed to manage the Microsoft 365 implementation at Safire and set out to prepare for this operation. However, on Thursday March 12th 15:00 their work for the coming months was turned upside down through a historic press conference. The Netherlands went into an intelligent lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Everyone had to work from home as much as possible and it soon became clear that the implementation at Safire would certainly not go according to plan we originally made.
Ruud came to the same conclusion at Safire. “The major government agency for which Safire provides its services was drained overnight. Almost all employees had to work from home. Minimal presence in the building also applied to Safire. On top of that, it also turned out that the hardware we ordered had been delayed considerably. After in consultation with Sai Hin and Oscar we actually had no choice but to unplug it for the time being.”
A few weeks later…
Ruud: “Of course this was not the situation we wanted to get into. Fortunately, we were able to restart several projects after a few weeks, including this implementation. A limited number of suppliers, including LINKIT, regained access to the building. This ensured that we could still start with the implementation. LINKIT immediately moved along with this and ensured that Sai Hin and Oscar were on call and remained available.”
That was a special performance for Sai Hin and Oscar. Sai Hin explained: “we were suddenly working in an almost completely deserted office environment. Except ourselves, only Patrick from Safire was regularly present. He was appointed as the primary user for Safire and after implementation, he would also take up primary management.”
“Normally we would convert the environment in one big blow, which is nice for the users. In this case, they go home on Friday and can then continue working on their new upgraded systems when they’re back on Monday. That being said, if there is no one in the office, you can rather just do it in phases.”
Ruud was keen on that approach. “While it is exciting to convert everything at once, by doing it in phases meant we were able to check whether everything was working properly. If something went amiss, the consequences are contained and a solution can be sought immediately.”
Oscar went to work on rolling the changes out. He first transferred two intensive users, followed by reception and then several batches of users, scaling out the conversion over the span of about week.
There were some applications that fell outside the standard implementation techniques. The first was a document management app as well as another program called Planon, an information system (FMIS) that was used to book meeting rooms and workplaces in the office, among other things. This application is not only used by Safire, but also by its client.
“Single SignOn was already being used by the company, a precondition for the new environment to guarantee safer access, ”explains Ruud. “Oscar was successful in integrating Planon into the Microsoft environment so that users only have to log in once, a big improvement from a user perspective. Furthermore, we were able to immediately fulfil our appointment. In the end, despite some challenges from the Coronavirus, the implementation was a success!”
Part 3: and beyond…
From June 2020
While for LINKIT the implementation is the centre of the migration process, for Safire the key to success is the adoption phase. The transition usually takes roughly three to four weeks. During that time users will get used to their new office environment and should start exploring and adapting the new functions effectively. If this adaptation phase does not work well, the implementation still “fails”.
The original idea was that Oscar would be at the office of Safire as a floorwalker for half a day every two weeks to deal with potential problems and, above all, answer questions. Ruud: “We found out that some specific users had more questions than we had initially estimated. Fortunately, Oscar turned out to be flexible so we could push his days forward a little. With Oscar their to guide the users into the new environment, way we could offer everyone the right support at an early stage. ”
“We are now more than a month and a half into our experience of Microsoft 365 and we are certainly satisfied. I get feedback from users saying that Microsoft 365 works very pleasantly, is accessible, fast and is definitely an improvement on the Citrix environment that we used before. ”
At the same time, it remains a bit challenging do the unique circumstance of 2020. A large part of the staff still work mainly from home and the building is still closed. This also means that part of our services are still not delivered. ”
Ruud: “All in all, I am very satisfied with the cooperation with LINKIT. In addition to the available flexibility, I notice, for example, that Oscar knows our organization very well. Because of the long-term cooperation we already had, he can probably see our office in his dreams and knows how to indicate his insight in conversations with us, providing us great implementation insight. The advice and choices within the project are in line with the needs of Safire, which provides good confidence in the continuation of our cooperation. LINKIT will remain involved in the (second-line) management of our office environment for the next five years. A collaboration that I look forward to with great confidence! ”