M365 Stack Outperforms the Market
*The name of the firm and the individuals supplying the testimonials were omitted due to their compliance restrictions.
This independent asset management firm has built its portfolio in investments such as transportation, energy, power and renewables, and communications. The firm currently manages billions of dollars in assets from several global locations. Its customers expect secure, compliant, responsive service. The firm’s growth in headcount and increased demand for IT services led them to partner with Enabling Technologies.
The firm’s relationship with Enabling Technologies began with a small project, as many do. That's when Enabling began what has turned into a series of Microsoft 365 projects. Each step of the journey has enabled the firm to be more secure, productive, and operationally efficient.
The Catalyst for Intune
An innovative idea sparked the firm's digital journey.
“We were launching a fundraising campaign for a new fund, and when meeting with investors, we were to no longer able to bring paper,” said the Director. “When you're on a roadshow to multiple companies in Europe, printing out branded proposals for each makes a lot to transport on a plane.”
The IT Director found an app that allows the presenter to hand out iPads to the audience, who all watch as the presenter flips pages on their own iPad.
The iPads needed to be locked down before the roadshow.
“Now we had a concern where these prospects can take screenshots, which is bad news for confidentiality,” the Director said. “We also didn’t want the viewer to flip forward, or use the iPad for any other purpose.”
After looking at AirWatch and having prior experience with Citrix, the firm decided on Intune as the Mobile Device Management technology of choice. “Intune’s single app mode was the best solution out of all our options,” he said.
Selecting the Right Partner
The firm then sought help to meet a six-week timeline. The IT Director recalled: “The week before Thanksgiving, I remember thinking, ‘What company is going to take on this project to get this done before the end of the year?’ My current provider said they could in the next 8 to 12 weeks. So I reached out to my network, and someone recommended Enabling.”
Enabling began the task of designing and configuring Intune to secure the iPads, then doubled down to meet the deadline. “I was a lot more involved with testing than I anticipated,” said the IT Director.” I overnighted an iPad to the Enabling engineer, so he could test the user experience. It worked out perfectly. It was great because I knew where he was at, what his goals were, and when he hit an issue. I was getting updates not five times a week, but like 10 times a week.”
Pleasant Surprises and Efficient Results
Enabling’s standard procedures pleased the firm’s IT Director. “I'll never forget this, because I've never heard an MSP engineer say ‘Hey, I opened a ticket with Microsoft, and while I wait, I'm going to go work on another client and not bill you.’ He was efficient and it was costing me less money. It was fantastic and that's how this relationship started.”
After designing, configuring, and testing in just six weeks, the firm’s roadshow was a success. “We finished it,” said the IT Director. “We hit our mark, we got it done, and from there, built our relationship.”
Intune has also improved security on BYO Devices, and improved the user experience. “Outlook Mobile has made so many people happy. I no longer offer the native Mail app to any new user and I don't get complaints.” He estimates that 75% of the firm voluntarily moved to the Outlook app.
“I feel much more secure with Intune,” he asserted. “I can easily push out apps to mobile phones. Users don’t even have to download apps we publish. It's just there and it just works, and you are just logged in. I don't have to worry about you being able to take your emails and move them into another account. I was able to stop people from copying and pasting text out of an email on to their phone. My executive board is much happier, and our compliance team is really happy.”
Conditional Access Quick Fix
Enabling provided another quick fix in the middle of the Intune project. “It's the second week in December, and our CEO was on a plane to China. That could’ve been bad news because our current Conditional Access policies were blocking access from China. So, I asked our Intune engineer if Enabling had an expert on conditional access.” As a Microsoft specialist, the same Enabling had the skills needed to quickly change the Conditional Access rule. “I asked him to stop what he was doing for 90 minutes before the CEO landed. I told him that I needed to block his PC but need his iPhone to access Office 365 and email.” Enabling’s engineer confirmed that would be enough time.
“I got the request approved through our internal change control process. We got it deployed before he landed, and the CEO never knew there was a potential issue.”
The IT Director decided that with that success, all the firm’s conditional access rules should be audited and improved. “I'm in a great mood, and asked Enabling to add hours to redo all of my conditional access policies,” he said. The firm’s Multifactor Authentication settings were optimized as a result.
Growth Ushers in Autopilot
The firm’s small IT team wears many hats and uses tools to reduce labor in their operations. “The reason we brought on Autopilot is because of a spike in the number of users we’re supporting,” said the IT Director. “We need to automate, and literally the first four letters of Autopilot spell ‘auto!’ My team’s desktop engineer also handles user requests and issues. We recycle computers every three years, and every user has a desktop and a laptop.” That meant a constant churn of new and replacement machines.
“The onboarding of a user from scratch used to take between 10 to 12 hours,” asserted the IT Director. “Now, with Autopilot, we hit the button on our Lenovo’s, and take five minutes to get the process started. We do other work for 30 to 90 minutes while the process finishes. The total time in front of a new computer to get it running is about 30 minutes. We can do four devices at a time, so what generally would have taken three weeks to get a batch of PCs ready with profiles is taking 30 minutes of work. It works 100% of the time and is a major timesaver."
The Stack Provides Standardization
Time savings was expected, but a hidden benefit was how Autopilot has standardized processes. “The greatest thing about Autopilot is not that I'm saving time,” said the IT Director, “it's the guaranteed predictable results every time. There’s no more human error. I don't have to worry, troubleshoot, or go back and check if something was missed.”
“That’s awesome,” he continued, “and that's not just Autopilot. It’s Autopilot combined with Intune, combined with the endpoint security of Defender. Everything together has made things so standardized and automated that human error is no longer questioned.”
Picking the Correct Security Solution
The Desktop Defense gets Deep
Spending $1B per year on Security R&D. Microsoft’s security services tie together in a unique way. The investment firm had been using A/V protection software provided by their managed service partner. “We had been using Symantec Cloud Endpoint Protection, but it was end of life and the basic OEM install.” While the firm had been making the easy decision, they knew it was time to make the right decision.
“I looked at CrowdStrike, SentinelOne, Sophos, and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint,” said the IT Director. “We liked Defender because it provides next-gen protection, and I can be honest with people when I say we’re running a new age product. That helps satisfy our investors. It also integrates with my new SIEM product. It has really nice visuals to let me see what's going on. It’s also the easiest to turn on and to test. It just works.”
“In the end, the decision to go to Defender was easy,” said the IT Director. “When you look at Gartner and you speak to anybody on the security side, Defender for Endpoint is considered one of the most improved products year over year.“
Defender Highlights Vulnerabilities
The firm quickly realized another benefit by using Defender. “Defender made me realize one other thing, and this was huge,” said the IT Director. “My patching wasn't working on all of my workstations!”
He’d been scanning Defender’s Security Recommendations page. “I realized I could now inventory my software. That's something I couldn't do before! Now I could show my management team all the software that my team is managing for the company.”
“This security vulnerabilities tab showed me so much,” he said. “The recommendations pointed out applications that weren’t being updated. Here I’d installed Defender for Endpoint to protect against viruses, and it ends up telling me that my patch management software isn't doing what it claims to do.”
It’s now a virtuous circle using Microsoft’s tools. “Defender told me that I need to fix patching,” stated the IT Director. “We fix patching, we see less issues. Defender is making us more secure. We’re less vulnerable, and we have less of a chance of having an issue.”
Enabling Adds OneDrive Expertise
On its journey to Microsoft Teams, Enabling recommended a brief detour to rollout OneDrive for Business.
“For us, there was never an intention of doing OneDrive,” recalled the IT Director. “During a conversation with Enabling, our engineer told us to not rollout Teams until after we’ve done OneDrive. He said we’d ‘regret it if we didn’t do it in the right order.’ We learned that you need the foundation of OneDrive because everything builds on top of it and if you go out of order, backtracking would take much longer. We decided to do it right.”
To do it right, Enabling brought in the right resource. “After five or six projects with Enabling, I’d been working with the same engineer,” stated the IT Director. “The Engineer said, ‘I’m not the best at OneDrive, but I’m going to get you an expert.’” Enabling brought in an engineer from its SharePoint practice with deeper skills in OneDrive. "He was fantastic, talkative, and we really liked him.”
After a short engagement to analyze requirements and specify a solution, “We finished the OneDrive rollout without lingering issues,” confirmed the IT Director. “We also got an as-built system document, which I thought was the most customized template I've ever seen. It answers every question that anyone could think of, shows how we got here, how OneDrive is deployed, how it works, and who’s managing what. I literally sent this out to our executive board, and they were impressed to find out we’d completed this project in weeks, not months.”
Enabling’s diverse expertise has proven to be valuable to the firm “It comes down to Enabling being a company that is not just a jack-of-all-trades,” stated the IT Director. “I get to work with a subject matter expert for every project, not just one guy who tries to do it all. I'm working with the guy who's best at it. I'm working with a company that hands me a book afterwards to say what was done. Then they have a team to train people how to administer and use it. I don't feel like I'm pigeonholed to one person.”
Time for Teams Training
Having successfully rolled out OneDrive, the firm was ready for Teams. Enabling once again shared its experiences to enlighten the firm.
“Enabling suggested that our training should be different for each user group,” recalled the IT Director. “We had the legal team, and knew they were going to share files and interact with other teams. Then there is the deal team, whose admins needed to be trained to set up meetings on their behalf. I realized everyone needs to learn how to do it best for them.”
With such customized training, the adoption of Teams has been a success. “Training worked great! Teams has been fantastic!” exclaimed the IT Director. “Everyone’s loving it. People are integrating more and more each day. People are collaborating. The instant messaging is perfect. Video chats are working great. It's replaced Skype overnight with a higher user adoption.”
The Head of Administration of the firm coordinated the training, and said of Enabling’s Change Management Professional: “I totally enjoyed working with Val. She was the perfect instructor. Smart, patient and just lovely to work with. I want Val to continue to do our future trainings as I believe everyone loved working with her.”
That combination of focused training on an intuitive UX have ensured a positive experience. “It's a set and forget service,” said the Director, “and it's Enabling’s user adoption specialist’s role to train my users every few months. I just don't think about it. It's that great. I can't say enough positive things.”
Advice to Others on Their Journey
“My advice to other firms enabling new capabilities of Microsoft 365,” advised the IT Director, “is to open the dialogue with an outside expert, even if you think you're going to do it internally. Taking on a project in today's modern era is not as simple as a backend upgrade. A company like Microsoft doesn't wait, right? The interface changes. It's like you either keep the old stuff working with all the security holes, or you keep your security updated and you keep your documentation, your users, and your training updated. That's a full-time job. Why bother doing it when you have a firm that you can work with that specializes in teaching people?”
“Enabling is a team of subject matter experts, dedicated to getting you the right expert for your need. I know there's a team behind every engineer to support him and help me, which is fantastic. If I wanted an independent consultant, I'd hire an independent consultant who would charge a lot less. But the thing you don't get is the knowledge of 100 people, because 100 are always going know more than one, no matter how good that guy is. At the end of the day, Enabling is not a vendor, it's a partner.”