Scripps Networks Interactive develops lifestyle-oriented content for television and the Internet. With eight offices in the United States, its employees rely on its hosted Microsoft solution for daily email communications. When Scripps Networks Interactive heard about the next generation of Microsoft cloud-based services, it joined the Microsoft Office 365 Rapid Deployment Program to prepare for its upgrade. Employees were pleased with new capabilities in Microsoft Outlook 2010 and Microsoft Exchange Online to help manage their inboxes. The company also plans to standardize its communications with Microsoft Lync Online. With Office 365 and Microsoft Office 2010, employees are expected to improve productivity with new messaging and communication capabilities, while the IT staff gains efficiencies and reduces delays of routine tasks with more local administrative controls.
Scripps Networks Interactive is a leading developer of lifestyle-oriented content for television and the Internet, where on-air programming is complemented with online video, social media areas, and e-commerce components on companion websites and broadband vertical channels. The company’s media portfolio includes Lifestyle Media, which is comprised of popular lifestyle television and Internet brands, such as HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, and the country music network Great American Country, and Interactive Services, with leading online search and comparison shopping services BizRate, Shopzilla, and Beso.
Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Scripps Networks Interactive has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Nashville, and San Francisco. Its 2,000 employees rely on its messaging solution for daily email communications. In 2009, the IT leadership decided to transition from an on-premises messaging system to a hosted solution, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS).
The IT staff manages 2,400 mailboxes in Microsoft Exchange Online, while employees use Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to manage their inboxes. Chris Roberts, Senior Manager of Information Security for Scripps Networks Interactive, says, “It was much easier for us to manage mailboxes for employees in offices across the country once we moved to the Exchange Online cloud-based solution.”
A few small groups of employees are using the hosted versions of Microsoft Office Communications Online and Microsoft Office Live Meeting for instant messaging and conferencing. Patrick Burnett, IT Manager for the Vendor Management Office at Scripps Networks Interactive, says “With pockets of employees using Office Communications Online and the others using one-off third-party solutions for instant messaging and web and audio conferencing, the company sought to move to one standard solution, to help us better communicate with everyone in the company.”
In addition, the company recently deployed Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 on-premises to take advantage of its advanced document management and collaboration capabilities.
As a benefit of the Microsoft hosted solution, Scripps Networks Interactive reduced IT administration and avoided hardware costs. However, the IT staff lost some local administrative controls that they wanted back. For example, when employees requested server side email forwarding, RIM BlackBerry resets, or password changes, the IT staff had to call Microsoft Support to make a request for Microsoft resources to make these changes in the hosted solution. Roberts says, “We wanted more local control, so we could avoid delays in completing these types of requests.” The IT staff also wanted more granularity in the levels of administration rights so that they could assign administration tasks to a broader set of IT support staff.
When Scripps Networks Interactive heard the announcement about Microsoft Office 365, the next generation of Microsoft cloud-based services, it immediately reached out to Microsoft to learn more. Roberts says, “We have always planned to move along with the online enhancements as they come available. As we heard more about Office 365, we got excited about the possibilities for more local IT administrative controls and new capabilities to help employees manage their inboxes.”
Scripps Networks Interactive joined the Office 365 Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) to help prepare for its transition. Office 365 combines the familiar Microsoft Office desktop suite with new versions of Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online.
To start the pilot, the IT staff focused on understanding what new administrative and security settings were available in Office 365. The team was excited to see Role-Based Access Control and a significant increase in the number of local administrative controls available in the Office 365 web portal. The IT staff also found the interface more user-friendly. The IT team could locally complete routine tasks such as Microsoft ActiveSync policies for mobile devices, set up mail forwarding, and reset passwords. Roberts says, “We were happy to see and test a more complete administrative web portal for Office 365. Now we can manage many routine requests locally. We can also set new levels of administrative rights to delegate tasks to other members on our team without risk to our security policies.”
To improve the employee experience, the IT staff upgraded employees’ desktops from Microsoft Office 2007 to Microsoft Office 2010. Burnett says, “Since we know our employees can take advantage of more capabilities in Office 365 with Office 2010, we felt like it was important to pilot the service with the latest Office version. We plan to upgrade all employees to Office 2010 before the entire company transitions to Office 365.” The IT staff also deployed Active Directory Federation Services to work with Office 365 so that employees only have to provide a single sign-on using their familiar domain credentials instead of having to remember a separate cloud password.
With Exchange Online and Microsoft Outlook 2010, employees tested new email capabilities, such as Conversation View, MailTips, and Calendar Preview, to help better manage their inboxes. In Outlook 2010, employees can use Conversation View to organize and view their email messages by conversation, so they can access information more quickly. With MailTips, employees can see—before they click the Send button—whether a message recipient is out of the office, a distribution list or attachment is too large to send, or a meeting room is too small to accommodate all attendees. With Calendar Preview, employees are shown a slice of their calendar in a meeting request allowing them to read the request and check that date on their calendar at the same time.
When away from their computers, employees can take advantage of Microsoft Outlook Web App to access their email from virtually any device and most browsers. The employees can easily work in Outlook Web App because of the consistent look-and-feel and features with Outlook 2010. Burnett says, “Whether on the desktop or in a browser, our employees have a better experience with Outlook. This is one of the main reasons we plan to upgrade to Office 2010 with Office 365.”
Burnett says, “With Lync Online, our employees were pleased to see presence indicators that display their colleagues’ availability in many of the Office 2010 applications, especially Outlook 2010.” Lync Online also provides presence indicators for the company’s on-premises SharePoint Server 2010 solution, so employees can see the availability of the person who last updated a file or the owner for a SharePoint team site. Employees can then click on the presence indicator to see a coworker’s position in the organization chart and other contact details. The employee has the option to connect instantly with the coworker through instant messaging, a PC-to-PC call, or audio or video conference. The company is also happy to see that Office Communications Online and Live Meeting were combined into one solution with Lync Online.
Scripps Networks Interactive hopes to transition all of its employees to Office 365 as soon as possible after it completes testing.
Scripps Networks Interactive looks forward to its transition to Office 365. Although it has already achieved significant cost savings from switching to a hosted solution several years ago, the company anticipates Office 365 will help its IT staff better manage its infrastructure with more administrative controls. It also expects employee productivity to improve because of the way the online services in Office 365 work with Office 2010 to offer new messaging and communication capabilities.
Enables Better Administrative and Security Controls
The IT staff will regain many administrative controls when it moves to Office 365. With more controls and a more user-friendly administrative portal, the IT staff believes it can complete routine tasks quicker, which leads to less delays and downtime for its employees. With the more granular levels of administration rights, the current administrators can also delegate more of the administration to other IT staff without affecting security policies. Roberts says, “We are happy to have many of these controls back in our hands. With the self-service administrative capabilities in Office 365, we can eliminate 90 percent of the things we called BPOS Support to do on our behalf. Now the only time we have to call Office 365 Support is when we have a more traditional troubleshooting issue.”
Improves Employee Experience and Productivity
Scripps Networks Interactive anticipates that its employees will improve productivity with the new capabilities and better user experience in Office 365. The IT staff believes these productivity gains for employees will come mainly from the familiar user interface of Office 2010 applications and the way Office 365 and Office 2010 work together. Employees also expressed their excitement about the new email and calendar management capabilities in Outlook 2010 to reduce the amount of time they spend managing their inbox. IT staff will also address past employee frustration by providing employees with single sign-on when using Office 365 online services.
Improves Communications with One Organization-Wide Solution
With Office 365, Scripps Networks Interactive plans to start removing its multiple third-party communication solutions and move toward its goal for one standard solution for online communications. With the interoperability of Lync Online, Office 2010, and SharePoint Server 2010, employees can instantly find available coworkers and connect with them in context of what they are working on, such as an email, a document, or a SharePoint site. Burnett says, “With organization-wide communication and collaboration, we are not where we would like to be. We certainly believe that Lync Online will open the door to changing our company culture, as far as being able to reach people more quickly, get answers to questions more quickly, and move at a faster pace when trying to get our jobs done.”
Burnett concludes, “Our employees and our IT staff look forward to the seamless experience of working with Office 365 and Office 2010. We expect the new messaging and communication capabilities to help us work better together.”