NEC embrace digital transformation with Microsoft Fast Track and Office 365

Events Industry

500 trade shows per year

2,000 users

What do David Bowie, Queen, Beyoncé and the Microsoft UK Technology Summit have in common? They have all been hosted by the National Exhibition Centre. The NEC Group (NEC) owns multiple event venues and businesses which turn over £140m per annum. The NEC employs over 1,000 staff on a permanent basis and 700+ casual workers. The NEC further delivers more than £2.1bn annual impact to the regional economy and supports the full-time equivalent of 29,000 jobs. On average the NEC welcomes around 3 million visitors each year and holds in excess of 500 trade and consumer events.

“Internal datacenters are hard work and they’re relatively high risk. From a risk-management perspective, the added security we gained by migrating our data to the cloud was really important to us — just as important as the financial benefits.”

John Hornby, Chief Operating Officer – The NEC

The challenges that the NEC faced

The NEC had millions of pounds of data to manage every year at an ever-increasing rate. As the costs and risks of hosting their corporate data increased, the NEC decided to move to the cloud to reduce operating expenses, improve security and eliminate the need to maintain its own datacenters.

In tandem with this, the NEC moved from the public sector to the private sector after they were purchased by LDC in 2015. With expansion clearly in its vision both within the UK and overseas, the NEC needed to ensure they are more accessible to all employees and Office 365 provided them a great opportunity to deliver this.

The NEC has a diverse workforce spread over many locations with employees using a variety of devices day-to-day; with the majority of the workforce being deskless. Although effective communication and collaboration are essential success factors for a company that puts on hundreds of live events every year — from trade shows to rock concerts, to conventions — they are often hard to achieve.

The solution and approach

Content and Code were engaged by the NEC’s business stakeholders as a trusted advisor to undertake a major business transformation project to boost productivity by streamlining communications, file storage and data management using Office 365.

Google was considered as a cost-effective alternative, but issues were uncovered and Office 365 was chosen based on the extensive level of additional integration achievable with Microsoft alongside the high usability of the technology stack.

This encompassed a full Office 365 suite rollout strategy starting with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. Exchange Online was chosen as the first workload to get the NEC off its costly on-premises hardware and SharePoint Online selected to build an extranet portal to enable collaboration with clients and exhibition partners.

OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business were implemented alongside the Exchange Online rollout and corporate social network Yammer was selected to help cross-business communication, creating new opportunities for employees to connect seamlessly with each other.

“We didn’t just hold the launch and then leave people on their own. We are continuing to build on the information we provided those first two days, with user guides and online tools for our employees. The learning is ongoing.””

Claire Hawker, Learning & Development Consultant & Executive Coach – The NEC

Utilising Microsoft Fast Track

Content and Code worked alongside the Microsoft Fast Track Center to advise the NEC on how to proceed with the exchange mail migration. The Microsoft Fast Track Center resources were used to build the NEC ambassador program: a company-wide network of employee volunteers who could serve as Office 365 advocates and champion the organisation’s move to the cloud.

“We chose Office 365 to support our strategy of keeping the NEC connected. Through its services, we’re providing the right information to the right people at the right time on the right device.”

Murray Dickson, Head of Business Engagement –
The NEC

The outcomes of digital transformation

The NEC has taken a multipronged approach to promoting Office 365 adoption to help employees make the most of their new tools. Since rollout, the NEC’s solution has delivered delivered a number of quantifiable benefits in terms of efficiency gains and cost savings across the organisation.

 

£1.2 Million saved in reinvestable time:
With the introduction of a bespoke solution built on SharePoint Online, NEC users to collaborate on projects and events alongside external vendors and partners where traditionally, workers would have to email documents to clients where they would wait for clients to approve before continuing work.

 

Improved client satisfaction:
Staff members from the NEC are often working on client site for long periods. If problems arise, as they often do with large events, NEC employees can log into Office 365 via their personal devices, federated with their client on Skype for Business and can solve issues remotely without the need to be in the office.

 

Cultural revolution:
The rollout of Yammer has broken down organisational barriers and signified a cultural shift in terms of increased collaboration and transparency. During the first 3 months the NEC reported that 10,000 messages were exchanged publicly on Yammer and the number of private exchanges has reduced by 35%.

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