Virtuoso brought their vision of how the Microsoft Cloud could transform a workplace, engaging their client on a transformation journey that would make a real tangible difference to their working life, unlocking their true potential and engaging them in their IT in a way they had never been before.
Virtuoso
Category
Cloud Transformation Project of the Year
Entry Description
Quartz Project Services manage and deliver construction projects across the UK. Staff often work remotely, so it is crucial that Quartz’s team can access email, files and applications from a variety of locations, not just their London or Manchester offices. Quartz were concerned about the inherent security and availability risks associated with running on-premise infrastructure. This architecture also made it difficult for users to access applications and data from outside the office.

They explained to us how they were frustrated by their existing IT infrastructure not delivering what they really needed to make remote working effective for their teams. This was particularly vital to them as their users are often in high pressure, time-sensitive situations where IT just has to work. We saw an opportunity to apply the core focus of our managed service offering – harnessing the power of the Microsoft Cloud – that would refresh their infrastructure and provide solutions to their problems.

Virtuoso took the time to understand Quartz’s issues and objectives and engaged with their application vendors in order to understand the feasibility of different deployment scenarios. We helped Quartz evaluate the different options we formulated which addressed their challenges so they understood exactly what we could do for them. We determined together that a combination of Office 365 and Microsoft Azure would address both their existing challenges and future requirements. It was important to us that Quartz understood the benefits in what we could offer them and we believed it would revolutionise the way they worked. On a consultative level we were able to guide Quartz through various technical aspects of the transformation that they would not have been able to manage, such as the requirement for SQL licencing for the Azure Virtual Machines.

“After discussing possible solutions with Virtuoso, I felt confident that what had been proposed was a perfect fit for the company. We wanted to modernise the infrastructure at Quartz by having as much as possible stored and backed up in the cloud. We liked the fact that our project teams would be able to collaborate live on documents wherever they were – in the office or on site.”
Eliza Hawthorn, Operations Director

Quartz’s applications are dependent on Active Directory, so rather than implement Azure AD, Virtuoso migrated full Active Directory to Microsoft Azure. New application servers were deployed in Azure and Virtuoso coordinated with the application vendors to migrate application configurations and data to these servers. Rather than hosting a dedicated file server in Azure, Virtuoso introduced Quartz to the combination of Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. This enabled a restructuring of file data and integration into an intuitive, unified communications workspace. Quartz’s users can now chat, meet, share files and work with business apps. This was an example of introducing new applications, namely Microsoft Teams and Sharepoint, into an organisation that had no idea about them and how they could be used in their business. People generally understand the concept of storing data in the cloud but as proponents of Microsoft Cloud technology, and specifically Teams, we were in a position bring that value to an organisation who could really benefit from it.

Our vision was by no means straightforward to implement and there were various challenges along the way. Engaging third-party vendors and their resource was not always easy. We needed to align their resource availability with our project timeline. It required a great deal of patience and effective communication to achieve what we needed to do and that was testament to our project team who successfully managed those interactions. During the project we identified some software installed on a server that we had not been made aware of. The project team were able to include this in the application migration to Azure and incorporated the addition with no impact to the project plan.
One of Quartz’s applications is used to send out bulk emails for part of their project work to their project teams. Hosting the application in Azure meant that this would no longer function as it had done previously which was a show-stopper for them. We had to identify and implement a solution to this issue using a third-party cloud-based solution to manage those outbound emails.

Users needed to retain file data that needed to be migrated into the Microsoft Cloud. Initially we envisaged transferring all data en-masse into Sharepoint however it was found that with the amount of data involved this was impractical. During the transformation users needed to be able to access this data continuously and to facilitate this we formulated a plan that was agreed with the customer to carry out small data migrations each evening over a period of weeks. By working closely with the customer and their users we minimised disruption to their access to this vital data, albeit protracting the process significantly.

An example of how a move into the Microsoft Cloud could be misunderstood or implemented ineffectively can be seen with our introduction of Microsoft Teams. We saw this as key to realising our vision to Quartz’s transformation and prior to the project the structure of channels etc within Teams itself could not be clearly defined by the customer. We took a consultative approach to help them see how Teams could be used by fully understanding how the customer would like to work. To do this we created some overview sessions where we could show (via our own implementation of Microsoft Teams!) how it could be implemented and the benefits of our structure. By doing this quite early in the process we ensured that the customer was engaged further with our vision and with the transformation process itself. This provided the core to transforming how their users collaborated across the UK.

Upon completion of the project, Quartz are now able to access their key business applications from anywhere in the world via Microsoft Azure. File data is accessible from SharePoint in Office 365 and synced with the OneDrive for Business client to allow easy, intuitive access for the team. All servers have been virtualized then migrated from the on-premise infrastructure to the Azure platform. Doing so removed the dependency on the on-premise servers and enabled physical decommissioning of the old infrastructure, freeing them from issues of secure accessibility and the issues of managing on-premise infrastructure. With the servers in Azure, the information on them is backed up daily using Azure Backups, and all of this means that Quartz’s infrastructure is more robust, resilient, and secure than ever before.

With all applications and data now in the cloud, users in Quartz’s offices outside of London are able to access all corporate services without coming through the on-premise server, and implementing the combination of SharePoint and Teams allows users in different locations to access and collaborate on files from anywhere in the world. This perhaps has been the biggest tangible benefit to Quartz. Their users are now working in a totally different, but more efficient and flexible way than ever before. Microsoft Teams has created a working environment that has brought a new and fresh collaboration medium to their project teams.

“We’re working in an entirely different way now, but as a solution, it’s really simple and easy to become familiar with. Now we’re now working entirely from Azure, we’re not at risk of on-premise hardware failing or needing to be replaced, and our teams are using fully integrated systems to collaborate on data, all over the UK.”
Babak Erfani, Director

What has made this project so exceptional for Virtuoso is that we were able to show our approach to partnership with our customer and engage them on a transformation journey that we believed would make a real tangible difference to their IT, unlocking their true potential. We were able to explain the principles of moving entirely to the Microsoft Cloud and what we recognise as the real benefits of doing so. Quartz were completely engaged in our vision for their business and we were able to transform Quartz’s workplace and engage all their users in their IT in a way they had never been before.