This is the concluding installment of a series of blog posts describing my experiences in presenting Microsoft’s Business Productivity OnLine Services (BPOS) Standard Suite to Eastside Legal Assistance Program. You can refer to my previous blog entries from the topics listed below:
- BPOS for ELAP,
- BPOS for ELAP … the trial begins,
- BPOS for ELAP … Exchange Online,
- BPOS for ELAP … the other communication services,
- BPOS for ELAP … SharePoint,
- BPOS for ELAP … the results.
The Initial Proposition
In true disconnected fashion, I sent an email to the Executive Director and the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors introducing them to the product, its capabilities, how it fills an earlier expressed need and the costs involved in deployment and operations.
” … the mail domain, elap.org is on a POP3 server at Drizzle Internet in Seattle. This type of email implementation is an inconvenience for those of us who work or worked in a Microsoft Exchange organization and have taken for granted many productivity features.”
“The biggest pain right now is the fact that each computer that uses Outlook has its own Outlook data file … makes it impossible to synchronize your email if you work from home.”
” … in the Exchange world we take for granted that any computer running Outlook connected to the mail server will have the same folders, contacts and address list no matter which computer connects to the server.”
I presented the individual components and their associated costs as well as the suite price of $10 /user /month, or $600 for five users for 12 months with a minimum commitment of 12 months.
At that point, I offered to present a demonstration at a time convenient to all interested parties. After a few weeks, I sent out a reminder and a meeting was set.
A meeting was set up to formally present the program, options, and conduct a simple demonstration of the communication capabilities. Attending were the Executive Director, and the President of the Board of Directors.
You can not sell anyone anything. I learned this through my experiences as a channel manager for SpamLion.
When someone comes to you to buy something, keep your mouth shut and take the order.
People are motivated to act positively. They have a need, research alternatives, discover the capabilities, analyze the facts, and make a purchase decision. Some may ask for a demonstration to reinforce their understanding of the product’s functionality.
The important take-away from this is that a demonstration reinforces but does not sell. How many time have you been invited to “learn about” something that you had no interest in or time to spare. You know what happens — nothing. And then there was timing — never on a Friday afternoon.
So here are the ingredients for the perfect storm:
- The audience not paying attention to previous correspondence identifying the need,
- How the product addresses the need,
- The costs associated with deployment and operation,
- A meeting scheduled for a Friday afternoon,
- No signs that there was interest in pursuing the initiative.
As it played out, the Executive Director was not interested in obtaining facts in an informal presentation, instead he asked random questions about the components in no particular order — and wasn’t interested in looking at a laptop screen. Ever have one of those people who are just plain totally disruptive in a group? This was the case.
To be somewhat unbiased, it is fair to point out that the President of the Board and I were quite familiar with the technology as we share a common experience working for a “Software Giant located in Redmond, WA.” At the giant’s place you learn through immersion or you’re toast. So it was difficult to translate capabilities; especially to one who was not interested in absorbing what was being discussed.
The surprising but not so surprising development was the interest in SharePoint. Remember, SharePoint and Office Live Meeting were not on my agenda due to their complexity. But no, everyone hears about SharePoint and thinks it’s a solution for everything. Try to tell someone that a truly effective solution requires discovery, analysis, some prototyping, and acceptance. Oh, and then there’s the sponsorship support, development of policies and procedures and training. And repeat these steps on a regular basis. Did I mention planning, planning, planning, and more planning?
The hallmarks of an unsuccessful implementation, in my opinion, occurs when someone emails you the link to a particular document because the regular navigation is unusable. The second sign is the fact that only the sponsor is using the site – the team continues to email documents around.
So this interest in one particular aspect proved Rule #1, “The man wants a blue suit. Irving turn on the blue light.”
Discussion continued for a short time. Questions were asked, and partially answered. Time was up, the laptops were turned off. The result? From the Executive Director’s perspective, it would be disruptive and not affordable at this time. Which brings us to …
The customer is always right.
Questions of interest:
Since BPOS sets up a separate profile for Outlook, how do I get my old email to the new profile? From my experience, you simply open the old Outlook data file in the new Outlook profile connected online and move the mail to the new profile. Mail gets sent to the online service as soon as the purchase is made. Some coordination needs to be made between Microsoft and the ISP to change to the new routing; i.e., DNS MX records but it’s easier in some instances than changing phone providers.
According to Microsoft, Windows 6 phones are supported as well as ActiveSynch14. My advice it to connect an Android and see if it works. It may be a temporary show stopper but BPOS is being rebranded as Office 365 on the Office 2010 platform, so stay tuned.
You can create contacts (email addresses outside your organization) that are available to everyone as well as distribution lists and/or keep your own set of contacts. The contacts you move into your profile are available online for you. You can share those with other domain members. An administrator can create contacts, distribution groups, and mail-enabled resources like a conference room or a projector and become part of the Global Address Book (GAL). (It takes a while for them to show up.) Your personal contact list appears in Outlook Web Access (OWA); they do not appear in the GAL.
Can anyone outside the organization access SharePoint? Unfortunately, non-licensed users can’t access SharePoint.
Distribution lists can contain external users. You can send mail to a distribution list (DL) and the message is routed to all mailboxes in the DL. Conversely, a DL is used to route incoming mail to each member’s mail box. A DL is not mailbox-enabled so it doesn’t consume a license.
What about situations where I have an address like webmaster@ or info@ or sales@? Aliases are mail-enabled addresses. They are assigned to existing mailbox-enabled user accounts and do not consume a license. In this example, webmaster@ is an alias that is assigned to user john@.
- Can’t use online Exchange to send mail from a WebForm.
- Can’t automatically forward e-mail from Exchange to an external address.
- IMAP is not supported.
- POP3 is supported by special arrangement with Microsoft.