Mabel’s Labels was established in 2003 as a home-based business by four Hamilton-based mothers. The waterproof label for children’s items company has grown to 40 employees and now sells to a global customer base.
As the company grew, its technology needs became more complex. Over time it had accumulated a random combination of legacy equipment and software, including an on-premise Microsoft Exchange Server, resulting in compatibility issues with communications and IT gear. At the same time, growth in the numbers of staff working from multiple locations created greater need to communicate and share information. “When we were smaller we didn’t have to worry about sharing documentation,” said IT director Kimberley McKay. “With more people all over the place in different job functions we had more specific sharing needs.”
Technology solution management and delivery:
When McKay joined the firm as an IT director in 2014, her first order of the day was to develop greater efficiency in the IT support function. “We were managing six different pieces of licensed software from chat to storage; it was not very efficient from a system administration perspective.”
The first step, taken in January 2015, was to transition from the on-premise Exchange Server to Office 365. “The initial goal was to migrate to a disaster recovery model,” McKay said, by moving from an on-premise solution that was vulnerable to power outage to cloud-based communications that would offer greater continuity. “From there we looked at other pieces of Office 365, like Skype for Business for internal chat and online meetings, OneDrive for Business for storage and SharePoint for sharing documents.”
Mabel’s Labels implementation of Office 365 followed the “normal project process: requirements, planning and implementation,” McKay said. The Exchange migration took only two months, including the initial planning, backup and integration. “After that we rolled out a new piece of software once a month because we didn’t want to overwhelm staff with too much at once.”
Skype for Business, which allowed the company to replace two previous technologies, was introduced in February. OneDrive for Business followed. “That took a bit more time because we had to get people to back up files. It took more hand holding,” McKay explained.
Although the implementation is complete, the IT team continues to learn more about SharePoint as they go, she said. “It’s an ongoing learning experience because we haven’t used it before. Right now we’re building some business processes around it.”
The team is also continuing to transition older Enterprise E1 to Enterprise E3 licensing as remaining licenses expire and staff moves onto new computers. “Enterprise E3 includes everything, as well as all the desktop automated updates. From an IT management standpoint, we don’t have to upgrade or troubleshoot, because we now have an ongoing IT lifecycle.”
The rationalization of licenses delivered a surprising amount of savings, McKay said. “Just turning off some of the licensing saved us 66 percent in licensing costs. We are now paying $7,000 for annual licenses, whereas before it was $21,000. From a budgetary point of view, it allowed us to redeploy IT resources to other things, including the launch of an enterprise-grade ecommerce site last spring.”
The productivity and continuity gains from working with 365 in the cloud have also been significant. “It’s so much easier for end users because they don’t have to think about anything. And power outages shouldn’t affect how functions such as email and instant messaging work,” McKay noted. While users save time not having to toggle between applications, in cases of power failure, they can access cloud communications apps via mobile devices. “Since everything is integrated, it is easier for my IT staff because we don’t have to spend as much time supporting productivity tools; and business users don’t need a lot of time to figure it out,” she added.
With cloud-based technology, Mabel’s Labels also has all the scalability it will need to support the business, which continues to show strong growth and sales numbers. “Launching a new ecommerce platform will allow us to continue that growth,” McKay added. “Now all we have to do is buy new licenses as we need them; which means we have scalability and geo-redundancy of services. With the technology we have in place today, the lights are always on, which has become more mission critical for us than ever.”
The best part of the project was the fact that the conversion was seamless, McKay said. “People didn’t even know we had transitioned to a cloud version. I haven’t seen that painless an implementation in a long time.”