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The University of Texas at Austin takes significant step towards its cloud-first vision

Business Situation

Moving a diverse user group to a single cloud-based platform.
The University of Texas at Austin’s mission—to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of education, research and public service—makes facilitating communications a key focus for the organization. And as one of the largest universities in the U.S., with more than 24,000 faculty and staff across more than 45 Colleges, Schools and Units (CSUs), this is no mean feat.

Eager to provide faculty and staff with the latest email and calendaring tools, UT Austin’s Information Technology Services (ITS) team embarked on an ambitious project to move to the latest version of Microsoft Office 365 based on Exchange 2013 shortly after it was introduced. The Office 365 platform was deemed the University’s best fit for faculty and staff email and calendaring. It aligned with the campus’ cloud-first strategy; eliminated the need to upgrade the hardware or infrastructure; and promised to deliver more storage, flexibility and rich calendaring integration.

Solution

The ITS team worked quickly with Avanade to re-assess the project scope and develop and execute a new migration plan that took into account the diversity of platforms and requirements of the individual CSUs. Steps included:

Stabilize the first wave of users and re-evaluate the project scope.
The first step was to restore business continuity for faculty and staff who experienced challenges in the first migration phase. Email incident triage was established to quickly resolve mission-critical issues and stabilize the infrastructure before continuing further migrations.

Develop a migration plan to move UT’s highly diverse and disparate user groups onto a single cloud based email platform.
With 24,000 faculty and staff spanning 45 CSUs, UT Austin is like a sprawling city in which no two neighborhoods are alike. And in order to foster innovation, the University’s faculty have great freedom with regard to the IT environments in use. As a result, the campus had no single IT infrastructure or centralized email and calendaring platform. Rather, it had a diverse labyrinth of technologies and client access methods—more than 20 email servers were being used—to support each CSU.

Create a change management plan to ensure readiness and support for the migrations.
Change is never easy—but it’s even harder when it isn’t effectively communicated to those who are likely to be most affected by it. UT Austin’s ITS team leveraged Avanade’s change management expertise to create a plan that communicated important information well in advance of a scheduled migration to affected faculty and staff. This helped avoid confusion, delays and service disruptions.

Results

UT Austin’s move to cloud improves communications across the organization.
UT Austin has taken a significant step toward its cloud-first vision by migrating its Colleges, Schools and Units to Office 365. With the move to cloud hosting for email, the University has gained a more flexible and scalable platform and avoided about $500,000 in hardware replacement costs.

UT Austin faculty and staff are seeing a number of benefits with the new platform:

  • Office 365 enables faculty and staff to share calendaring and email, as well as delegate tasks.
  • Mailbox sizes have been significantly expanded from 2GB to up to 50GB in the cloud.
  • Faculty and staff gained access to new features and functionality, such as new versions of Outlook for Mac that were only available on Office 365.

In addition, UT Austin has paved the way for future digital workplace improvements by building confidence in the University’s ability to manage complex transitions to the cloud. Post-migration surveys of faculty and staff confirmed that the additional planning and change management activities had paid off. One department’s director for IT commented, “You and your staff made this transition seamless. I don’t know how it could have gone any better."

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas Office 365 case study

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