In 2013, the Raine & Horne Group celebrated 130 years in the real estate business. It’s one of the largest privately-owned firms in Australia with offices in all States and Territories, as well as a growing network of offices around the world. It’s an iconic brand and a household name, but it needed to address some fundamental productivity, communication and collaboration issues to maintain its market-leading position.
In a highly competitive market, successful real estate businesses need to differentiate on the quality of the customer services and experiences they deliver; which is only possible if employees have the systems, processes, tools and devices to support them.
Delivering the kind of environment where people can perform to their best ability means making the right investments in technology. The Raine & Horne management team realised that their business challenges extended to the type of environment they needed to deliver to their employees and franchise owners, so they had the freedom and flexibility to be productive in the office, on the road, or at home.
The typical Raine & Horne employee is young and IT savvy. They expect a smart and dynamic working environment where mobility and productivity go hand in hand. When people join the franchise, they expect to be active from day one, with their contact details instantly available to all other people in the organisation – not just their own franchise, but across the Group – and all the tools, devices and applications they need to be immediately productive.
Because Raine & Horne has such a wide network of franchises, people need to be able to collaborate and share information as if they were in the same office and giving people access to what they want, when they want it, on the devices they need is vital.
This kind of productive and mobile environment helps franchise owners attract and retain the right people to the business, and consequently, it also helps Raine & Horne attract the right kind of franchisee/franchise to the group. On-boarding new team members and franchise owners is time-consuming and costly, so the IT environment needs to be an incentive to join the group, not an obstacle that needs to be overcome.
Raine & Horne needs to deliver great experiences and services to employees, so they can then translate these into exceptional customer services and experiences and all this needs to happen in a secure and robust environment. The issue of security isn’t unique to real estate, but the challenge is exacerbated when your team is mobile and spread through a national network of remote offices. With all that sensitive and confidential data flowing around a network that doesn’t have ‘borders’, Raine & Horne realised that security couldn’t be compromised.
Additionally, this is all happening in a tight financial market, in which franchise owners expect premium products and services from their IT budgets. There is a seismic shift taking place across all sectors, in which businesses are looking to the Cloud for smarter and cost-effective ways of delivering IT. They know, that with the right advice, guidance and support, they can enjoy huge productivity and efficiency gains, along with massive reductions in IT cost.
Raine & Horne began negotiations with XCentral – Microsoft’s award-winning Cloud technology partner – to develop a smarter and more dynamic way of running the business.
Working with organisations to deal with these business and technology challenges is XCentral’s area of specialty. Since its very beginnings, XCentral has used the Cloud to help its clients drive their digital transformation strategies. The sheer depth, breadth and flexibility of the Microsoft Cloud allows XCentral to deliver robust, innovative and cost effective solutions to its clients’ very different IT challenges. And its long-term adoption planning and road mapping techniques help ensure its solutions always remain business-relevant.
XCentral meets the business challenges with Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility + Security (EM +S) Suite.
At the core of Raine & Horne’s business challenge was a limited communication and collaboration infrastructure – essentially there were 300 different franchises operating independently. As such, a key objective for Raine & Horne was to connect all 300 franchises in the group.
XCentral based its solution on an Office 365 platform delivered through Azure, featuring the Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite, SharePoint, Delve and Skype for Business. This strategy ensured Raine & Horne had the services its business needed for open, seamless and integrated communication and collaboration.
With improved visibility, management and control of the IT services from the head office, the Raine & Horne Group can now coordinate the delivery of IT services to all franchises. This includes access to centrally-managed data, ensuring a single source of data and ‘truth’ throughout the organisation.
The Right Advice and the Right Approach ensures a successful outcome.
Organisations like Raine & Horne are undertaking a digital transformation that integrates many different IT strategies. The real value of our solution to Raine & Horne is that it meets the immediate business challenge, and can continue to support the overall IT strategy into the future.
XCentral ensures both the immediate and long-term relevance of rollouts like this by following a proven methodology that starts with a deep understanding of the client’s business requirements.
Led by our Advisory team, we start our engagements with a series of Discovery Sessions. These help us identify the key challenges faced by the client, and the technology required to meet them. We then develop an ‘Adoption Plan’ that gives the client a clear road map of future developments and deployments.
The second aspect to our success is in our use of FastTrack. XCentral collaborates with Microsoft on its FastTrack program to ensure the implementation and adoption of platforms like Office 365 with EM +S always follow the Adoption Plan, to ensure fast roll-outs and company-wide solution adoption.
FastTrack supports our Adoption Plan because it allows us to discover what is possible and, in the case of Raine & Horne, to plan for successful rollouts, and to on-board new users and capabilities at the client’s own pace.
Raine & Horne were confident that, through XCentral, they would be able to access the best practices, tools, resources, and experts to make their experience with the Microsoft Cloud a success.
The technical detail: The tools behind the transformation.
Raine & Horne now has an integrated technology platform that unites its 300, independently owned franchises into one cohesive and collaborative business unit. From this platform, Raine & Horne can continue to roll-out transformational IT services.
- Office 365 with Enterprise Mobility + Security – Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS) will be progressively deployed to the state-based corporate head offices, comprising Windows Enterprise, Office 365 E3 and EM +S. This delivers advanced email and calendar sharing, along with document and email access control.
- Azure Active Directory provides a company-wide directory that can create security groups within the organisation, allowing the IT team to easily integrate new offices into the Group and centrally manage all data sources (such as contact details) and data processing and analytics functions.
- A SharePoint project is now underway which will allow the staff (via Azure Active Directory groups) to access the information they need.
- Office 365 E3 is supported with EM +S, which enables Raine & Horne to implement data security protocols at rest and in transit.
- The solution gives access to the ECS for the head office staff, allowing deployment of a Windows 10 Enterprise SOE.
- Skype for Business was installed to enable video conferencing throughout the franchise network.
Why is this Office 365 and EM +S solution so effective?
Office 365 delivers a unified interface for all common applications to the wider Raine & Horne Group. Office 365 and EM +S allows Raine & Horne to manage the accessibility of all staff to data and services. Head office can activate and terminate employee services and access much more easily and effectively.
Raine & Horne now has a unified interface for all common communications applications to the wider Raine & Horne Group – a platform with planned, useful expansion into data warehousing, document and video storage, intranets and wikis.
The solution delivers solid reporting APIs that allow Raine & Horne to easily see a snapshot of the current license utilisation. It also gives them full control over their environment and is much more resilient for improved business continuity – for example, email is available even in the event of server failure.
Azure Active Directory provides a company-wide directory that establishes security groups within the organisation, allowing the IT team to easily integrate new offices into the Group and centrally managed all data sources and data processing and analytics functions.
We’ve improved the information visible to Raine & Horne staff through the Exchange Online Global Address List, which allows Raine & Horne to share contact details, title, location, region and other important personal details. We have also developed a custom application to allow non-IT staff to add new staff into Office 365 and into the correct groups.
This PowerShell-driven system allows Raine & Horne to manage the on-boarding and off-boarding of staff and their inclusion in certain dynamic Exchange groups for communication purposes (e.g. they can contact all Franchise Owners in NSW by simply selecting one group email address to send to).
This, along with the custom reporting application we developed, gives Raine & Horne more insight into services used by users and simplifies the billing of franchises. Raine & Horne can now more accurately estimate their entire headcount and deploy services more efficiency.
How was collaboration improved with Skype for Business?
Franchise owners and their employees wanted improved training and information sharing, with video conferencing to the desktop.
Before the XCentral solution went live, Raine & Horne had little in the way of communication or collaboration between offices. It was essential that people could start collaborating and interacting with the entire group, not just their own franchise.
Skype for Business was installed for licensed users to enable video and audio conferencing throughout the franchise network. Using Skype, it’s now easy to deliver company updates, training sessions and educate employees on key operational, regulatory or brand issues. The business now has a more cohesive approach to sales and client services, increasing efficiencies through decreasing travel time, reducing time taken to respond to customer requests, and vastly improving the experiences people have with the Raine & Horne business.
How did we meet the security challenge?
Real estate has a high rate of staff turnover, and with a highly mobile workforce, agencies tend to run borderless networks. Data security and managing the on-boarding and off-boarding of staff is a big challenge, as is ensuring the termination of services when people leave.
XCentral’s solution is based on EM +S, so it delivers both Mobile Device Management and Application Management, as well as Access and Information Protection. This provides bullet-proof security for organisation that are sharing data across mobile networks. In the case of people leaving the organisation or losing devices, it allows IT Managers to quickly turn off access to services and data.
How was the recruitment and retention challenge met?
Because Real estate is such a competitive industry, Raine & Horne is in constant competition for the best people. The team is rewarded based on performance, so they need these services to be available on all their devices, 24/7, in any location. The Office 365 and EM +S platform ensures employees can access their mobility, productivity and collaboration services in the most secure way.
Our solution has been so effective for the people who work at Raine & Horne because we put an end to employee frustrations by deploying reliable and efficient services. We’ve delivered a collaborative and interactive workplace across all platforms and devices. It’s a dynamic and modern environment for a generation of employees who place as much value on the quality of the technology, and what it enables them to achieve, as they do on the culture of the organisation or its location or environment.
The cost benefit: How Raine & Horne is saving money on its IT costs.
Because Raine & Horne can now operate as a unified standardised technology business, Raine & Horne has gained significant cost savings through improved efficiencies and service consistency.
- The franchise-wide roll out allows the business to centrally-manage its IT services, saving the business thousands in IT management costs. People can now communicate on a unified email system; Web conferences are done using Skype for Business; and files are shared for collaboration using OneDrive for Business.
- XCentral worked with Rhipe to ensure the most economical Enterprise Agreement. Microsoft Enterprise Agreement licensing ensures Raine & Horne only pays for what it needs, saving them tens-of-thousands-of-dollars per year on unnecessary licensing.
- Hardware and software budgets have been reduced with a move to an operating expense (OPEX) model.
The Mobile-first – Cloud-first approach delivers increased mobility with key line of business applications now being in the XCentral Private Cloud, accessible remotely from any location, over carrier-grade Internet links.
More efficient back up – Because Raine & Horne doesn’t have to add the server and LOB applications to the existing backup schedule they’re reducing the backup window and removing the need for additional tape purchases and backup licenses. Additionally, they no longer require their tape management outsourcer. This equates to thousands of dollars of savings annually.
The XCentral solution has transformed the entire organisation.
Raine & Horne is great example of a business that is looking to transform the way it operates using Cloud technologies. Angus Mansfield, Director and founding partner at XCentral, explained that: “The implementation of Office 365 has laid a fantastic foundation for Raine & Horne that not only delivers productivity benefits today, but also allows for future development and improvement.”
This kind of transformation is a long-term strategy, but with the right partner providing advice and support, Raine & Horne can be confident about its long-term success.
Angus Raine, Executive Chairman at Raine & Horne, said about the project: “In the past, franchises had to manage their own IT and technology environment. Now Office 365 is fully deployed, we expect it will markedly improve communications and empower our agents in the field, enabling them to readily communicate with their offices and their clients from anywhere at any time.”
“The rollout has also enabled us, for the first time, to have simple things like a company-wide directory, making it easy for anyone to contact anyone else within the company – whether they’re in our offices in Dubai or Malaysia or those in Darwin or Hobart,” he explained.
The solution has also had a major impact on the way Raine & Horne is perceived in the market, raising its profile as an innovative and dynamic franchise network. Angus Raine explains: “To be able to market ourselves as a technology leader is an important step in recruitment and retention, especially with younger agents, who respond very positively to the latest technology. In this sense, it was important to be able to ‘walk the talk’ when it came to our technology offering… The Office 365 technology will be a significant recruitment tool.”
Microsoft Australia director of Office 365, Steven Miller, said that because of the XCentral-led project, "Raine & Horne have joined other new (Microsoft) customers, including universities, top-tier accounting firms and major enterprises and governments that recognise how the service can deliver productivity improvements, such as remote working, collaboration and engaging with your customers and colleagues in new ways."
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