We’ve been speaking with a number of  power and utility companies struggling with legacy email and other ausnetphonecommunications systems. In the day and age of Windows Phone 7 and other smart phones, employees are driving the utility’s technology system agenda, prompting forward progress on technology adaptations that give them the productivity tools they need to be successful. Email management systems were once the rage. Today, out of the box systems are old news, expensive and hard to maintain or keep pace. Companies in the power and utility industries are looking to replace them with solutions that are inexpensive to deploy, scalable, robust and accessible by remote technical staff.  And they should keep pace with every new smart phone advance. They are looking closely at online services to fill the gaps.

A new case study on Microsoft.com  describes the successful implementation of Microsoft Exchange Online and SharePoint Online at SP AusNet, the Melbourne-based power and gas distributor in Victoria, Australia. The case study tells a great story about how SP AusNet saved $500,000 by using Microsoft’s hosted email platform on Microsoft’s Online Services in lieu of upgrading their Lotus Notes system. The write-up describes how the Microsoft solution worked better in ausnet slatesynchronizing smart phones with email accounts. This capability had become a core necessity for SP AusNET service technicians who would encounter unexpected issues while actually on towers and poles, or working on static inverters. They needed immediate access to subject matter experts at the office. Three key paragraphs are worth pasting here:

By April 2011, all employees had been transitioned to Outlook email using Microsoft® Online Services. The company issued staff with approximately 100 smartphones running Windows Phone 7, as well as 35 Motion Tablet/Slate PCs running Windows. In addition, one project team has started to share project management documentation using the online collaboration service Microsoft® SharePoint® Online.

By migrating its email system onto Microsoft Online Services, SP AusNet has reduced IT costs, increased corporate flexibility and enabled field staff to communicate more effectively with Head Office staff and company-wide resources. Howard is confident his team can quickly deploy email to any employee whenever the business requires…. ausnetsharepoint

“We could have upgraded our Lotus Notes system, but this option would have cost more to deliver and been less efficient in the long run.” says Howard. “By using Microsoft Online Services, we have reduced the costs of deploying mobile email, and overall we believe we will save A$500,000 in IT costs.”

We’ve written previously about how Windows Phone 7 is gaining a lot of attention with our partners as a highly adaptive phone platform with plenty of capacity for their productivity solutions. The next step, of course, from the utilities point of view is managing those news devices – inexpensively – so that their employees can become even more productive. Using Microsoft Online Services makes a lot of sense for the geographic dispersion of utility employees at big utilities serving expansive regions with millions on customers. – Jon C. Arnold