Two Mountains, a South African group of companies operating in both the financial and burial services industries since 1999, has contracted Microsoft Gold Certified Systems Integrator DAC Systems to migrate the organisation to Office 365 as it was looking for a more cost-effective and integrated productivity suite that could also deliver telephony features.

“Our emails were hosted by a third-party provider that was unable to deliver on our growing capacity requirements. Furthermore, their email system did not have many of the features that have become commonplace today like a corporate global calendar and meeting scheduler,” says Lindani Ngema, CIO of Two Mountains.

Two Mountains has a national footprint spanning the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga. It has 19 parlours and 64 satellite offices serving more than 1 500 employees. Just in the last year alone, Two Mountains opened nine parlours to cater for demand. But while not every employee requires Office 365, the organisation needed a solution that could enable better collaboration. This was especially important given how many of its sites are in rural areas and employees had to travel long distances for meetings.

“Added to this, the management of our software licences was chaotic to say the least. Our licensing model was not sufficient to deliver on our requirements. This resulted in Two Mountains soliciting proposals from various providers with DAC Systems being appointed to assist with the modernisation and automation of business processes,” adds Ngema.

Ngema says the reputation of DAC, combined with its extensive service offering at cost-effective rates and its Microsoft Gold Partner status made the service provider the logical choice.

“Their experience working in a variety of industries on large-scale projects gave us the confidence we required to partner with them on this project. Many of the other providers who submitted proposals simply did not have the skills or Microsoft partner status we were looking for,” says Ngema.

The Office 365 project commenced with an assessment of the existing environment and evaluating the merits between on-premises and cloud services. The decision was taken to migrate to Office 365 – or ‘to the cloud’ and procurement of the initial licenses and the deployment of Office 365 took place between June and November 2019.

Computer literacy and Office 365 training happened in parallel. Between December 2019 and January 2020, the planning for the Office 365 email migration from the third-party provider commenced. It took DAC just two weeks to complete the migration and implementation of the 300 mailboxes at the time. During the migration DAC, in conjunction with the Two Mountains team, trained each user on how to access and use Office 365. This was also supported by communications emailed to staff containing the necessary guidelines. The timing was fortuitous as all this was completed prior to the hard lockdown in South Africa that began in March 2020.

“Our employees already had time to become comfortable using the Microsoft Office 365 suite and Microsoft Teams. So, when the lockdown came, it was mostly business as usual. If we did not have these solutions in place, our organisation would have found itself in a very bad situation,” adds Ngema.

DAC continuingly reviews the Microsoft licensing of Two Mountains thereby ensuring an optimised solution resulting in significant cost savings. The Microsoft Teams installation has also been expanded to Microsoft Teams Business Voice as the new telephone system for Two Mountains. The objective being to have a universal telephone system across all the sites, including head office. All the new Two Mountains sites are using Teams Business Voice and benefiting from low callout rates and the capability of accessing the office number from any location thanks to the Teams application on mobile phones. The Microsoft 365 licences deliver feature-rich capabilities such as enterprise mobility and security. The multi-factor authentication of the Microsoft environment and hybrid Active Directory services enable better control of the end user environment which Two Mountains was looking for.

“Thanks to DAC, our environment is more stable than before, our employees have access to calendar and meeting functions, and there are no capacity issues on our emails. Using Teams has provided even more cost savings on the telephony side. The great work done by DAC has seen us partner with them long-term. We are looking at introducing more Microsoft solutions to improve our ecosystem,” says Ngema.

Two Mountains will be developing a detailed blueprint of its systems and planning the road ahead with DAC and Microsoft.