Jack's Diving Locker

2,500 miles from the mainland, diving company connects employees across sea and land with cloud services

Jack’s Diving Locker (JDL) distinguishes itself from the roughly 40 other dive outfits on Hawaii with personalized service, environmentalism, and knowledge of local marine life. JDL migrated to Microsoft 365 Business to streamline the process for stocking boats with gear and to keep employees connected as they explore the ocean, repair equipment, and teach students. Employees are more productive and mobile as they use Office 365 to access company resources, collaborate on shared daily tasks, and communicate as teams.

The Kona Coast of Hawaii has some of the clearest waters in the northern hemisphere, in part because of its remote location 2,500 miles from the US mainland. Home to more than 360 species of marine life not found anywhere else, its natural beauty makes it a hotspot for scuba diving—and a unique natural ecosystem worth preserving.

In business since 1981, Jack’s Diving Locker (JDL) has grown from five sets of gear and a Volkswagen van to a company with two retail stores and five boats at two harbors. None of it would have been possible without technology, a passion for saving the environment, and human connections. Jeff and Teri Leicher co-own and manage JDL, where their oldest son, Kawika, also works.

In the early 1980s, the Leichers were concerned about the potential damage to Hawaii's delicate coral reefs caused by the growing dive-boat industry repeatedly dropping anchors. With the help of Teri's father, a marine scientist, they devised a system for installing ecologically conscious eyebolt moorings. The Day-Use Moorings are used by both private and commercial operators and are still installed and maintained by JDL to this day. “Our company values are built around people making a difference,” says Teri. “I'm proud of our efforts to educate the public. We have camps for kids and a marine life ambassador program where they can learn about sea life and coral reef ecology and how to have a sustainable relationship with the ocean.”

Jeff and Teri base each day’s route for dive excursions on the weather and guests’ skills and interests, so it’s subject to last-minute changes. They plan trips and assign crew and guests for five boats headed to 50 possible dive sites daily, and they must ensure that all equipment is well maintained and delivered to the right vessels. Jeff says, “We have to make sure that all the right equipment is on board and ready to go. If we get to the dive site and one vital piece of gear is missing, it can affect someone’s hard-earned vacation. Every dive relies on lots of small details. It all has to be perfect.”

Mobility and flexible work styles are vital to JDL. Most days, employees are out diving, teaching, and traveling—they rarely sit at a desk. For example, Jeff might go to the shop to print crew lists for each boat, then start stocking the boats’ equipment and food. “I also might be working at home editing a video,” he says. “Before, when I needed to get ahold of a passenger list, I’d call the shop, interrupt one of my team members who could have a guest there needing help, and ask that person to scan and fax a copy of the list.” And despite moving back to North Carolina, the operations manager and VIP group coordinator both continue to work for the company via email, phone, Skype for Business, and occasional trips to the island.

In addition to running between the repair shop, retail store, home, and boats, the Leichers often lead dive groups in other parts of the world. “We took a group to Cuba recently,” says Teri. “When we needed to communicate with the business, we had to use email or SMS, which didn’t always work properly. We didn’t have easy access to the resources we needed.” Mobility is so integral to JDL culture that, despite moving back to North Carolina, the operations manager and VIP group coordinator both continue to work for the company via email, phone, Skype for Business, and occasional trips to the island.

Diving into a technology overhaul

When it comes to IT, JDL had used Microsoft products for many years, since the days of MS-DOS. By 2018, the company had about 20 computers running aging software on-premises. Longtime partner Palmetto Technology Group (PTG)—a Microsoft Partner—recognized that JDL had grown to the point of needing a new solution.

JDL had no dedicated IT staff, so reliability, security, and simplified management would be just as important as collaboration features. PTG suggested Microsoft 365 Business, a cloud-based solution powered by Windows 10 and Office 365. The partner thought the first-line worker capabilities would be particularly helpful for the retail staff. The app offers mobile schedule management, information sharing, and a connection to other work-related software and resources.

On the security side, Reed Wilson, CEO at Palmetto Technology Group, says, “It’s easy to manage security for Jack’s Diving Locker with Microsoft 365 Business. From a single portal, they have all the functionality needed to help secure people’s devices. We can even remotely clear company data from a device without affecting any personal information.”

Wilson sees Microsoft 365 Business as a proactive security management solution; PTG uses Microsoft Intune to standardize device configurations and policies companywide. “We consider Windows 10 one of the best operating systems yet because it gives us more security features, like Windows Defender. As part of Microsoft 365 Business, it ties everything together in one package that supports security as people connect to all their apps and access their data,” he says.

Matt Snider, Services Manager at Palmetto Technology Group, appreciates the ease of deployment. “With Microsoft 365 Business, we’ve reduced the amount of time to set up new employees on their hardware,” he says. “Rather than signing in to different systems to configure user accounts and email accounts, we create a single set of credentials. Before, it took an average of about four hours to deploy a new PC for JDL. We’ve cut that down to an hour at most.”

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