Telstra transforms collaboration with Microsoft Office 365

Telstra provides telecommunications services across Asia Pacific. To empower its global workforce, it uses Microsoft Office 365—a universal toolkit with modern, mobile productivity tools. With apps such as Microsoft Teams, Telstra employees can come together instantly and easily to brainstorm new product and service ideas or resolve customer issues. The ability to work anytime, anywhere, on any device makes the Telstra workplace simpler and more productive for employees. Windows 10 on company devices will make the cloud-based work environment even safer.

Telstra believes the more connected people are, the more opportunities they have. 

Telstra is Australia’s leading telecommunications and technology company, offering a full range of communications services and competing in all telecommunications markets. In Australia, it provides 17.6 million retail mobile services, 5.1 million retail fixed voice services, and 3.5 million retail fixed broadband services 

To do the best possible job of connecting customers, Telstra needs to connect its own workforce. It has thousands of employees in more than 20 countries across the world, working together daily to help customers improve the ways they live and work through connection. 

Keeping a large, global workforce connected and collaborating is a challenge. It takes modern workplace tools that can support anytime, anyplace, any-device communication, collaboration, and idea-sharing. Keeping up with the fast-changing field of digital workplace tools is a full-time job in and of itself. 

Modernize the business with mobile tools

Gregory Koteras heads up the Digital Workplace Solutions team at Telstra and plays a pivotal role in driving the company to embrace new digital opportunities. His team oversaw a traditional datacenter-based collection of email, collaboration, and conferencing applications that they upgraded every three to seven years. When it came time for a refresh in 2015, Koteras and his colleagues rethought their whole approach. 

“Our on-premises email and collaboration applications were approaching end-of-support, and it was the perfect opportunity to rethink how we delivered productivity services to our workforce,” Koteras says. “We needed more modern capabilities that provided mobile access and flexibility. What employees expect in workplace digital tools has changed a lot in the last five years.” 

The traditional nine-to-five workday is disappearing, and people rarely sit at their desks all day. More people are embracing the Telstra Flexible Work policy, which enables employees to drop their kids off at school, come into work mid-morning, attend a meeting from home, work in the evening, or from a coffee shop. This flexibility improves productivity and helps Telstra attract and retain the best talent. 

In implementing flexible work styles, Telstra initially faced challenges, including corporate security policies that limited mobile access to corporate systems and restricted employees to limited 150-megabyte mailboxes. The typical employee spent 30 minutes each week archiving messages to make room for more. In addition, not all employees used the same collaboration tools, which hamstrung communication between regions. 

“We needed a modern, mobile, standard productivity toolset across our entire business so that we could move quickly and be as innovative as we need to be,” Koteras says. 

Migrate 1.8 billion emails successfully to the cloud

After researching options, Telstra decided on the cloud—moving to “evergreen” applications maintained by IT specialists. Koteras and his team looked at a range of options but chose Microsoft Office 365

“We realized that the upheaval in switching employees from the familiar Microsoft Office toolset would cause too much disruption,” Koteras says. “Office 365 was bristling with cool new capabilities such as Microsoft Flow, Teams, and PowerApps. These tools make a difference for our people and help us transform the company. Plus, Microsoft has an Australian datacenter, which met our data storage requirements.” 

Telstra used the complementary Microsoft FastTrack program to swiftly migrate email to the cloud—and achieved a 99 percent success rate. “We migrated 1.8 billion email messages to Exchange Online,” says Koteras. “The success was thanks to our close engagement and collaboration with Microsoft and Kloud, the Telstra cloud migration subsidiary that assisted us with the implementation and migration. Microsoft Consulting Services helped us fine-tune our cloud email architecture and resolve technical details.” 

The Telstra Digital Workplace Solutions team conducts two Jump Start training classes each week to provide employees with an introduction to Office 365, and one focused Master Class each week that introduces them to individual Office 365 services, such as Teams and OneNote. 

Telstra’s experience in smoothly migrating its own large global workforce to the cloud acts as a prime example of its expert capability when advising potential customers in doing the same. It can also provide personal testament to the effectiveness of Office 365 when selling the tool to its enterprise customers. 

Unleash unbridled connecting with modern workplace tools

One of the biggest, easiest wins with the move to Office 365: bigger inboxes in Exchange Online. Every employee now has a 100-gigabyte inbox. The most immediate gain for employees: “No more weekly email archiving.” Employees can now check and respond to email, accept meeting invitations, and see colleagues’ availability from anywhere using the mobile Outlook app, which is a big productivity booster. 

Employees can set up personal profiles in Office 365, which helps colleagues see one another’s expertise and active projects and speeds up searches for subject matter experts. A small feature that Koteras loves: employee photos posted in their profiles also appear in employee emails—a detail that helps bring the company’s global workforce a little bit closer. 

Telstra business groups outside of Australia used to have separate email and document management tools. Today, everyone in the company uses the same universal toolkit, which makes it easier to work together and provides ways to locate and connect with experts and like-minded colleagues. New product development teams can bounce ideas off colleagues in different geographies. Sales teams can strategize new product launches with a global perspective. And business teams can now interact easily and collaboratively, irrespective of location. 

With Microsoft Teams, experts can easily share their knowledge with colleagues no matter where they are. Telstra teams create Teams channels where they can chat in real time (and save those persistent chat sessions), share documents, launch audio and video calls, plus view Power BI dashboards, all from one easy-to-use, capabilities-rich desktop and mobile app. In fact, almost all the other Office 365 services such as SharePoint Online, OneNote, and Skype for Business Online functionality can be accessed through Teams. 

“We have nearly 900 channels at Telstra that span about 6,000 employees,” says Koteras. “With Teams, it’s much easier for new team members to come up to speed, because everything and everyone are in one place. Teams helps us have a shared understanding of whatever problem we’re trying to solve. Before, misunderstandings could crop up along the way, but with Teams, people are all looking at the same information and conversations.” 

One team leading the company’s push into technology products, sales, and consulting is Telstra Business Technology Services. This group sells a broad range of Telstra and third-party networking, mobility, security, cloud, and other tech services and consulting. To gain traction quickly in new markets, Telstra acquires firms that complement its own expertise, and it’s Jon Pratt’s job to integrate the sales operations of those acquisitions with Telstra. 

“For each acquisition, we set up a channel in Teams where the people involved come together and manage sales pipelines, learn about new products, and work together on integration success as one team,” says Pratt, who’s Business Development Manager of Kloud, Readify, and VMtech. “Before Office 365, we would rely on email along with a myriad of third-party tools. Teams gives us one place to manage the many different and complex aspects of joining two companies together. Having all assets and conversations in one place is a great timesaver.” 

These acquisition integration teams also use Yammer as their “breaking news” channel, sharing sales wins, relevant news stories, and personal conversations. And they rely on Skype for Business instant messaging to quickly find people and communicate across companies. 

Telstra is moving its SharePoint Server document stores into SharePoint Online, which provides easy mobile access for on-the-go productivity. They operate under strict compliance requirements, and the easy-set security policies in SharePoint Online simplify enforcement. 

Keep the conversations going

Beyond the acquisition integration teams, Telstra uses Yammer to foster social interactions among like-minded employees and to monitor the corporate pulse on big companywide initiatives—like the launch of a new corporate strategy. Yammer provides real-time listening and response; it’s like a central switchboard where teams can invite comments and employees can ask questions, share suggestions, and get tips. 

Gary McGibbon, Senior Social Media Strategist on the Telstra Employee Social Engagement team, says, “Yammer keeps conversations going as long as employees want to keep talking.” 

McGibbon works in Telstra employee communications, which refreshes the company intranet with new stories daily. When a story is bumped off the intranet, it rolls to a Yammer group called Telstra News, where it, and employee conversations about it, can live longer. 

“We work hard to inform and engage employees, and Yammer helps us coordinate an omnichannel approach to employee communications,” McGibbon says. “People go to a range of places to get information, and conversations are happening in the kitchens and hallways, in intranet comment fields and emails. Yammer gives Telstra’s employee communications team a way to be a part of those conversations and promote unified messaging.” 

Telstra also uses Yammer as a channel for employees to ask questions during live-stream events, giving everyone the opportunity to participate in discussions no matter where in the world they’re located. Similarly, YamJams are popular—a live Q&A event where employees can ask panelists questions and receive real-time responses via Yammer. 

McGibbon notes that Yammer is also good for helping employees find support, often using it to resolve problems. “On Yammer, you can either find an answer that someone else has posted or quickly get an answer from an expert,” McGibbon says. “Even conversations that start off as complaints quickly evolve into more of a support community, with people pitching in ideas to help. Yammer flattens hierarchies and democratizes communications; anyone can jump in and participate. Yammer is not just a place for issuing corporate communications—it’s a cultural home for us.” 

Free people to work anywhere

Telstra uses Office 365 as a core component of providing its workforce with more mobile freedom. “Many of our younger employees used Office 365 at university and come to Telstra loving the tools already,” Koteras says. “They use their phones for everything. They also want a constant flow of new capabilities on the platform to keep up to date with the latest technology, and we can give them that with Office 365.” 

With Office 365 ProPlus, employees have the mobile Office applications on all their devices, so they can create and edit documents from anywhere using any device. “These tools have definitely made working outside of the office easier and give employees greater flexibility,” Koteras says. 

Secure at all levels

To complement Office 365, Telstra is upgrading all its devices to the Windows 10 Enterprise operating system. Over a period of three years, as devices age out, several thousand desktop and mobile PCs will get the new operating system, which Koteras says will deliver enhanced security. “Security is very important to Telstra,” he says. “Windows 10 will help provide device-level security to augment all the other security layers that Telstra has implemented and that Microsoft provides in the cloud.” 

Meanwhile, Telstra employees continue to embrace new Office 365 services such as Microsoft Flow to automate processes like approval requests, and Microsoft PowerApps to build dashboards for monitoring operational system stability and apps. 

“We are putting new Office 365 services to use as soon as Microsoft delivers them,” Koteras says. “Our employees have an appetite for cool new technology and are eager to transform the way they work for the better.”

Find out more about Telstra on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Office 365 was bristling with cool new capabilities such as Microsoft Flow, Teams, and PowerApps. These tools make a difference for our people and help us transform the company.
Gregory Koteras, General Manager of Digital Workplace Solutions Telstra


Office 365

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