- Google Apps Migration
- North America
For more than a decade, School of Rock has been inspiring kids to rock on stage and in life. Their students develop confidence, talent and skills, through beginner, intermediate and advanced music programs. Music lessons are offered for guitar, bass, piano, vocals and drums in an authentic, performance-based environment. School of Rock operates more than 85 company-owned and franchised schools in 26 states and Mexico, with several new schools opening in 2012. The company is expanding rapidly to meet the demands of kids who want to play music, perform live in rock-and-roll venues and for parents who appreciate music education.
Web-based computing works better for franchisees
School of Rock has grown primarily through franchising in recent years, with 63 franchise schools and growing. As a franchisor, the company focuses on developing turn-key solutions to simplify the startup process for a new franchisee. The company had been running on hosted Microsoft Exchange, hosted Microsoft SharePoint and on-premise Microsoft Office. As the number of franchise schools grew and with them the diversity of computing platforms, the IT department realized that the Microsoft environment was out of tune with the company’s younger, mobile workforce and was difficult to manage.
“Despite what Microsoft may say, their hosted services are not a platform-agnostic solution,” says Evan Trent, VP of Digital Strategy and Technology with School of Rock. “SharePoint does not work well on a Mac, and both Sharepoint and Outlook Web Access run poorly on browsers other than Internet Explorer. As a franchisor, we want to enable our franchise partners to bring their own device and use whatever software they are most comfortable and productive using,” Trent explains.
Another challenge for Trent and his team was delivering remote support. With many locations and a small number of users at each location, the company can’t provide on-site IT support at each school. Trent knew that School of Rock should migrate to cloud applications that could run from a thin client rather than requiring installation, local configuration, software updates and desktop support.
Google Apps: fostering collaboration across the network of schools
Once School of Rock made the decision to move away from Microsoft technologies to Web apps, Google rose to the top of the charts in no time. The IT department surveyed users and found that many of them were already using Google tools for their personal communications and liked the platform. School of Rock was also intrigued by Google’s mobile-friendly, collaborative approach.
Google Groups was an enticing draw, given that schools naturally organize themselves into groups such as house bands, instrument instructors, seasonal shows and teams that help facilitate shows or camps. Google Groups can also include users external to the domain, such as students, parents, or third-party service providers and is facilitating a team-based approach to customer service. In contrast, the Microsoft Exchange Distribution List offered a limited set of capabilities, was harder to set up and maintain groups, and therefore — was rarely used.
Sharing documents is also far easier with Google Docs. People can work across operating systems, browsers and mobile devices using Google Apps for Android and iPhone. Microsoft SharePoint was not as flexible and required users to “check out” and “check in” documents instead of collaborating on them in real time. Furthermore, sharing documents in Sharepoint was only possible with other users on the Sharepoint domain and required each user to have a Sharepoint license, driving up costs. With Google Docs, schools may share documents with parents, instructors and others external to the domain with no additional costs or support.
School of Rock began the transition through a small pilot on Google Apps and Google Sites, aided by their Google Apps implementation partner, Cloud Sherpas. “We were least familiar with Google Sites, but we found quickly that it would fit our needs, and has ultimately proven to be a terrific improvement over SharePoint as a platform for hosting corporate intranets” says Trent.
The migration was painless, which Trent attributes to the expertise Cloud Sherpas offered: “Choosing the right partner for a platform migration is critical because the end user experience is likely to color the perspective of the new platform. The less disruptive and more seamless the migration, the greater the adoption.” Cloud Sherpas also delivered dedicated training sessions to employees and franchise partners , which were well-attended. Moving forward, Google Apps Training is always available to all users through the School of Rock intranet, powered by Google Sites, and also through the Boost eLearning add-on, accessible from the “More” menu within Google Apps.
Chromebooks: Music to their ears
Another pivotal process in the Google migration was to re-think the company’s PC-based culture. School of Rock no longer wanted to deal with the administrative overhead and the security and reliability issues that came with traditional PCs.
After consulting with Cloud Sherpas, School of Rock determined that Google’s software-free, 3G-enabled Chromebooks were a natural choice: they’re fast, cost only a few hundred dollars each, require zero support and maintenance and were designed for cloud computing.
“Chromebooks are about as impervious and crash proof as any machine we could find,” Trent says, “and because they run Google Apps and Web apps, there is essentially no learning curve.” The company deployed 35 Chromebooks to the company-owned schools and corporate field employees in Q1, and now offers them as an option to franchisee partners to purchase.
“By providing a turnkey solution we’re greatly reducing the time, money and energy our franchisees need to invest in technology,” Trent says. As well, if a Chromebook is stolen or damaged, the data is safe in the cloud –never stored locally– and replacement costs are low.
No more Microsoft, no more PCs: Rock On
Going Google is helping School of Rock easily support the technology needs of employees and its franchise partners. “We have put together a bundle of services tailored to the needs of a franchise partner, including platforms such as Box.com for file storage, Okta for single sign-on, NetSuite for CRM/ERP, and now Google Apps and Chromebooks. We can hand over tools to a new franchisee and have them up and running in short order with nothing more than a broadband Internet connection,” Trent says. Other benefits the organization has realized so far include:
1. Integrated business processes. School of Rock can easily integrate the new Google processes with other key systems to boost productivity for users. The IT department embedded a gadget in Gmail which can pull information directly from NetSuite’s CRM system. If a parent e-mails a School of Rock manager, his or her full contact information pops up; the user can even make changes to the customer record from within Gmail.
2. Information portal. School of Rock created a new intranet using Google Sites, which is now a rich portal for franchise partners, serving up curriculum, training, operations and marketing materials. Schools can also create their own local sites for collaboration, which would have been difficult in the centrally-managed paradigm of SharePoint.
3. User experience: Today, users can quickly and freely share information, use whatever platforms or devices they prefer and engage with customers and coworkers in novel ways. “I still get emails from users thanking us for making this move,” Trent says.
4. Cost savings: By jettisoning SharePoint alone, the company is saving around 30 percent on IT costs from moving to Google.
5. Better use of IT resources: Because of the self-serve nature of Google technologies and Boost eLearning, the number of trouble tickets is at an all-time low. The IT department can better focus on strategic initiatives including the development of CRM processes, reports and analytics. Business intelligence efforts are a top priority of the company, in order to support franchise partners with decision-making information to help grow their programs and profits.
The cloud-enabled business
School of Rock, a highly-distributed organization with users dispersed across the country, is a perfect fit for cloud computing. Often, franchise owners may have other jobs or operate more than one school. They’re moving around frequently and need access to information and tools on the go to keep in touch with musicians and students. With a small number of users per school, School of Rock’s small corporate staff can’t offer dedicated IT support, even on a regional basis. “We have to be cloud-based, we have to be highly-responsive, and we have to be able to support our end users anywhere,” Trent says. “Google has proven to be the ideal platform to do just that.”