Recognising the transformation of higher education by the digital revolution and the change it has brought to the education landscape, IFIM Business School became an early adopter of technology. Introducing avant-garde technologies to improve learning experience, smoother administrative processes and improve internal collaboration, IFIM ended stacking up numerous applications, with unforeseen challenges. Realising the need to address these challenges, IFIM went on a hunt for the best solutions in the market – a search that ended with Microsoft Azure and Office 365. Let us take a peek into the journey!
IFIM Business School was quickly understood the importance of technology in streamlining the education processes. The B-school also recognized technology’s efficiency in enhancing educational and extracurricular activities. In this regard, IFIM had deployed multiple applications to cater for various activities across the campus. Security was one of the primary challenges that the B-school needed resolution for. They had to ensure that the users only had access to the relevant application. Access control protocols were introduced to keep this in check. It effectively addressed the issue, but inadvertently gave rise to a totally different challenge.
The users needed multiple login ids and passwords, one for each of the applications, that they were using. This complicated the process and hundreds of password-reset requests started piling up daily at IFIM. This meant, substantially increased workload for the IT support team and a decreased overall productivity as the users could not access the relevant applications on time.
Another big issue was data storage. Most of the staff, especially teaching staff, used personal devices for official work. They saved all their relevant documents and files on their personal devices for convenience as there was a lack of clear protocol on data storage. This led to lack of information sharing, data mismanagement, and loss. In the absence of an established protocol in this regard, it was almost impossible to manage this issue.
There was also the challenge of subpar user collaboration. The internal systems were not developed keeping the needs of internal collaboration in sight. This made collaboration between the faculty members, staff, and students a challenge. IFIM considered internal collaboration as an integral part of their ethos and wanted to ensure that their IT infrastructure complimented this.
IFIM management understood the gravity of these situations and started looking for solutions that led them to Microsoft.
Microsoft Azure and Office 365 are the two products that IFIM adopted from Microsoft to address all their challenges. The migration process was handled by IFIM’s internal team with a comprehensive documentation on the same provided by Microsoft.
“The Microsoft Office Suite dominates the business landscape for document exchange and the recruiting companies always demand that our students are proficient in the use of these tools. We have been a beneficiary of the campus license agreement for the last decade and this long relationship gave us the confidence to zero in on Microsoft to help us with a solution,” says Sanjay Padode, Secretary, Center for Developmental Education. Furthermore, the ease of integration with the existing products and the fact that they come as managed services also acted in the favor of Microsoft when IFIM was deciding on the right solutions partner.
IFIM started with the Azure cloud. On Azure, they developed the Keep Learning Platform. Keep Learning Platform was built to be the umbrella under which all the various platforms that IFIM was using assimilated. This meant that they no longer remained as disparate systems, but as one unified platform. The applications that the B-school now uses include CampusLabs ERP for Administration requirements, D2L Brightspace for academic delivery, @Workplace for Social, and Office 365 for collaboration. “We wanted a seamless platform for delivering and managing learning. The Microsoft platform helped us to achieve seamless interoperability between disparate applications and services sourced from different vendors,” adds Sanjay Padode. The migration to Azure was also advantageous for data storage, as all the data is now being stored in one place – the cloud. This enables seamless data sharing and mobility. Moreover, it also nullifies the fear of data loss as Azure complies with the best of compliance standards and security protocols.
Office 365 Single Sign-On (SSO) feature ensured that the users no longer had to have multiple sign-in credentials. By signing into their O365 account they could now access all their applications. This meant that the IT support staff is no longer strained with password reset requests. Additionally, the IT administrator now has better control on access, i.e. once users log in to the platform, their personalized platform will only have those applications that are relevant to them. “With SSO implemented, we could get in more users on Keep Learning Platform. In the last 6 months, we have moved from approximately 20 transactions per day to about 2000 transactions per day. There is still a lot of scope to improve. We aim to achieve 5000 transactions per day in the next six months,” says Anandarup Kar, Head – Technology & eLearning.
The benefits to IFIM, post the adoption of Azure and O365 are as follows:
Seamless Access Management: O365 SSO ensured that the users would be able to use a single credential to access all their applications. It also ensured that the IT administrator will have better control on who accesses what.
Less Hardware Dependence: File storing and sharing are now happening on the cloud and this ensures that the dependence on localized hardware is much lower.
Better Security Protocols: Azure comes with state of the art security features, consistently safeguarding IFIM data.
Better Collaboration: The collaboration tools of Office 365, with its user-friendly interface, is now popular among faculty, staff and students, and is widely used.
Having solved all its challenges, IFIM is now looking to upgrade. For now, the organization remains to be predominantly paper based. The plan forward is to ensure that the institute becomes as paperless as possible, in the process cut through all the red tapes as well. Transparency is the key mantra that IFIM is toying with. With the help of Microsoft, the B-school is hoping to attain these objectives in the near future.