Forum Communications Company, located in Fargo, North Dakota, traces its roots back to 1878 and has been primarily owned by members of the same family. Beginning with newspapers, Forum has expanded to include broadcast radio and television, as well as digital publishing throughout the upper midwest. By giving information life, they have established themselves as a trusted, respected and reliable source for small and medium markets across the midwest United States.
The media industry works at breakneck speed, so collaboration and verification of information are of the highest priority. This means features like instant messaging, voice, and video chat are highly valued. Also, Forum reporters and other team members spend a lot of time in the field, so mobility is key and access to email, shared documents, photos and quick chat with the team via any device is absolutely necessary.
Forum needed to upgrade their existing Microsoft Exchange platform and explored both Microsoft and Google as solutions. With Exchange, collaboration wasn’t working well and Microsoft Sharepoint was not intuitive for sharing documents across the organization without additional resources needed.
Agosto provided Forum with Google Apps as well as with project management and extensive training for the organization’s 1100+ staff, across 43 domains, throughout the transition and deployment to Google Apps.
Following a change management plan that Agosto customized by working with Forum, the Forum team embarked on a phased rollout over several months. The first phase involved training a core group of IT personnel, the next phase was a larger group of early adopters, and then training began in earnest for all users during the final phase. Onsite training was available for special user groups like executives and their assistants, and over 20 training webinars were held during the rollout.
Forum and Agosto turned the transition into a fun event, using a large countdown clock in the middle of the office at headquarters to foster anticipation and excitement.
The early adopters became known as “Google Guides” and were outfitted with identifiable clothing. These guides were on hand to help answer questions or offer help to those who needed it, and other activities and treats help made it a festive event.
“We have successfully decommissioned three Exchange servers, which has saved on IT costs. Google Docs and Chat also save on communication costs, plus we are enabling employees to collaborate in real-time from anywhere, on any device. I’m really pleased with the results financially”
Mark Hayes, IT Director, Forum Communications Company
Mark Hayes, IT Director shared his thoughts on the move to Google. “We needed a system that was global and collaborative, accessible anytime, anywhere. With Exchange, it would have been an expensive upgrade just to keep getting email. With the move to Google, our team members could collaborate from anywhere, at any time, from any device. Plus, we’re spending a lot less and getting a lot more.”
When Forum made the switch to Google Apps, after a brief spike in support calls for one day, the IT team was back to taking the usual number of calls. Employees took the transition in stride and the support team hasn’t seen any problems with the team using Google.
“Transitions can be intimidating,” said Mark. “As a media company, we needed to be up and running with the new system fast. Agosto helped us prepare for the change and we created an atmosphere of ease and fun as we moved to Google Apps. As a result, we got much faster buy-in from our employees and have had almost completely positive feedback ever since.”
Subsequently, communication and collaboration are thriving. Mark described the situation. “It used to be tough for our employees in the field to collaborate with their co-workers back on breaking news. With features in Google Apps like the instant video conferencing of Hangouts, our teams are communicating more smoothly. Google Drive allows our reporters and editors to work on documents together and to share photos immediately. These tools are helping us get the news out to the community accurately and quickly. With Agosto’s help and Google Apps, our work at Forum Communications is truly moving at the speed of the news that we’re covering.”