Football Association of Ireland’s Experience with Dell Technologies Services for Office 365 and VxRail

I had the distinct pleasure of ‘interviewing’ Piotr Gora, from the Football Association of Ireland. This story touches on many aspects of our successful project, working with them to increase employee collaboration through Microsoft Office 365, increase process automation with VxRail, and up-skill employees with Education services. Here is our story.

Dee: Tell us about the Football Association of Ireland?

Piotr: The Football Association of Ireland, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, is the governing body for Association Football in the Republic of Ireland. Our main role is to promote, support and organize football within the community.

The Office 365 Experience

Dee: What motivated FAI to move to Microsoft Office 365?

Piotr: For some amount of time we had been looking for a resolution which would allow greater integration and collaboration among the company staff, at the same time making access to the files and in-house network environment uncomplicated and secure. The majority of our colleagues work outside of headquarters, helping clubs and leagues all around Ireland. Part of our team organizes international games for our ‘Girls and Boys in Green’, we travel around the world every month making it essential for us to be in constant contact with each other and to be able to quickly and effortlessly organize online conferences and meetings wherever we are. Microsoft Office 365 turned out to be the perfect solution, naturally answering all of our needs and expectations of a modern platform to aid collaboration.

Dee: Why did you engage Dell Technologies to help with your move to Office 365?

Piotr: With Dell I have a long and very professional relationship. I met Morgan Dunne when I worked at another company, so naturally when I joined FAI my obvious choice was to turn to Morgan [and Dell] to help me upgrade the hardware and software to existing market standards. Currently it’s hard for me to imagine cooperation with any other supplier than Dell. Your approach to customers – engagement, professionalism and care for every small detail – doesn’t shed a doubt that I am cooperating with the best on the market.

Dee: That’s fantastic, I love hearing this! Was there something in particular about your experience with Dell Technologies that stands out for you?

Piotr: Yes, the technical support is your biggest attribute. There are many firms which can offer and promise everything just to gain a sale – in the majority of the cases the relationship dies after paying the invoice. In Dell’s case, this is where the relationship begins, Morgan has turned it into an absolute art. It was Morgan who showed me how cooperation and caring for a customer should look, which I will not hide, has made me a relatively ‘picky player’ on the market. Therefore, when we began considering migration and deployment to the Microsoft Cloud – Dell was my first choice.

Dee: I understand you had quite an abrupt move to Office 365 would you tell us what happened?

Piotr: Yes, it was a Bank Holiday Weekend and the Champions League Final was taking place in Madrid – I was woken up by hundreds of notifications on my phone from our monitoring system which looks after servers and the network environment. Only the day before we had changed our broadband provider in the company, therefore my first thought was that the broadband caused some changes in the network which then raised an alarm. It turned out to be a ransomware attack.

Dee: Was this the reason for jump starting your Office 365 efforts sooner than planned?

Piotr: Yes. The situation forced us to make some fast and radical decisions in relation to the network, location of the mail servers and files. We decided to immediately begin the implementation of Office 365 which was in fact planned in a few months.

We needed to migrate all mailboxes of our employees, their files, etc. However due to limited number of staff, we needed help from the outside – reminding that it is Bank Holiday Weekend. The top management and the majority of decision makers are in Madrid for the Champions League Final. Together with my direct superior, Rea Walshe (Chief Operations Officer) we began communicating with our insurer and law firm, we also needed to inform local authorities (Gardaí, the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) office). At this moment, our Communications Department was preparing the information which we would then present to the public – at the same time we needed a trustful and experienced partner, who smoothly and safely would lead us through the migration to Microsoft’s Cloud. We only had a few days to bring back the functionality in the company, making our channels of communication our main priority.

Dee: Who at Dell Technologies did you engage kick this effort off?

Piotr: Once again, my first contacts were Morgan Dunne and Patrick Yore from Dell. Patrick is one of the smartest people known to me and at the same time an expert in Microsoft Exchange and Office 365 (he aided us 6 years previously with the migration of Exchange 2003 to 2010 and a few years later once again with the migration to Exchange 2016). He is without a doubt one of the best in his area of expertise.

I reached out to Patrick on Sunday evening – unfortunately he was not then available in Dublin and the earliest he could be in our office was on Tuesday morning – but thankfully he instructed us through the phone about the direction and the plan of work. Long story short, Patrick helped us to launch Office 365 in two days – on Thursday the company worked off of the Microsoft Cloud.

Dee: That’s pretty fast, it could be a record.

Piotr: It was the fastest migration to Office 365 in Patrick’s career and the craziest project we worked on. I will be forever grateful to him for the help we received from him, he worked non-stop for 72 hours.

I don’t think I would have been able to survive this time period with any other partner than Dell and the support of my colleagues.

Dee: I’m guessing this isn’t an experience you’d like to repeat, nor will it be one you’ll forget anytime soon?

Piotr: It was an absolutely amazing experience, weeks of sleepless nights, constant work under a great amount of pressure and expectations from my colleagues. However, I must admit that from the very beginning we used this incident as much to our advantage as we could, we learnt a lot in this time period. Now looking back, I believe that we turned the situation into a success that will be benefit us in the years to come.

After everything, the technical press described our experience and wrote about us very positively as an example for other companies who might be placed in a similar situation.

Dee: Which Microsoft applications did Dell Technologies help you deploy?

Piotr: Dell assisted us with deployment of Active Directory Services, Exchange Online, Microsoft Teams UC and Voice, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Dell Education Service – which is an unbelievable success.

Dee: Why is a partnership like the one you have with Dell Technologies so important?

Piotr: The main focus of the company is promoting football and there is no chance of expanding the IT team to the level that can be seen in companies that are strictly technologically based. I work in a small group of absolutely professional and driven people, who are passionate about football and new technologies. However, due to the number of projects, initiatives and constant implementations that we take part in, it is essential to cooperate with the right vendor, who has massive experience in this area and that is able to lead a project in a way that wouldn’t collide with our eco-system.

Dee: Have you completed your Office 365 roll out or do you have more plans?

Piotr: The process of implementing Office 365 is a journey. Currently we are integrating ‘voice services’ with Microsoft Teams. We will be implementing Intune with a function of Autopilot in order to aid the administration of mobile devices and laptops. The product (Microsoft 365) is constantly being developed in the company. We are debating whether to redo our ‘meeting rooms’ in order to equip them with cameras, microphones, and modern projectors which would enhance the Teams experience for remote working.

We are also going to strongly develop analytical tools and we’re thinking about taking a closer look at Microsoft Power Tools and a wide range of other tools from the BI group.

Dee: How are you using the Office 365 applications for your business? How has it changed how your employees get work done?

Piotr: Currently, because of how we need to operate today, the entire company is working remotely mostly thanks to Office 365. Microsoft Teams allows us to communicate, work in groups and every morning we use Teams during ‘Senior Management Team’ meetings. Thanks to ‘Live Event’ our CEO was able to speak from his home office to the whole company about the current world state. Mick McCarthy, our former Men’s Senior Team Manager, used Teams in meetings with the rest of the Directors and members of his team. In April, the newly elected Ireland Manager Stephen Kenny gave his first interviews to the football media using Microsoft Teams – with excellent feedback. Our communications team continues to use Microsoft Teams to provide live interviews to television, radio, online and traditional media. Office 365 supports our work every day, I cannot imagine where we would be now without this product and the services Dell provided getting us up and running.

Dee: What advice do you have for other organizations who are moving or planning to move to Office 365? Were there any lessons you learned from your experience that you think other organizations would benefit from?

Piotr: Make sure you pick the right partner, who will help you with this journey – you only have one chance for implementation and on a large scale, the success of the entire project depends on the first opinions of the staff in the company. Remember that the main reason you are enrolling this product is to ease the work of others – not the IT department.

Factors such as after implementation support, technical documentation and the skills and experience of the team that will be helping you in the enrollment, can make your life fantastic or a living nightmare and career obstacle.

Don’t forget to educate the IT Team as well as all of the staff in other departments – only then will you reach real success.

The VxRail Experience

Dee: What were the business drivers for your recent VxRail solution and how will it be used?

Piotr: We use an array of other products assisting in departments such as Financial, HR, Technical, and Football Management Unit. We are especially proud of one solution; a Football Management System (FMS) which operates on a national level – we named this FAInet – I had the pleasure to be personally involved in the implementation of the system in FAI. It is a massive database which processes information about every person involved in football in Ireland. From professional footballers, coaches and referees to children only beginning their journey in this beautiful sport. The system helps us organize and manage tournaments, it also supports the work of clubs and leagues. FAInet manages the sales of licenses and trainings helping our colleagues from the department of Coach Education, it is present in many other areas in the company, helping in everyday responsibilities.

Dee: Tell us what you needed in your system?

Piotr: In order for all these systems to work faultlessly, we needed

  • A hardware solution with adequate computing power, allowing for optimization and automation of such processes like system and hardware patch management
  • A system which will be fully scaled, decreasing the time needed for a service to minimum for a better cost optimization
  • At the same time giving us technical support and a confidence level of having Dell’s highly qualified engineers available when needed

VxRail allows us to focus on the development of our IT systems and databases without worry that the hardware infrastructure might need an expensive, time consuming upgrade, and our team is too small to manage it. Hyperconverged infrastructure gives us a massive feeling of safety and comfort in connecting with a fully integrated environment powered by VMware vSAN, it is an obvious answer for the majority of presently implemented projects managed by my IT department.

Dee: What business value are you seeing from your VxRail investment?

Piotr: VxRail primarily automated most processes, which not long ago I had to complete myself. Automated management of patch enrollment on the hardware and software level, servers and storage control from centralized location amazingly simplified my day-to-day duties. From the point of view of the company, the platform gives us the comfort of full scalability, the correct amount of computing power to continue the development of our products and security standards.

Personally, knowing that I have access to technical engineers from Dell it gives me a great peace of mind.

Educating the IT Team and Employees

Dee: What were your plans for educating your IT team?

Piotr: Education and personal development have always been very important for me, working with new technologies requires constant upgrading. Someone who doesn’t understand this shouldn’t work in this business, and a firm that doesn’t upskill their staff won’t succeed.

We ordered a range of training courses from Dell’s Education Services:

I also highly encourage my colleagues to self-develop – we have access to an array of educational portals which supports this process.

Dee: Did you invest in any training for employees who’d be using Office 365?

Piotr: Yes. This time, besides trainings for the IT team, we went a step further and decided to train the entire company – circa 200 people on Microsoft Office 365. We have divided the training process into two stages, the first one is training received in the office delivered by qualified staff from Dell and Microsoft, and the second stage – access to the Dell Education Services. At this time, we have not yet been able to complete the in-person training but have moved forward with the online training for all the staff in FAI in order to aid them with working remotely.

Dee: What’s been your experience with Dell’s Education Services so far?

Piotr: The portal is brilliantly designed both on the educational and administrative side. The user receives a fresh and clean looking interface. The platform allows users to learn from video lessons, the user can test their knowledge by attempting a quiz or exam after which they will receive a certificate. In the majority of the cases, 75% of correct answers are needed to pass an exam.

The portal administrator has access to detailed reports, allowing configuration of learning paths with their choice of courses for a chosen group of users. The platform is very flexible and allows for any configuration.

I really like the way in which the trainings have been designed and divided. The user in a very simple way can find answers for any concrete problem and deliver a detailed answer in a matter of seconds which really eases work in the future.

Statistics from the Portal as of the 29th of May are shown below:

The project turned out to be an absolute success, and when the economy will kick off again, our company and staff will be brilliantly prepared to face reality again.

Dee: Piotr, thank you so much for sharing your experience.

Piotr: You’re welcome!

If you have any questions about this project, interview, or how you can achieve similar results let me know by commenting below.

About the Author: Dee Chury

Dee Chury is the EMEA CTO responsible for Dell Technologies’ workforce transformation consulting services portfolio in region. His multi-faceted role encompasses portfolio enablement for both sales and delivery teams, undertaking complex solution quality assurance, and leading customer consulting engagements. With recent world events causing unprecedented upheaval to the economy and to public services, Dee believes he has a personal responsibility to help accelerate digital transformations that enable a modern workforce to thrive. This includes the introduction of flexible working solutions, modernised apps experiences, and real-time collaboration amongst other creative solutions. Possessing over 25 years of experience working across several vertical industries, Dee has overseen the implementation of technology solutions that have enabled his customers to drive immense value, whether that’s helping them to deal with industry disruption, or helping to them to enable other transformational outcomes. His approach is to understand his customer’s business goals and challenges, and then to architect solutions that sensitively apply technology where it creates a positive impact. He has extensive technical knowledge and is a recognised Microsoft Certified Master. Dee lives just outside London in the UK with his wife. He has a son and daughter both of whom are grown up and has recently entered a second stage of parenthood with an adopted canine Goldendoodle.