For many years, Franciscan University utilized GroupWise as a messaging and collaboration platform. However, on Jan. 3, 2018 students and faculty alike were greeted with a new messaging and collaboration platform: Office365. The Information Technology Services Department (IT) has been working diligently over the past months, switching every user over to the new platform in order to provide a much needed upgrade.
Nancy Oliver, the director of IT who oversaw the new email platform project, described the Office365 system as “user friendly, with the ability to access it from anywhere. It has all the modern features and functionalities that the faculty, staff and students would hope for.” She noted that she knew a lot of the faculty and students wanted a more modern, user-friendly interface through surveys conducted across the board of the university.
IT had wanted to move away from GroupWise for a while. Oliver spoke about how the department wanted to find something that was easy to use, had many useful features, could function with other Franciscan University software, and would be sustainable in the future.
The project first began in November of 2016 when a task force consisting of Dennis Breen, Attila Gabor, Matt Heaps, Bill Beatty and Pam Shane, all whom are members of the IT Department, started meeting to talk about Office365. In March of 2017, the task force decided to go with Office365. They evaluated different vendors to help with migrating everyone’s emails. The IT team began working on the email migration in October 2017, and Office365 went live in January 2018.
Oliver described some of the advantages that Office365 had over GroupWise. “It is a more universal system that is accessible anywhere,” said Oliver. “Anywhere you go, there are more people using Office365 than GroupWise. For students, while you are enrolled here at the university, if you learn how to use Office365, you could take those skills with you to the workplace because Office365 is more than just email.”
Collaboration with other users is also easier in Office365. Oliver added that one feature Office365 provides that GroupWise did not was that students now have storage space. “Everyone has one terabyte using OneDrive,” said Oliver. “It allows you to store and share your own documents and collaborate with others.” The package also includes Skype and entire Microsoft Office Suite, which students can download for free, allowing them to save money on the apps.
The IT department plans to add other applications in the future. Oliver estimated that there are about 25 to 30 apps that are offered but will be activated in the future. Some of these apps include Microsoft Teams, where students can share and collaborate using the portal environment, and an application that allows the university to conduct surveys using forms.
Oliver said that feedback has been great so far, but people should know that in terms of resources, everything can be found on the Information Technology Services Webpage. Many support resources have been added to the webpage, including an Office365 help page with directions on how to set up Office365 on a phone and a new Q&A blog where students or anyone that has questions can see a list of commonly asked questions or submit their own to be answered by IT.