April 14, 2012, 7:35 AM — When Majestic Realty Co., a Los Angeles-based commercial real estate developer, moved to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) for cloud-based email in early 2011, CIO Jon Grunzweig was shocked by the lack of technical support he found for BPOS in the marketplace.
"A year ago, no one knew anything about BPOS," he says. "We couldn't get good advice ahead of time on what to look out for, what to think about. That knowledge wasn't there. Microsoft didn't have it. Neither did third-parties."
The dearth of BPOS know-how complicated Majestic Realty's migration off of its on-premise Exchange servers. It also put a lot of pressure on Grunzweig's staff. They had to figure out how to configure Outlook for the cloud and how to integrate it with Majestic Realty's on-premise systems largely on their own. Of course, they made mistakes along the way.
For instance, when Grunzweig's network infrastructure team first configured Outlook for the cloud, his staff set it up so that email headers would come in to users' inboxes first, followed by the "detail" or body of the message. This way, users would see emails--more specifically, the headers--coming into their inboxes in near real-time. But this configuration created a problem: Because Majestic Realty's cloud email was slower than its on-premise email, when users saw new headers in their inboxes and clicked to open them, the messages didn't open because they hadn't finished downloading. Users didn't understand why their email wasn't opening.
"We realized that we needed to configure the desktop differently so that it wouldn't show new email in users' inboxes until the header and the detail were all there," says Grunzweig. "We encountered dozens of little things like that."
Grunzweig says he suspects that Microsoft was ill-equipped to help his company with the migration because the software giant focused on building out its infrastructure for cloud email and devoted few resources to supporting customers. "Microsoft has this really impressive infrastructure, but on the support side--to help people come up on it--the support was not good," he says. "They put really inexperienced, green people on this initiative. I'd never seen something like this from Microsoft."
The Cloud Computing Skills Shortage
Majestic Realty's BPOS migration illustrates many of the challenges CIOs face as they move infrastructure and applications to the cloud. The biggest hurdle of them all--and the one that menaces cloud deployments the most--is the lack of IT professionals who are familiar with cloud offerings and know how to implement them.