Sign up for Office 365
Learn more about Office 365
Over the summer, I had the chance to work with my mom’s real estate business, helping her move their office to the cloud. We signed up for Office 365 for professionals and small businesses and spent the next few months evaluating, planning, and gradually moving the business to Microsoft’s cloud platform for small businesses. The entire project was being tracked by our own Office Intervention team as a video series on Office.com.
Grace Hudtloff is not just my mother, but a successful real estate broker in University Place and the South Puget Sound region of Washington State. She’s practiced real estate for over 30 years, is a top 1% realtor in the Pacific Northwest, and holds nearly 100 real estate listings at a time. She has two full-time employees, seasonal part-time help, and various partners to help with home sales.
Grace Hudtloff working at the office at John L Scott in University Place, WA
For this project, I spent a lot of time learning about her business and how they run things on a daily basis. This meant understanding the needs of the business, their existing tools, and most importantly, their employees’ personalities. I concluded that these were among their biggest issues:
1. They were spending too much time discussing their daily agenda (the To-Do list)
2. They experienced delays and downtime with their existing consumer-based email
3. They were having challenges scheduling appointments and meetings as a group
4. They couldn’t access their customer database or documents from outside the office
I could go on, but these were the main issues. The next step was to address these issues with the capabilities of Office 365. This is when you want to understand the different Office 365 accounts – small business, midsize-to-enterprise, and education. We chose Office 365 for small businesses.
Learn about it in Office Intervention Part 1!
Now that I understood the business, I had to take an even closer look at Office 365. As a writer on the product, I knew that there were four main components – Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, and the Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, etc.). From here, it’s a matter of aligning the above issues in their office to one of these programs. I set aside ten goals to move their real estate office to the cloud. Following each goal, I’ve included a link to the supporting article or video describing the subject in greater detail.
Addressing the immediate problems
1. Move their daily agenda into a OneNote document on the internal web site, or Team Site (See Brainstorming with OneNote)
2. Move their existing email accounts to Exchange Online mailboxes (See Create or edit user accounts)
3. Move appointments and meetings into shared Exchange calendars (See Manage employee schedules)
4. Move the customer database into a SharePoint Contacts list and synchronize it to Office programs like Outlook and Access (See Managing Customer Data)
Adding ‘cloud’ value to their business
5. Configure their email in email programs and mobile devices (See Set up email in Outlook)
6. Move important documents to a document library on the internal website (See Move files to your SharePoint site)
7. Customize the internal website with business information and links to processes and tools (See Plan the content of your Team Site)
8. Create a separate subsite for communication with external partners (See Create a site with special permissions)
9. Introduce instant messaging, employee presence, and desktop sharing with Lync Online (See Instant messaging and presence)
10.Redesign the public-facing website using the Office 365 Site Designer (See Design your business website). Here’s their site -
See how it went in Office Intervention Part 2!
You may have noticed that the video touched on just a handful of the original goals, like setting up email, calendars, and clients. These were the initial parts of the business that we moved to Office 365, which raises another point. Don’t try to move the entire business at once. It’s a shock to the business and its employees. We moved things over in stages so that they were more comfortable with the move. Even today, they’re still getting used to working with documents on the internal site, using Lync, sharing files with partners, and so on.
You may actually encounter areas of the business that aren’t ready for the cloud, and that’s okay. You can start with just email. Then, continue with calendars and documents. Then go for more. It’s a process, and it takes time. Don’t rush it.
Here are the resources, help, training, and videos that I used when moving mom’s biz to Office 365:
Thanks for your interest. Please use the Comments below for questions or feedback.
Best of luck with your move to Office 365!
Writer, SharePoint Online/Office 365
I really liked this blog post, Moving mom’s real estate business to Office 365 , and accompanying
It's very useful to see practical examples of how 365 can be used in a small biz environment. It rings a bell with small business owners in a way that the marketing jargon doesn't. Perhaps we could see some follow up material that focuses on roadblocks owners may hit with 365-we all know there will be some.
One suggestion-the iframed web site on Mom's site (listings) would fit better if you made the site 980px wide.
Great job Tom!!!
Thanks for the comments and feedback. MCH - Do you have the CSS handy that pushes the width to 980px?
It's currently set to 980px in the UI. I'm thinking CSS to push it to 1000 or 1020.