Jones Harris – Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Technologies

Jones Harris

About the Client

Jones Harris have, over the last 50 years, established a strong reputation for providing end-to-end accountancy and taxation services to a range of clients, including large businesses, international clients, partnerships, company directors and high net worth individuals. They pride themselves in their high level of self-sufficiency, employing, as they do, more tax staff than accountants.

The challenge

In 2007 Jones Harris made the decision to move to a fully paperless operation. This mammoth undertaking was made all the more complicated by the requirement to do so without any interruption to the business.
Jones Harris also had a major dependency on a local, Microsoft SQL Server database for their line-of-business application. This limited their choices in terms of a potential cloud-only solution, as the on-premises requirement could not be avoided.
Finally, Jones Harris had made the choice to invest heavily in virtual meetings, a decision that would ultimately pay dividends when the Covid Epidemic struck.

The solution

Working with Jones Harris, the decision was made to adopt a hybrid-cloud solution.  This would provide the optimal blend of Microsoft 365 cloud services, with the high performance computing required by their LoB.

Whilst their Microsoft 365 subscription had alleviated the requirement for an on-premises file server and Active Directory services; there remained a requirement to provide access to their Line of Business (LoB) application.  As the application required Microsoft SQL server to provide database services, and no purely cloud-based SaaS alternative was available, some form of hosting environment was required.  The decision was made to provide an on-premises Windows Server cluster to provide the level of performance required by the business (aptly referred to as “The box with all the flashy lights” by Martin Wigley of Jones Harris in the accompanying video case study.

And user devices, primarily laptops, would be secured and protected using Microsoft InTune and Defender to ensure that organisational security and compliance measures were enforced, whilst providing the users with the ability to work securely from any location.

In order to fully leverage their Microsoft 365 subscription, Jones Harris would make full use of Microsoft’s Power Platform; allowing them to utilise Power BI for business intelligence, and Power Automate for business process automation.

The deployment

As a key requirement, the need to minimise any downtime, and to reduce business impact was key to the project’s success.  For the reason, the migration was conducted over a weekend, with users resuming work the following Monday morning.

As with all of our projects, our Project Management methodology was used to ensure that the transition to the new Microsoft environment would be as non-disruptive as possible.  For this reason, the deployment was completed over three phases:

Design Phase

At the outset, a Project Definition Workshop was held to ensure that all parties and stakeholders were able to contribute to the Project Plan.  As the virtual server migration, and cloud migration where to run in parallel, potentially business impacting risks were identified and mitigated, and Pilot users identified to ensure that the solution was fully tested before the go-live.

Build & Testing Phase

Once the new on-premises and Microsoft 365 cloud environments had been built, a thorough testing phase was conducted, comprising initial Operational Acceptance Testing, and User Acceptance Testing with users representing the various use cases within Jones Harris.

Migration Phase

Following testing, the migration phase saw all servers moved to the new Windows Server cluster, and users moved to the new Microsoft 365 environment.  String consultants were on hand throughout to ensure that user disruption was kept to an absolute minimum.

The outcomes

Following a successful, and painless implementation, Jones Harris are now completely paperless.  Their entire team are able to work from anywhere, accessing their Microsoft environment, securely from anywhere.

Their line of business application now benefits from its new high performance computing environment, allowing them access to the data and information needed to provide the level of service their clients have come to expect over the years.

Their utilisation of Microsoft Power Platform places vital information immediately to hand using Power BI; whilst key business processes are more efficient and accurate due to Microsoft Power Automate.

Jones Harris can now continue their ongoing success and growth, secure in the knowledge that their Microsoft environment will scale with them, without fuss.  And of course, String will continue to look after them to ensure that they continue to benefit from the stream of innovations that Microsoft produces each and every day.

String worked very closely with our internal guys, planning it out, mapping it out. There was absolutely no break in service, we were expecting there to be a few bugs, but it was a really smooth and impressive operation to get everything across and migrated. Absolutely Top Notch the String Team.”
Martin Wigley
Director - Jones Harris Chartered Accountants
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