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​BrightHouse embraces a more flexible future with Office 365

BrightHouse is the UK's leading rent-to-own retailer. They provide home electronics, domestic appliances and household furniture to some 275,000 customers through 300 stores nationwide. The company was established in April 1984 by Thorn EMI, opening its first store in Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham. It now employs more than 3,000 people across head office, its supply chain and retail stores. One of the UK's fastest-growing retailers, it's investing heavily in new technology to drive sales through multiple channels.

The Challenge

With over 300 stores, more than 3,000 employees and some 275,000 customers, BrightHouse is no longer the company it was when it opened its first store in 1984. It’s now the leading player in the rent-to-own market, providing quality branded home electronics, domestic appliances and household furniture to UK households at affordable weekly payments. BrightHouse is number one in a demanding sector, which brings with it some real challenges. As Infrastructure Project Manager, Emily Lewis puts it, ‘Retail is a highly competitive industry driven by constantly evolving demands. The operating climate is always challenging, and it’s important to BrightHouse to ensure that the business strives to serve its customers and colleagues, through an innovative technology-led approach.’

Unfortunately, BrightHouse was being held back by its reliance on a legacy email system based on Lotus notes. The company saw this as a burning platform. There were increasing operating risks, and it was no longer practical nor desirable to try to make the platform work hand-in-hand with new business systems or ambitious future plans. What’s more, the existing systems were constraining the business in other ways. Not only were employees finding mailbox sizes restrictive, but systems designed to work with BlackBerry devices didn’t support more modern mobile devises. Lewis and her team knew it was time to draw the line. It needed a solution that didn’t limit business mobility or force a one device fits all approach; a solution that would support, not hinder, the company’s technology plans.

The Solution

After evaluating the options, BrightHouse settled on a new solution based on Microsoft Office 365. ‘It best met our business objectives, including improved mobility, improved efficiency and assured mailbox availability’ says Lewis, adding that Office 365 is a ‘platform capable of supporting future developments.’ However, Lewis and her team wanted a partner with existing expertise and experience to help with design, implementation and migration. Microsoft recommended Core.

After rigorous checks on Core’s credentials, including site visits and calls, the Microsoft technologies specialist won the job, impressing BrightHouse with its expertise in migration tools and its close long-term partnership with Microsoft.

Over a five-month period, Core worked with BrightHouse to workshop a Notes to Exchange discovery process, designing the underlying architecture then building, documenting and piloting the solution. With the core solution up and running, Core then supported the migration process. Working alongside the in-house Infrastructure project team and representatives from each department, Core helped BrightHouse move over 800 colleagues, including 200 working in the field and 287 store managers. Despite the challenges of migrating a geographically diverse workforce from a complex, legacy solution, the project was completed to budget, to quality and to timescales.

The Benefits

Lewis describes the new solution as 'successful', noting that 'the majority of staff were receptive and have taken to the new system well.' Office 365 enables Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) access from a huge range of computers and mobiles, plus secure access from just about anything with a Web browser. This enables end-users to access their email from almost anywhere at any time. Allowing BrightHouse people to work more flexibly, and respond rapidly to business needs. Office 365 integrates neatly with the company's existing systems, and gives BrightHouse more scope to integrate other systems in the future. As the demands of the market change, BrightHouse can adapt.

Lewis believes the greatest benefits to be 'a predictable, reduced cost model and flexible storage capacity'. Stores are able to share address books, and Office 365's generous per-user storage and flexible provisioning ensure that 'mailbox full' messages are firmly a thing of the past. What's more, with Microsoft managing the company's email, the in-house Infrastructure team have more time to focus on tasks and projects which can directly benefit the business.

For Lewis and her team, Core have played an essential part in making this transition work. As she puts it, 'working with Core has been a very collaborative experience, and Core has been responsive to feedback and calls for support.'


Collaborative Working; Secure Mobile Working; Transforming IT Infrastructure   Retail Microsoft Office 365; Microsoft Skype for Business; Microsoft Exchange