Jamestown is a design-focused real estate investment and management company with a 35+ year track record, whose iconic projects include Chelsea Market in New York City, Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, and Ponce City Market in Atlanta.

Introduction

With a relationship spanning over a decade, Jamestown knew they had a trusted partner in Abel Solutions when they decided to move their 3.5 TB of data from SharePoint 2010 to Microsoft 365. Manager of Projects and Applications for Jamestown, Heather Joyce, said about the latest collaboration, “It was very helpful that Abel knew real estate. Part of the success so far has been that we didn’t have to educate our implementation team on real estate terminology. That has been a tremendous help to get us going much faster than we otherwise would have.” With the end of Extended Support for SharePoint 2010—October 13, 2020— less than a year away from project kickoff, the ability to get going fast was particularly crucial for this project.

Designing for the Future

Before deciding that Microsoft 365 was the right fit, the Jamestown team investigated another content management system as an alternative to SharePoint 2010. However, due to system differences, it would have required a complete revamp of their Document Management System (DMS) to make it work, and so it did not make it out of the design phase. Unsure what their options were, Jamestown turned to longtime partner, Abel Solutions, for clarity regarding their next move for this business-critical enterprise system. Recognizing that Jamestown owned the Microsoft 365 platform, Abel Solutions recommended that they maximize their current cloud investment and move the DMS to Microsoft 365. Jamestown agreed and the two teams began designing the updated solution, which would be named DMS365. According to Joyce, “DMS365 has been an easier design phase than the other system we investigated, partly because Abel knows us so well.” Joyce continued, “They know the Jamestown culture, they know the Jamestown environment, and our technology. They understand how we work because they have been with us for so long.”

Accommodating for the large volume of data to be migrated and the immovable deadline of October 2020 meant the project would require a phased approach. With guidance from the Abel Solutions team, the migration project was defined as two main parts:   

    • Phase 1—to be completed by October 2020—would follow a “lift-and-shift” tactic to migrate the full 3.5 TB of data onto the Microsoft 365 platform.
    • Phase 2—to be completed after October 2020—would tackle the task of adapting from a folder structure to a meta data-centric design.

Throughout Phase 1, Jamestown was careful to avoid any design path that was short-sighted or would limit their options later in the project, while also staying on track to meet the critical timeline. Joyce reflected on the role that Abel Solutions played in those decisions, “It’s a constant question and answer between the Jamestown team and the Abel team; ‘If we do this, is it going to delay October 2020?’ If the answer is ‘Yes, it’s going to delay’, then the question becomes ‘If we don’t do it, are we going to limit ourselves in the future?’” Joyce continued, “It’s a constant double-checking to the deadline how much design change occurs in this first phase.”

Jamestown Senior Project Manager Cindy Bordas added, “Abel has such attention to detail and is always on top of things. That makes it easier on us, keeps us honest, and focused. The migration path was also very well thought out the volume of data that’s getting migrated over.”

Microsoft 365 in Action

Features of the new DMS365 include:

    • Site collections are leveraged instead of subsites for a simplified hierarchy and security structure.
    • Admin Portal provides a streamlined site provisioning experience for DMS Admins with all tools to create sites, update templates, move items, and more.
    • Joint Venture Portal allows for Property Managers and Property Accountants to access a single site page where content is dynamically served up based on roles to show relevant information for each user.
    • New Tenant structure allows users to save documents in a centralized location.
    • Master list of assets replaces an Excel spreadsheet for storing role information for all assets. Leveraging Azure Active Directory allows users to update data in one location, and changes are reflected across the DMS.

Entering into a New Modern Era

For Joyce and the Jamestown team, the move to Microsoft 365 meant freedom and flexibility, while enabling collaboration and compliance. “By moving onto this system, there’s much more flexibility for us.” Joyce said, “We have a lot of different directions that we can move now that we’re on the Microsoft 365 platform. Whereas on the SharePoint 2010 platform, we were extremely limited and had very few options.”

While some departments have been using aspects of the Microsoft 365 platform prior to this project—e.g., one group uses Planner, and another group uses Teams—DMS365 is the first enterprise-wide endeavor for Microsoft 365 at Jamestown. As of July 2020, Phase 1 is well underway, with targeted rollouts occurring regularly. The Abel Solutions and Jamestown teams continually work together to determine which workgroups are ready for migration, and those groups receive specific training to support the transition.

Separate from the DMS365 project, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic forcing many users to work remotely, Bordas reports that they are already seeing the value in some of the new functionality of Microsoft 365, like sharing documents and collaboration opportunities. By “jolting people out of their comfort zone,” Bordas is hopeful that this will make the change management process flow more smoothly for the DMS365 project.

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